Jet Lag In Children - My Family Travels

Doc Holiday discusses the best ways to adjust to a new time zone for parents and their cranky children.

Jet lag, or disruption in sleep and wake cycles with travel across time zones, occurs in children and adults. Typical symptoms of jet lag include very early A.M. awakening, daytime lethargy and difficulty getting to sleep in the new time zone.

Travel across only one time zone (1-hour time change) is not usually a problem; however, sleep difficulty arises with travel across two or more zones. Generally, it's easier to adapt when travel is from east to west (adaptation time in 1-3 days). West to east travel across two or more time zones is a more difficult and prolonged adaptation (this can take up to three weeks for children who are "losing" several daytime hours).

Strategies to aid in a smoother time zone adjustment include:

1. Putting your child to sleep at a time that is geared to the new time zone.
2. Serving meals at times that are appropriate for the new location.
3. Encouraging sunlight and daylight exposure in the new time zone to cause the body to make chemical changes that will facilitate your child's sleep/awake readjustment.

Vitamin or dietary supplements, sedating cold medicines and antihistamines are of unproven benefit, and may actually interfere with the natural transition process. Since medications serve no purpose, please share your tips or stories on how to cope with a tired tiny traveler.

Jet Lag Solutions

Here are other suggestions for dealing with one of the most talked-about aspects of travel:

• The Travel Medicine Program at NY's St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital recommends exercise once an hour while on the plane.

• On an overnight flight, the TMP also suggests you sleep as much as possible, but on a daylight flight, do not sleep on the plane, but do adjust your bed and mealtimes to local time.

• Legendary traveler Arthur Frommer says he always takes a nap immediately upon arriving at his hotel (at least 3-4 hours) followed by a non-strenuous walk, a meal, and a good night's sleep.

• Much has been written about the hormone melatonin as a tool in combating jet lag. Given the dearth of empirical medical research on melatonin, we do not recommend its use for adults and absolutely not for children.

• For parents, the general wisdom on any flight is to minimize caffeine and alcohol consumption and maximize water intake. Once you reduce your own jet lag, you'll be better able to cope with your kid's.


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