I used to think that flying was the difficult part of traveling with children. Now I know better: the most challenging thing (at least for our family) is dealing with time-change-induced sleep issues once at the destination. In anticipation of our upcoming holiday travels, I got in touch with sleep expert Clete Kushida, MD, PhD, to see if he could provide me and Scope readers with a few tips.
When it comes to helping a child adjust to a new time zone, he says avoiding bright light two to three hours before the new bedtime is important - as is being exposed to bright light for at least 30 minutes prior to the new morning awake time. He also said the child should initially avoid naps during the day as much as possible. This was a surprise suggestion to me, but he explained that building up a child's "sleep debt" will help him or her adjust to the new schedule more readily.
And for those of us on the West Coast traveling east, he warns that the adjustment might be a bit tougher than if we were traveling the other way. "Since most people have a circadian clock that is a little longer than 24 hours, there is a natural tendency to want to sleep later and get up later," he told me. "So traveling east-to-west is a little easier for people to adjust."