How to help your child to sleep during your summer holiday

If you are anything like me, pre child holidays involved relaxing, exploring, sunbathing, sipping cocktails and basically doing everything you wanted when you would like to. So our first trip away with Oliver was a huge shock, in fact it was actually very stressful! Which is the opposite experience that hubby and I were going for, we were looking for more of a break from busy parenting life. Silly us!

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So second time around, I used my professional experience and training to ensure it was far less stressful. And it was a totally different holiday, we had an amazing time. I could go as far as saying I was relaxed (at times).

Whether you are heading for a staycation or abroad this summer, this is nothing more stressful than overtired, overstimulated and over excited children, who are crying, tantruming and generally just beside themselves with exhaustion. Most parents I speak with in this situation, find themselves questioning as to why they booked the holiday in the first place.

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So here are my five fundamental tips on how to help your child or children to sleep well during your holiday.

Expectations

It seems best to start with this tip, as it is so easy to put your own expectations on your children (trust me I’ve been there). Wherever you are going on holiday, for our little people it is a huge change. The experience can be exhausting, over stimulating, exciting and overwhelming. Of course all of these emotions can affect their ability to wind down and therefore fall and stay asleep.

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Not only that, their sleep environment is unfamiliar, new and just very strange. Depending where you are on holiday you may also have time and temperature changes to navigate, which are two vital factors when considering human sleep.

My biggest expectation tip for new parents taking their little ones on holiday is to expect it to be different to pre child holidays. It will be stressful at times and relaxing sometimes. In summary, try not to expect your child’s sleep to be perfect, especially during the first few days. And if your child is already struggling to sleep at home, I strongly recommend establishing consistent good sleep at home first to minimise exhaustion and stress for you on holiday.

 

Sleep space

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When you are unpacked and settled, start making your child’s sleep space or bedroom their own. With toddlers and older children you can even call their sleep space their holiday bedroom/cot/bed. You can involve them in unpacking their things and finding spaces for familiar objects brought from home. I would definitely bring their comforter or favourite teddy, bed or cot sheets washed in your laundry detergent and a collection of books/toys. Encourage your little one to spend time in their bedroom or where they are sleeping during the day time so that they become more familiar with it as time goes by.

Make sure the temperature is as cool as possible, ideally 16-18 degrees. Use whichever safe methods you can, air conditioning, opening windows, shutting blinds and curtains during the day or fans. Although it does take up space, I would not be without a travel black out blind, especially if you have an early riser, general sensitive sleeper or you are travelling across time zones.

Routine

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Sticking to your child’s routine during your holiday is totally your decision. I always say which option is less stressful and more relaxing for you? Would you rather stick to your routine, so you have downtime whilst your little one sleeps? Or would you prefer to break your routine, forget about normality, suck it up with overtired children who may suddenly start waking up earlier and through the night? It really depends on your child and your parenting style. For us, it is the first option that made it less stressful. During our holiday Oliver was unsettled for the first few sleeps in his “holiday bedroom” but after that we had minimal tantrums and hubby and I had child free downtime during nap and evening times. It was the perfect balance.

Preparation is key

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My husband took the mick out of me for how organised and prepared I was for our holiday. Preparation is absolutely key. Regarding Oliver’s sleep environment, we ensured there was both a cot and a bed with bed guards as he had only just made the transition to a bed at home. We had a lot of his sleep time essentials such as a cellular blanket in case it was too hot, his comforter, black our blind, essential oils, a portable red night time, bed time reading books and appropriate bed time clothing (both for cool air-conditioning and for hotter temperatures). We also had pink noise at the ready, in case unexpected noise woke him, as he is a light sleeper.

If you are staycationing, you can also pre plan and pre cook meals to make it easier for you once you are there. This helps save money but also gives you more time to spend doing the fun things. We never had to think about what we were eating which was helpful especially as Oliver is allergic to dairy and soya. In the end hubby thanked me for being super organised as it made the holiday even more stress free.

In terms of equipment, write a list of everything you use at home on a daily basis and decide which bits you need to take and which your accommodation can provide. For example, do you need child monitors, stairgates, bedguards, travel cot etc?

Getting ahead of jetlag

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Finally I wanted to add something for you those you travelling across time zones. Jetlag can add another level of stress and anxiety to your child’s sleep. It can take children a minimum of 5 days to adjust to big time zone changes such travelling from the U.K. to USA or Australia, New Zealand. My biggest tip is to start adjusting your child’s body clock an hour a day closer to your destinations time zone before your holiday. This includes sleep, activity and meal times as they all have a huge impact on sleep/awake cycles.

If it is possible to continue this once you have arrived on holiday, this gently transitions your child to the new time zone. Use natural daylight to your advantage as this will help regulate their circadian rhythm which dictates their sleep and awake cycles.

There are my five essential tips to help your child to sleep well on holiday. I hope you find them useful and I hope you have an awesome time away. If you have a holiday booked and you would love for your child’s sleep to significantly improve by the time your holiday comes around, then book yourself in for The Sleepless Survival Plan.

Kathryn Stimpson