What You Eat Can Affect Your Sleep

While I am a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant, specializing in the sleep habits of babies and young children, I also want the parents I work with to get healthy sleep — a well-rested family is a happy family! So, from time to time I like to cover topics addressing self-care for parents, which is as important as healthy sleep for your children.

Did you know that what you eat can affect your sleep?

Identifying the culprit

If you’ve ever struggled with sleep for any period of time, you likely ran down a list of things that could be adversely affecting your sleep — stress, lack of exercise (or exercising too late in the evening), too few hours of sleep, the list goes on. You may have even gone so far as to make significant changes to your bedtime routine and environment — which is never a bad thing — such as eliminating screen time for at least an hour before bed, changing your bedroom lighting, adding blackout shades, and even purchasing new bed linens and pillows.

Sometimes adults continue to struggle to catch enough Zzzs, even after changing their routine and environment, leaving them scratching their heads. What they may have overlooked is what — and when — they’re eating throughout the day.

The food-sleep connection

Some things are no-brainers — having that cup of coffee, tea, or soda in the evening can obviously make it difficult for you to fall asleep at bedtime because of the caffeine. I won’t judge, but if you like an evening bowl of ice cream, coffee or mocha flavor is probably not the best choice as you’ll sneakily be getting a dose of caffeine in your cold, sweet, and creamy nighttime treat.

Research shows that what we eat during the day affects the quality of our sleep. More specifically, “low fiber and high saturated fat and sugar intake is associated with lighter, less restorative sleep with more arousals.”

While what we eat is essential, when we eat affects how we sleep as well. There’s a reason why people say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day — it’s healthier to consume more of your calories earlier to fuel you throughout the day. If you’ve ever had a heavy meal late in the evening, you may have found yourself uncomfortable when lying in bed later — perhaps even having to take antacids to quell indigestion. But heavy meals even earlier in the day can still throw our bodies off.

Try to maintain a balance

Shifts in what and when we eat has an effect on the body’s circadian rhythm and significant changes in mealtimes or diet can shift the body’s natural sleep cycle. The connection between metabolism and circadian rhythm is complex, but can be summed up by saying that there is a delicate balance that needs to be maintained the ensure our bodies are nourished and well-rested. Exercise is an additional and important component to this, as it helps maintain a balance between caloric intake and energy consumption within our body; when that balance is upset, such as consuming a diet high in fats, sugars, and calories, but not burning at an equal rate, our bodies begin changing at the cellular level, sending messages that, in turn, affect our circadian rhythm.

In a nutshell, eating a well-rounded, healthy diet and exercising regularly creates a balance that is conducive to healthy sleep patterns. If you’re having difficulty sleeping, and you’ve taken care of the environmental disruptions, take a look at your diet and exercise patterns — the key to a good night’s sleep may simply be what and when you’re eating.

Check out these Amazing Benefits of Sleep


Bypass the Baby Gear

If you follow any parenting sites or skimmed over headlines last month, you likely saw reports about the massive recall for Fisher-Price’s Rock ‘N Play Sleeper. Enormous in scale, the Sleeper recall includes all models from the product’s inception in 2009. Sadly, the Rock ‘N Play is attributed to more than 30 infant deaths. After much thought, I decided now was as good a time as any to talk about the billion-dollar baby industry that continually markets items to sleep-deprived parents, promising to help their babies sleep…and how you don’t need any of them to have a well-rested baby (and self).

Safety first

If you’ve not checked out safekids.org, it contains a wealth of information for parents and has a worthy mission: “Safe Kids Worldwide is a global organization dedicated to protecting kids from unintentional injuries, the number one cause of death to children in the United States. Throughout the world, almost 1 million children die of injuries each year.”

A quick look at the recall section of safekids.org shows that there have been ten products recalled in the first four months of this year that are related to children and sleep. Ten! In my mind, this is an excellent argument for keeping nurseries minimalist, and supporting evidence for skipping the gadgets and snake oil fixes for infant sleep support. Simply put, there is no easy fix for sleep-deprived babies; it takes routine and consistency to take your baby from multiple night wakings to sleeping through the night.

Pay attention to environment

Your baby’s safe and healthy sleep starts with the nursery or sleep environment you’ve established. Whether you’re room-sharing or baby’s sleeping in a separate nursery, you want to make sure that it’s conducive to sleep.
Think of some of the best nights of sleep you’ve had. For me, it’s been in a cool, quiet room that was as dark as a cave. The ideal — and safest — sleep environment for your baby is a room that is dark, quiet, and cool. You want the place you’ve chosen for your little one to ooze sleep vibes, which means you need to forego decorating it busily and brightly. Cool, neutral tones — think minimalist — are conducive to relaxation and sleep.

Routine is everything

While baby gear like swings and rockers provide rhythmic movements that lull your baby — much like rocking in your arms — the rhythm you should be focusing on is that of routine. Same time, same place, same way. When the swings and rockers stop — or your baby outgrows them — you’re left with an unhappy baby who is dependent upon a mechanical item to go to sleep.
Instead of investing in expensive gadgets, consider investing in a consistent sleep routine, day in, day out, letting your little one take cues for sleep and learn to soothe themselves into slumber. No more tired arms trying to mimic rhythmic rocking, just a tried and true routine.

Skip the gadgets

Whenever you’re adding something to the nursery or your baby’s sleep environment, you want to be extremely cautious. In the case of the Rock ‘N Play mentioned above, it had initially been rated for babies ages three months and younger; in other words, the rocker was rated for babies not yet able to turn over, yet we all know that every baby is different and hits milestones at different times. The Rock ‘N Play became dangerous as soon as a baby was able to roll, which often happens before 3 months of age.

If you’ve ever heard of baby boxes, you understand the simplicity I advocate for in your baby’s nursery. A flat surface, no blankets, no toys — keep your baby’s sleep area as boring as possible, both for safety and to eliminate the possibility of stimulation keeping your little one awake.

If you need help creating a healthy sleep routine for your little one, or are interested in a nursery assessment, a complimentary 15-minute sleep consultation.

The ADHD-Sleep Connection

A recent study, presented at the American Physiological Society’s (APS) annual meeting, shows that teens with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may benefit from more nightly sleep. This finding got me thinking about the young children I work with, and whether a suspected or early diagnosis of ADHD might be premature. Let me explain.

Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

I’m not a doctor; I don’t proclaim to be, but I do know a thing or two about sleep. Think about your immediate network of friends and family — more than likely you know of at least one child diagnosed with an attention deficit disorder (ADD) or ADHD. And if you ask your friend what first made them suspect their child may have the neurological disorder, they likely had particular behaviors they cited.

The most recent National Survey of Children’s Health (2016) reports that 6.1% of children between the ages of 2-17 are diagnosed with ADHD. That statistic doesn’t include undiagnosed children, but 6 percent is still pretty significant.

On the whole, however, ADHD tends to impact executive functioning in those suffering from the disorder. If you’re unfamiliar with executive functioning skills, they include:

  • Paying attention
  • Planning and organizing
  • Staying focused through a task
  • Time management
  • Remembering details
  • Multitasking

Think about times when you’re not getting enough sleep. How does lack of sleep affect your life? Do you have difficulty concentrating or remembering things? You see where I’m going here, right?

Inadequate sleep

I’m not here to say that every child with ADHD is improperly diagnosed. But, as The Child Mind Institute illustrates, we do see similar traits between ADHD and the behavior of children not getting a healthy amount of sleep, so much so that it can be difficult to distinguish the two.

It’s pretty standard for children with ADHD to have sleep difficulties, whether it’s falling asleep or staying asleep — there are even studies showing that children with ADHD have a later circadian rhythm than those without the neurological disorder. And when our ADHD kiddos aren’t getting an adequate amount of sleep, their quality of life plummets as their executive functioning takes a hit — it’s a vicious cycle.
Having a bedtime routine is incredibly important for these children, especially for those who have difficulty falling asleep. A routine can help train their growing bodies to begin relaxing before bedtime. And while you might think your elementary-aged child has outgrown a bedtime routine, and today’s busy schedules make consistency difficult, all kids benefit from a set bedtime and routine.

The more sleep, the better

Back to that study I referred to earlier. In the teens with ADHD studied, researchers found that “Increased sleep may significantly [and positively] impact academic, social and emotional functioning in adolescents with ADHD, and sleep may be an important future target for future intervention.”

It’s not a huge leap to guess that if the researchers had performed the same study with younger children diagnosed with ADHD, they’d find that more sleep results in greater efficiency in executive functioning.

I see it all the time with young children with poor sleep habits who are carrying around a sleep debt. The Child Mind Institute addresses this perfectly, saying “Parents sometimes ask if a child might be misdiagnosed with ADHD when what’s causing his symptoms might really be a lack of sleep. And we hear anecdotes from parents of children whose ADHD symptoms diminished or disappeared when their sleep problems were solved.”

If you think your child can benefit from more healthy sleep, but you are struggling to make it happy, know that I’m here to help. I offer a complimentary 15-minute sleep assessment so I can get to know the specifics about your situation.

There’s a Science Behind Set Bedtimes

If you’ve glanced at headlines or spent any amount of time on social media in the last month or so, you likely saw flashy headlines proclaiming that children lacking a set bedtime suffer physical effects similar to jet lag. The adolescent sleep study’s findings are valid, but it’s actually old news (it’s from a 2013 study). Alarmism is fashionable today with the 24-7 news cycle, so I wanted to address the study in today’s blog…in much more gentler terms.

The study findings

So, the 2013 sleep study in question, published in Pediatrics, is entitled, “Changes in Bedtime Schedules and Behavioral Difficulties in 7-Year-Old Children.” In reality, the study has nothing to do with jet lag, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

The UK study included over 10,000 children, with data collected when they were ages 3, 5, and 7 years. The results were obtained from both parent and teacher questionnaires at each of the three age “check-ins.” What the study found was that those children who lacked a regular, predictable bedtime exhibited more behavioral issues than those children with routine, regular bedtimes.

The interesting part of this sleep study, aside from the behavioral findings, is that the behavior was affected even if the children slept for the same number of hours each night. A fluctuating or irregular bedtime, in this case, is directly related to behavioral issues.

What does jet lag have to do with it?

The behavioral issues researchers found included scoring higher in areas including “unhappiness, being inconsiderate and fighting.” Motherly reports that:

According to the study’s lead researcher, Yvonne Kelly, putting kids to bed at 8 o’clock one night and 10 o’clock the next results in a kind of “social jet lag,” even if they’re getting the same hours of sleep. “Without ever getting on a plane, a child’s bodily systems get shuffled through different time zones, and their circadian rhythms and hormonal systems take a hit as a result.”

Additional findings

A follow-up study, conducted in 2017, added academic shortcomings to the list of effects of an inconsistent bedtime. The Conversation reports that the follow-up study found that “Children with irregular bedtimes had lower scores on maths, reading and spatial awareness tests.”

I don’t know if it’s possible to find a stronger argument for a set bedtime than scientific studies pointing out an increased feeling of unhappiness, fighting, and lower academic scores among kids with irregular bedtimes!

What it means for you

As a parent, you know that your child’s early years are full of development at incredible rates. Their brains and bodies are working overtime, growing and gathering information about the world around them. What shouldn’t be underestimated is the role that healthy, consistent sleep plays in early childhood development — it’s crucial! According to the National Sleep Foundation, “sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs.”

Take a look at your little one’s sleep routine and see if it can use some tweaking. Are you consistent with bedtime, or does bedtime vary in your household? One of the easiest changes you can make is to determine a bedtime and stick to it — your little one will thank you later (and you may have fewer behavior issues to combat)!
If you’re having trouble determining the right bedtime for your family’s routine, call me. I can work with you and your family’s schedule to establish a routine that’s right for you. If you think your family’s sleep could use an overhaul, contact me for a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation.


Please Don’t Throw Out Your White Noise Machine

If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m an advocate for white noise in the nursery (and kiddo bedrooms). Whether you have a busy household, noisy neighbors, or just a little one who startles or stimulates easily while sleeping, white noise can be the answer. While you may have read some of the negative press surrounding noise machines, I implore you — please don’t throw out your noise machine!

What is white noise?

If you’ve ever seen the movie Poltergeist, the snow screen on the television is an iconic example of white noise. And then there’s the movie, White Noise, which has an even more frightening take on white noise. Despite the scary movies and alarmist headlines, white noise isn’t terrifying.

White noise is created by combining sounds at various frequencies, at equal intensities; the result is a constant or static sound. The blended noise white nose machines create is capable of masking background or environmental noise — this is why many people sleep with fans in their rooms or add them to their children’s rooms. With so many Americans facing sleep deficits, disruptions, and dysfunction, it’s not abnormal to find adults using white noise in their bedrooms.

Why white noise?

You may be wondering why I’m advocating introducing an item into your nursery, let alone one that creates noise, but bear with me. While I am a proponent of a stark and uncluttered sleep environment for babies, the addition of a white noise machine will not create any stimulation for your little one.

If your newborn has a sensitive startle reflex, as most do early on, the slightest noise can cause your baby to react and wake themselves with physical movement. Adding white noise to the nursery can help muffle environmental sound, reducing the possibility of your baby’s startle reflex being triggered.

White noise machines can also help drown out household noises while your little one is napping throughout the day, as loud noises can stimulate your baby into alertness. An alert baby is the last thing you want when you’re trying to get your little one’s daytime naps on-track [setting them up for healthy nighttime sleep].

Is white noise bad?

Okay, it’s time for me to address the elephant in the room. After significant studies in the 90s showed that white noise could help babies fall asleep faster — and stay asleep — inevitable alarmist headlines have appeared in recent years. Much like the caffeine debate — it’s terrible for you, it’s good, it’s bad — splashy headlines denounced white noise machines and scared parents across the globe.

One particular study, published in 2014, discussed the possibility of white noise machines contributing to hearing loss in infants, which set the news media on a white noise witch hunt, and scared parents enough to make them throw out their noise machines. Those who took the time to research the findings realized that the study tested fourteen sound devices on the market, and each exceeded the maximum noise level recommended for infants in hospital nurseries. And three of the noise machines tested exceeded safe levels, registering more than 85 decibels. What the study didn’t say — despite news media proclaiming in clickbaity headlines — was that hearing loss is possible in your infant if you have your white noise machine volume set to its highest level and balanced next to the crib.

The American Academy of Pediatrics shared the results of this study, reiterating the study’s recommendations, “Even though the maximum output levels were measured in this study, the authors encourage parents to move infant sleep machines farther away than 200 centimeters and to lower the volume to protect infants’ hearing.”

In short, just be smart about your white noise machine’s placement and volume level. Keep your machine more than seven feet away from your baby’s crib, and know that white noise doesn’t need to be set to a high volume to be effective. Most importantly, don’t throw out your noise machine!
Still unsure about a white noise machine and whether you should introduce one into your nursery? I offer a complimentary 15-minute sleep assessment so I can get to know the specifics about your situation.


Solids and Baby Sleep: Will It Make My Baby Sleep Longer?

If you’ve ever shared your woes about your baby’s sleepless nights, you’ve likely been given a lot of unsolicited advice; and if you haven’t, you’re one of the lucky ones! If you’ve ever been told to put cereal in your little one’s bedtime bottle to make them sleep longer, this blog’s for you. Today I’m tackling the myth of solids and baby sleep.

Stock Image by tung256 on Pixabay

Solids and baby sleep

So, the old wives’ tale is that giving your baby solid food before bedtime will keep their tummy full, therefore alleviating middle of the night wakings for feeding. Whether it’s giving breastfed babies formula at bedtime, or adding cereal to the bottle, many a new parent has been given this bogus advice. In fact, researches studied infant sleep and bedtime cereal and found that feeding your baby a more substantial bottle before bed does not affect your baby’s ability to sleep through the night.

Disrupted sleep

While cereal in the bottle before bedtime myth persists, many a baby will suffer as a result. The reality is that feeding a baby cereal too soon or too early can cause digestive issues that may actually disrupt your little one’s sleep. According to the Mayo Clinic, feeding your baby solids before four months of age may:

  • Pose a risk of sucking food into the airway (aspiration)
  • Cause a baby to get too much or not enough calories or nutrients
  • Increase a baby’s risk of obesity
  • Cause upset stomach

The Mayo Clinic adds this as a side note, “Also, starting solids before age 4 months hasn’t been shown to help babies sleep better at night.” The Mayo Clinic recommends waiting until your baby is between four to six months of age to introduce solids because your baby is better able to develop the coordination their mouth needs to move food around and swallow, and their digestive system is advanced enough to begin breaking down simple foods.

Is it hunger?

When well-meaning friends and family tell you to add cereal to your baby’s bottle, they’re assuming that your baby is waking because they’re hungry. If you have a newborn, this is likely the case, as they typically need to eat every 3 hours. However, if your little one is six months or older, and is still sleeping in 2-3 hour clips through the night, you may want to take at your baby’s daytime routine because the culprit may be poor sleep habits.

Infant sleep tips

Now that we’ve dispelled the myth of solids and baby sleep let’s take a look at the ways you can help your little one rest through the night.

Creating an environment conducive to sleep — dark, quiet, and cool — can absolutely get your baby to sleep better. Do you have a bedtime routine in place? If not, that’s the perfect starting point and may be what you need to get your little one on-track.

Take a look at how your baby is napping through the day — are they getting enough sleep? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that “Infants 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours per 24 hours (including naps) on a regular basis to promote optimal health.” If you’re unsure what your little one’s daytime nap schedule should look like, to ensure that they’re getting enough sleep during the day, please call me — I can create a plan that works for your family.

If you’re co-sleeping, as many of you are when your baby is in their early months, there are some strategies you can employ to help your baby get a healthy night of sleep, such as switching for co-sleeping to room-sharing.
So, before you add cereal to your baby’s bedtime bottle, implement some of the strategies above. If you’re still having trouble getting your baby to sleep, give me a call. I offer a complimentary 15-minute sleep assessment so I can get to know the specifics about your situation.

The [Amazing] Benefits of Sleep

You, like many other people, probably think of sleep as a time when your mind and body rest and slow down, but in truth, sleep is a time when your body is working at a furious pace. According to the National Sleep Foundation, “sleep is an active period in which a lot of important processing, restoration, and strengthening occurs.” It might surprise you to learn that how and why we sleep is still unknown to scientists, but they do know that sleep is required for us to remain functional and healthy. Let’s take a look at some of the many benefits of sleep, and why it’s not only crucial for your baby to get a healthy amount of sleep, but why slumber is vital for you as well.

Brainpower

Perhaps the most vital role sleep plays in our daily lives is brain function. You’ve likely suffered from poor sleep or sleep deprivation, which means you’ve felt the effects of reduced cognitive functioning as a result; difficulty putting thoughts together and poor memory recall are two of the most common effects.

Learning and memory in the human brain are divided into three critical functions: acquisition, consolidation, and recall. When we sleep, our mind is furiously processing and arranging the information we’ve taken in throughout the day, in addition to carefully storing that information as memories for later recall. When people suffer sleep deprivation, their cognitive function is substantially impaired.

Think about how much a growing baby — and children — are learning each day. So, babies and children who don’t get enough healthy sleep each night will be adversely affected. I can not stress how vital sleep is for humans — especially growing humans!

Healthy Body

We’ve all seen the news headlines proclaiming that sleep is essential for our health, but how exactly does that work? Sure, sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain, among other health issues, but why? The National Sleep Foundation sums up sleeps role in our overall health and wellbeing by sharing that long periods of sleep are necessary “to restore and rejuvenate, to grow muscle, repair tissue, and synthesize hormones.”

Not only does your infant or child require long periods of sleep for cognitive development, but it’s also vital to your little one’s physical development as well. And when your little one is sleeping well, you can sleep well, making every family member able to perform at their peak and maintain their overall health! Sleep deprivation is not a necessary rite of parenthood, trust me — you need healthy sleep to care for your growing child.

How much sleep should you get? Adults typically need an average of 7-8 hours of sleep each day to let their body rest and restore. If you find that sleeping 6 hours works for you, without you feeling tired or irritable throughout your days, then that’s your number and keep doing what you’re doing! Let your body be your guide.

Check out these Healthy Sleep Tips for Adults

Children require different amounts of sleep depending on their age and developmental level. The National Sleep Foundation has a handy sleep chart that provides the recommended amount of sleep for each age, from newborns to young adults, ages 18-25.

Check out these 4 Tips for Getting Your Baby to Sleep Better

Healthy Mind & Body

If you’re reading this, you likely experienced a period of sleep deprivation with your baby, so you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say that inadequate sleep is proven to make people irritable. Healthy sleep is incredibly important for your overall mood. In fact, even partial sleep deprivation can result in feelings of stress, anger, sadness, and mental exhaustion, according to study findings from University of Pennsylvania researchers.

It’s evident that sleep is beneficial for our overall health and is extremely important for the entire family. If you think your family’s sleep could use an overhaul, contact me for a complimentary 15-minute phone consultation.

Check out these 5 Common Myths About Sleep Training

What You Need to Know About Split Nights

Your baby went to sleep without any issues, and you’ve finally hit R.E.M. sleep — YES! Then, you’re awoken by your baby’s cries. You go into the nursery to calm your little one, change a diaper, and maybe take care of a feeding, but your little one is wide awake and ready to play. It’s tough to be upset with that adorable little smile, but what on earth is going on here? Today I’m going to talk about split nights.

What are “split nights”?

You may already be familiar with the term “split nights” if you’ve undergone a sleep study for sleep apnea, but split nights with babies and toddlers is an entirely different thing. Split nights in our case is when your baby goes to sleep at night and wakes a few hours later for an hour or more. Babies experiencing split nights will be wide awake in this interim period, frustrating tired parents with their 2 a.m. playtime.  

Causes

I’m going to delve into the science behind sleep quickly, so as not to lose you — but it’s important for you to understand your baby’s night wakings in context.

Human sleep is regulated biologically and is regulated by two processes: circadian and homeostatic. You’re likely familiar with circadian rhythm, which is the human body’s sleep/wake cycle, based upon the 24-hour clock. Human’s homeostatic sleep drive asserts that the longer one stays awake, the more tired they are — you practice this with your baby by responding to sleep signals to put your baby down when they need sleep.

So, your baby’s body is still working on responding to natural sleep cycles, which can quickly change with their rapid growth and development. When their body’s need for sleep — or natural sleep cycle — shifts to accommodate growth and development, but the schedule you’ve been maintaining doesn’t shadow this, your baby’s sleep is easily affected. They can miss sleep windows and become overtired, or even sleep too much during the day (leading to dreaded split nights). This sounds more complicated than it is, so keep reading.

What to do about split nights

If your baby’s nighttime sleep is disrupted with a middle-of-the-night wake-up, you should first take a look at what’s going on during the day. Getting your baby back on track is often a matter of tweaking their daytime nap routine. While it’s not necessarily the concrete answer you’re looking for, you may find that shifting naps earlier or ensuring that your baby doesn’t sleep more than a specific length of time solves middle-of-the-night wakings.

Take a day or two to watch for baby sleep signs carefully, and see if they correspond to the schedule your baby is currently following. If they differ, you’ve found the answer and should shift according to the natural sleep signs your baby is demonstrating; use your baby as the guide to their newly adjusted schedule.
If you still are unable to find the right schedule to eradicate your baby’s split nights, give me a call. I offer a complimentary 15-minute sleep assessment so I can get to know the specifics about your situation.

Time Zone Travel: Dealing with Jet Lag

If you read my recent post about holidays and sleep, you may have noticed that I, ahem, skimmed a bit in the plane travel section. Plane travel can be tricky with sleep, not only because of the sheer amount of time it takes between arriving early and then flying but also because cabin pressure often causes uncomfortable physical effects that easily disrupt your little one’s ability to relax. Throw in travel between different time zones and you have a veritable obstacle course to tackle with your baby’s sleep patterns. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can deal with jet lag when traveling between time zones.

1. Be realistic

Think about how comfortable you feel on a long haul flight, crammed into an economy seat, and realize that your little one is likely not much more comfortable than you. Without the ability to move about freely, your little one may get antsy, so be realistic about your expectations of the flight. It’s highly likely that your kiddo’s regular sleep pattern will be disrupted, with excitement, cabin pressurization, and pent-up energy affecting their body.

Your goal for the flight — even if it means bending or breaking your own rules — is to try to keep your little one occupied and as comfortable as possible. Don’t be afraid to allow unlimited screen time — but consider bringing along blue-light-blocking glasses — or shower your kiddo with coloring books, crayons, and snacks (but try to avoid sugary treats). While you may just want to close your eyes and sleep the flight away, realize that this may not happen with your little one in tow, and plan accordingly by packing activities to occupy your little one.

2. Break the rules

Yes, I’m saying that you have my permission to break the rules and do whatever it takes to get your little one to grab some Zzzzs on your flight. Whether it be rocking in your arms or popping a pacifier in their mouth, don’t be afraid to break the rules if it means your child will be more comfortable and will rest easier. Once you get back home and into your routine after traveling, you can work on getting back on track, but right now, you just need to keep everyone happy (including your fellow passengers).

3. Roll with it

If your child already sleeps well, you’re in good shape to take on this trip. Without an existing sleep debt — like most adults typically have — your child will likely respond to a disrupted sleep routine with fatigue, and adapt more easily to the new time zone. Don’t try to keep you or your kiddo on your old schedule; instead, allow your bodies to naturally adapt to the new time zone and worry about adjusting back when you return.

4. Go with the rhythm

To help your little one adapt to the new time zone, make sure that they get as much sunlight exposure as possible so that their body’s natural clock adjusts. Go for plenty of walks, play in parks, take advantage of time outside during the day while you’re away. On the flip side, try to be indoors in dim lighting or the dark for at least two hours before putting your little one to bed and try to limit screen exposure; this will give your little one’s body time to naturally release melatonin and prepare them for sleep on the new schedule.

The change in time zones and travel may mean that your baby is ready for a nap at an odd time — go with it. It’s better to have a rested kiddo than an overtired one, so don’t be afraid to go off schedule. The good news is that it should only take a couple of days for your little one to adjust to the time zone, allowing you to make the most of your time away. And when you return, your baby will have an easier time falling back into their routine with familiar surroundings.

 

Jet lag takes its toll on everyone, but you’ll find yourself better equipped to deal with it when you plan in advance. Know that the flight over may be uncomfortable, but having activities packed and allowing yourself to break some of your rules can help ease you through. Remember that adjusting to the new time zone may take a couple of days and that throwing yourselves into the new schedule with plenty of sunlight exposure during the day and dark time before bed will speed up the process. Most of all, don’t forget to enjoy yourselves — safe travels!

 

Holidays and Healthy Sleep

In the blink of an eye, the holiday season is here again, and I know that I have many nervous parents wondering how they’re going to stay on top of the busy season and keep their little ones well-rested and healthy. I’m here to tell you that it likely won’t be perfect, but with a bit of planning and foresight, you can help your baby stay on some semblance of a sleep schedule.

Now’s not the time to start

If you’re reading this and you’re about to begin sleep training, I suggest waiting until your holiday travel plans are complete before committing to consistency. Knowing that you’ll likely not be able to maintain a set schedule while traveling will just prolong the training period, frustrating everyone involved.

 

Expect and plan for disruptions

From November through January, many people are on-the-move, traveling to spend time with family — near and far — and getting as much quality time in as they can. Whether you trade holiday visits between both sides of you and your partner’s family or open your home for the season, you’ll likely experience a little disruption with your little one’s sleep schedule. Whatever you do, don’t panic!

Travel tips

Plane rides and road trips can easily interfere with your baby’s sleep routine, which is why you want to plan ahead of time. If at all possible, plan your travel times around your baby’s schedule — I know, I know, it’s not always possible, but if you can, do it.

By car

If you’re traveling by car, try to plan your travel to coincide with nap times. While car naps aren’t always the best sources of sleep, getting your baby to nap a little on schedule while you’re headed to visit family will help them stay on their sleep schedule. Don’t forget to pack your little one’s favorite stuffed toy or blanket to provide a little bit of homey comfort while you’re away.

With especially long road trips, try to make planned stops to get a little exercise and fresh air — weather permitting, of course. If you can get your toddler to have a nice run around a park or a quick sightseeing stop along the way, it may help tire them come bedtime.

By plane

Flying introducing a myriad of different variables, not least of which is pressurization — changes in cabin pressure are enough to throw your baby off for the entire flight. Again, a perfect scenario would be to try to schedule travel time around your baby’s nap schedule, but even the shortest flights are still time-consuming, between advance check-in and boarding. Bearing the lengthiness of air travel in mind, I’m going to do something I never do and suggest that you do whatever you need to keep your little one comfortable and content on the plane.

The reality is that flying on a plane is exciting for children, and they’re surrounded by lots of unfamiliar faces, which can cause overstimulation. In all likelihood, your little one won’t sleep on the plane, so you’ll want to find ways to keep them occupied throughout the flight. If you need some ideas for in-flight activities, check out Parenting magazine’s 50 Ways to Entertain a Kid on An Airplane or these 10 Busy Bags Ideas to Make Traveling with Toddlers Easier.

Establish expectations with family

Whether you’re traveling to visit family or family is coming to visit you, your little ones are going to be doted on by relatives. The extra family time alone can cause overstimulation, not to mention well-meaning relatives who want to see your baby alert and awake. Resist the urge to cave into your relatives’ demands and treat your little one’s nap and bedtime as sacrosanct.

Stick to your regular nap and bedtime routines and schedule — as closely as you can — and make sure you establish that the baby’s room is off-limits. Because of your baby’s sleep routine, you can tell well-meaning family members and friends when your little one will wake, and invite them to visit with them at that time. If you need to be forceful, explain that your baby is sleep training and minor disturbances or disruptions can throw off their schedule, making for a grumpy baby who will likely not be in the mood to visit.

Work with the sleeping arrangements

Whether you’re in a hotel, staying with family, or using the nursery as a spare room for visiting family, you need to try to keep your baby’s sleeping arrangements as separate from yours as possible. If you’re relegated to a single room, try to find a way to divide the room into two sleeping areas — one for you and one for your baby.

While it might sound strange, a closet is actually an excellent option for room-sharing. Not only will your little one be in a dark, muffled area, but they also won’t be able to see you and your partner, and they’ll be insulated from people coming and going from your room.

 

While you’ll likely not make it through the holiday season without a few bumps and bobbles in your little one’s sleep routine, having a plan going in can make a huge difference. Most importantly, don’t let minor setbacks throw you off — consistency is what will get your little one back on track.