How do I help my toddler get over his horrible jet-lag?
August 5, 2014 9:20 AM Subscribe
We recently arrived back in Australia from the UK. We are seasoned travellers (even the toddler in question, aged 21 months) but this round of jet-lag is kicking him (and us) in the ass. I'd love to hear from people who have dealt with this precise situation, because we're not sure what we should be doing. Specific details inside.
posted by forza to Human Relations (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Toddler is normally a wonderful sleeper. He self-soothes like a champion, actually enjoys going to bed, and (before this) would happily lay there quietly and just talk or think himself to sleep.
We've also done several round-the-world trips with him before without too many problems in the way of jet-lag. They've always ended up with him having a flipped schedule for a few days (i.e., bedtime N hours before or after his normal bedtime, with each subsequent day moving it about an hour back until it's normal). It's been fine and relatively pain-free.
This time has been a bit more problematic because of the combination of the time in the day we arrived and the constraint that we've had to go to work in the mornings so we haven't been able to do the flipped bedtime thing. As a result we've gotten stuck in a situation where he goes to bed at 7pm (his normal time), then wakes up in the middle of the night for a few hours (this corresponds to daytime in the UK), and only then does he fall back asleep. Then we have to wake him up at 7am (his normal time) in order to go to work, daycare, etc.
The net result of this is that he's losing about two hours per night of sleep. It wouldn't be a sustainable situation for this alone, not to mention that we all want to go back to the glorious days where he'd fall asleep at 7pm and wake up at 7am with nary a peep in between. We definitely don't want him to develop the habit / expectation that he will wake up every night for a few hours of play.
Unfortunately right now we can't figure out how to get out of it. For the first few nights, given that he (and we) were not actually tired at this time at all, we got him out of bed and did quiet night-time activities for a few hours, then went back into the bedtime ritual to go back to sleep. That worked well but we didn't want to entrench the habit of waking up in the middle of the night for some playtime, so we've started trying to modify it. One night we had him go back to bed sooner (one hour rather than two). The result was that he tried heroically to go to sleep for an hour (he was so cute and tried so valiantly - we explained to him that planes make it hard to sleep at night but we all have to try anyway)... but he only managed to sleep after about two hours anyway. Another night we tried not getting him out of his crib when he woke up. This was a lot more miserable, and involved about an hour of crying, only ending after we got him up, did the whole bedtime ritual again, and got him down to bed finally.
We're really not sure what strategy we should be pursuing here. I'm not resistant to anything that will work, but CIO just doesn't seem sensible in this case: he's already a great self-soother, the problem is simply that his circadian rhythm is off and he can't sleep because he's not tired. I also don't want bedtimes and sleeping to change from something that he found comforting and really liked to become a battleground. But slow modifications haven't worked as far as I can tell (unless we're being too impatient and they're not slow enough? What kind of thing would be slow enough? How do we slowly transition?).
I'd love some perspective from someone who has been there themselves.