The benefits of adequate sleep include the overall support of our immune system, increased memory and focus, and the promotion of healthy growth. It’s easy to keep a routine while functioning from home, but oftentimes, when on vacation, schedules for quality sleep get overlooked.
For adults, adjusting to a new sleeping schedule and arrangement is noticeable, but does not necessarily impact overall mood and function. However, this is not the case for younger children, who benefit from maintaining a sleep schedule that’s as close to their normal routine as possible.
Dr. Don Shifrin, of the American Academy of Pediatrics, says that if children have a normal sleep schedule, they typically do not have issues on vacation because they know their needs will be met, whether they are on vacation or not. Prepare for a restful vacation by planning sleeping arrangements in advance. Here are some tips.
1. Stick to a Bedtime Routine
Make sure your bedtime routine isn’t skewed. The more you make your bedtime routine an actual habit, the better it will help on vacation, because your toddler will know what to expect. Ideas to instill a good bedtime routine include:
– Eat a snack with no sugar
– Stop electronics for at least one hour before bed
– Relax in a bath
– Brush teeth
– Put on pajamas
– Read a story in bed
– Goodnight hugs and kisses
If you practice this now, you can do this routine on vacation to help your toddler wind down and know it’s bedtime.
2. Playpen Naps
Set up a pack and play/playpen at home if that’s what your child will sleep in while on vacation. Have them nap in it for a few days to help with the transition when you reach your destination.
3. Make it Fit Your Schedule
Scheduling too many activities can make a toddler feel overtired and overstimulated. Think about a typical day at home: often, you plan one activity — and it’s scheduled around meals and nap time. If you are choosing activities to do during your vacation, going to the beach for a few hours might be enough for your little one.
4. Maintain Nap Times
Maintaining a normal sleep schedule will help the adjustment to the vacation environment. A nap in the car every once in a while isn’t going to make the unruly, temper tantrum toddler come out, but several days of it will. Try to prevent an overtired toddler by scheduling at least one nap in the designated sleep area around the same time every day. On vacation, toddlers are exposed to a lot more of the outdoors, which can overstimulate them. Sometimes, they will need an extra nap, so watch for signs of being tired during the day and let them rest if they need to.
5. Bring Favorite Items
If your child loves a favorite teddy, book, music or blanket, bring it along. The more home-like you make your vacation feel to a toddler, the better they will do. Nationwidechildrens.org recommends a security object to “help a child feel more relaxed at bedtime and throughout the night.”
Take notes of favorite items that help your toddler fall asleep. Is it a toy? Stuffed animal? Blanket? Whatever that item is, make sure you put it on the travel packing list.
6. Give it Time
Even if your toddler sleeps well at home, this may not be the case on vacation. It’s a new environment for everyone, and you, too, may notice yourself waking up in the middle of the night confused about where you are. Toddlers will do the same, and may cry in the middle of the night if the place is strange to them. While you put your child to bed, check on them every few minutes to make sure they know they are safe. Give your child one to two nights to adapt to the new environment.