Coping With Kids And Jetlag

I’d just survived a long flight with young kids. We finally made it to the apartment where we were staying. I thought everyone would be exhausted and we’d immediately go to sleep. That was exactly what I did just to be woken up by some strange knocking from all directions. It turned out that all this time my kids had been awake and playing. When the neighbour from downstairs knocked to let us know we were too noisy, the kids thought it was a new game and they started knocking back. At least they were having fun… Another time my jetlagged two-year-old cried for hours and hours until a kind neighbour called the police to come and check for child abuse.

While it’s hard to predict what form jetlag will take for your kids, it’s a pretty safe bet that your life won’t get back to normal for a few days. Your kids may be waking up at night, feel sleepy during the day, get easily upset or play with boundless energy.

Jetlag is the body’s natural response to changing tie zones. You can’t avoid it entirely, but you can ease your children and yourself into the new time zone by taking a stopover half way. Not only you’ll give yourself a chance to adjust gradually, you may also be able to squeeze in things you’d usually find challenging with kids like a night safari or late dinner under the stars.

Here are a few tips to make getting over jetlag as easy as possible, once you’re at your destination:

  • Take it easy. Don’t plan much for the first few days to allow for erratic sleep patterns and behaviour.
  • Stay in bright sunlight as much as possible to help reset your body clocks.
  • If your child wakes up in the middle of the night, encourage them to go back to sleep or at least stay in bed in the dark.
  • Once the kids are awake for the day, try keeping them awake until bedtime or nap time.
  • Follow your normal routine as much as possible. Have meals at local meal times and if your kids get hungry at unusual times, offer snacks only. Stick to your usual bed time routine to let them know it’s bed time, even if they’re not feeling sleepy yet.
  • Get help, if possible. Take turns with your partner to look after the kids. Get family and friends on board if they are around. Depending on where you are, it may be well worth getting a babysitter just so that you can get a shuteye for a few hours. It will help you stay patient and keep your sense of humour.
  • If you’d like to avoid knocking and police visits, warn the neighbours that you have jetlagged kids. Tell them (and yourself!) that the next few days may be difficult, but everything will be back to normal very soon.

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By Tatiana Apostolova

How To Combat Jetlag

If you’ve ever travelled internationally on a long distance flight then chances are, you’ve probably experienced jetlag. Sometimes it can take days to recover from, which isn’t ideal if you’re on a quick trip and you spend three days trying to get over it before you have to turn around and come home again.  So what is jetlag and how can we deal with it?  Read on to find out…

Jetlag is a combination of symptoms including fatigue, irritability, memory lapses and digestive upsets which occur after we have travelled quickly across different time zones on an aeroplane.

Why do we get jetlag?

Our bodies work on a 24 hour circadian rhythm which means that we are synced to day and night by sunlight and brain chemicals, so when we travel to a different time zone, we’re interfering with that rhythm.  Most people will find that travelling in an easterly direction gives the worst jetlag and this is because your day is shortened and your body has to cut its natural 24hour cycle.

What can I do to reduce the severity of jetlag before I go?

  • In the days leading up to your trip ensure that you get plenty of sleep, as sleep deprivation can make jetlag even worse.
  • If you’re going to be travelling eastbound then adjust your bedtime in the days before your trip, making it an hour earlier each night.  Similarly, if you’re going to be travelling westbound then shift your bedtime back an hour later each night.  This should help you to adapt to the new time zone.

And what about when I’m on the plane?

  • Once you’ve stepped onto the plane, get into the mindset of the new time zone at your destination and adjust your watch accordingly.
  • It’s ok to sleep whenever you are feeling sleepy but most importantly, you should try and plan your sleep as if you are already on the same time as your destination.
  • Avoid alcohol altogether or at the very least limit the number of alcoholic drinks your have during the flight.  Drinking alcohol causes dehydration and flying at high altitudes also makes you feel like you’ve had double the amount of alcohol you’ve actually had.
  • Drink plenty of water and eat light meals as your digestion can be sluggish when flying.
  • Get up and move around the cabin as often as possible.

When I arrive at my destination what can I do?

Sunlight is the most important factor when resetting your circadian rhythm so avoid bunkering down in the hotel room if it’s daytime at your destination – the best thing you can do is get out and about and coordinate your sleep with the local time as soon as possible.  If you land in the afternoon then try and stay awake until the evening but if you land very early in the morning then try to get a couple of hours sleep only, before you stay awake for the rest of the day.

Do you have any tips for easing jetlag?  We’d love to know!

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