Jet lag in children can be a special kind of torture but there are definitely ways around it.

Any parent knows the joys of dealing with an overtired child. A close second is the pleasure of a wide awake child when all you want to do is sleep!

Read on to find out how to beat jet lag in children so you can all enjoy a great start or end to your trip.

Tip 1. Adjust before you leave.

Start to make adjustments before you leave. Change both you and your kid’s bed time and waking routine by 2-3 hours depending which way your time zone is changing.

When travelling back from Singapore to the UK we were 7 hours ahead of our destination. We had been in that time zone for around 2 months so we were more than adjusted. We knew we needed to start going to sleep later and getting up a little later so that the difference would not be a shock to the system. Do this even if you have an early flight to contend with as you’ll find the adjustment the other side a lot easier.

Tip 2. Trick your body.

There are a number of ways to ‘trick’ the body clock to reduce jet lag in children.

Through food. Try to eat at the airport, on the plane and when you arrive at times that would be mealtime in your new time zone. Breakfast at breakfast time, dinner at dinner time etc even if that means cereal at 10pm in your current time zone! Also eat the right food, if you’d normally only have a light lunch do the same then have a heavy dinner which will help your children sleep. Nothing keeps a child awake more than hunger.

Through sunlight. Seeking and avoiding natural light at the right times can help to lessen the effect of jet lag in children. Using blackout blinds and eye masks to keep the light out when needed and leaving curtains and blinds open to wake with the morning daylight will help to naturally reset their body clock. A cool room will also help to aid sleep so dial down the air conditioning. 

Through time. Change your watch to the new time as soon as possible to psychologically aline yourself with the new time zone. When kids ask ‘what time is it’ tell them the new time.

Tip 3. Supplement

Make sure to up your vitamin levels before you travel, particularly vitamin C and D.

DON’T take any sleeping tablets (no Melatonin) as these will actually prevent your body from adjusting to the new time zone and will worsen the effects of jet lag in children.

Tip 4. Stay Hydrated.

Drink as much water as you can. Avoid sugary drinks such as juice and squash for the kids and grown ups no alcohol as tempting as it may be! Also try to limit your caffeine intake too.

Tip 5. Don’t Nap.

Taking a nap to get you through the next day is tempting but will drag out jet lag in children for a longer time. If you are struggling go for a gentle walk or do an activity you enjoy as a family. Being in daylight and exercising boosts your endorphins which will help you get through to bed time. With kids try to avoid putting them in situations when they would normally nap, i.e in a car or stroller.

Tip 6. Be Plane Savvy

A350s and A380s are the best planes for a healthy flight with advance humidification and air filtration systems and natural light simulation.

Whether or not you are able to book onto one of these planes make sure you carry flight socks, a light blanket (sarongs are ideal), eye covers and headphones and/or ear plugs. These are essential if you need to be able to sleep on a daytime flight. For children also make sure you have their favourite toy, a dummy and something for them to listen to such as a story or white noise.

See more of our tips for enjoying flying with children here.

That said try not to get too much sleep on the flight if you’ll be arriving at night because you won’t sleep when you get to your final destination. As a general rule of thumb we find night flights are best when travelling from east to west and day flights are best when travelling from west to east.

Jet Lag in Children FAQ

How do you beat jet lag in children?

1. Adjust before you leave
2. Trick your body through eating at the correct meal times
3. Supplement with vitamins but don’t use sleeping aids such as Melatonin
4. Stay Hydrated
5. Don’t nap
6. Be plane savvy

How can I help my child with jet lag? 

1. Drink lots of plain fluids on the plane and after your flight but no fizzy, sugary or caffeinated drinks
2. Gently adjust to the new time zone through eating at the right times and using black our blinds or eye masks for bed time
3. Get outside and get moving, gentle exercise in daylight will help a child naturally adjusted

How long does a child take to adjust to a new time zone?

The younger the child the longer it will take them to adjust but on average it shouldn’t take longer than 2-3 days if you gently enforce the new schedule.

Which planes are best for a healthy flight?

A350s and A380s are the best planes for a healthy flight with advance humidification and air filtration systems and natural light simulation.

How can I get my child to sleep on a plane? 

1. Make sure they are warm and comfortable
2. Ensure they are well fed and not hungry
3. Use a eye mask or hat to make it darker especially on a day light flight and soft headphones
4. Limit screen time, an audio book is less overwhelming for tired children.
5. Get good seats and encourage a child to lay as flat as they can.

Do you have any other tips that help you and your family navigate jet lag in children? Let me know in the comments below.

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