You have spent the last two years getting your child to learn to sleep in their own room, and now you have to get them to also sleep on a plane without the same familiar environment, sounds, smells and comforts that they are use to at home. How do you do this?
Preparation is the key that Dana Obleman recommends. Dana is one of the leading Sleep Consultants in the US having created her program called the Sleep Sense™ Program. Alice, JetKids’ frequent flyer and mother of two, asked her to share her wisdom on getting children to sleep in more challenging environments.
Alice: Can you share with us your own experience with flying with children?
Dana: I can actually, I love travel. Since the day they were born we have known we were going to travel lots with them and early. With 3 children there has been lots I have experienced whilst travelling with them.
The 1st thing you need to learn is that you must surrender to the fact you are travelling with kids. Say goodbye to reading a book or watching a movie on a plane.
Alice: How can I prepare my child to sleep on a plane?
Dana: Talk them through the process of what will happen, by the time you fly some of it will be taken on board. When my son was 2, we talked to him beforehand about the journey. We read him a book about flying and what we do on a plane. After the plane takes off, we get ready for bed and then we say “night-night” before going to sleep. We repeated this plan several times in the run up to the flight so by the time we were on the plane, after take off he said “night-night” and understood that now was time to sleep.
Alice: That is such a good trick, I need to try that! Do you recommend to pack anything particular for the flight? – Apart from the BedBox of course!
Dana: It really depends on the age of the child but in all cases: think ahead, plan ahead. What will you need for any situation that could occur? My second child got motion sickness a lot, so a spare change of clothing was essential! Also remember that distraction is vital. A book, a doll, small little cars worked wonders for us!
Alice: I had a terrible 9 hour night flight from Oslo to LA with a 9 month old and a 2 year old who screamed as he was too tired. How do you get a two year old to wind down when over tired?
Dana: That is a tough one and the challenge of plane travel, and there are a lot of things that are completely out of your control. You really just have to do the very best you can.
In order to get a child calm enough for sleeping you need to make sure their melatonin levels are high. Avoid screens as blue light can interfere with their melatonin levels. If the flight is at night, before the flight find a quiet spot with dimmed lights and encourage your child to walk around as much as possible before getting on the plane. When on the plane, read a book and give some milk or cheese to boost the melatonin levels and get them ready for sleep.
Alice: Great, I’ll remember to avoid screens on night flights in the future! How can I follow our normal bedtime routine on a plane?
Dana: Well like I mentioned, it is great to prep them before the trip so they know a little of what to expect and how this bedtime routine is going to be a little different but they are still expected to sleep once on the plane. Bring as much of the routine on board as possible.
Obviously you can’t do a bath on the plane, but you could go to the washroom to wash hands and use a washcloth for the face. Then change and do stories in the same habit as you would normally and definitely remember to bring any little comfort items they normally sleep with – even their little pillow they use from their own crib or bed.
Then make them as comfortable as possible, the BedBox works great to encourage them to lie down. It is hard enough for adults to sleep sitting up so getting them to recline will help promote sleep.
Alice: When do you start adjusting bedtime to help with jet-lag?
Dana: Well the good news about jet-lag with children is that if they are on a really good sleep schedule before you travel, they tend to do better with jet-lag than adults because they are not already going into the travel with a sleep deficit. So that is my best advice, before the flight, really stick to the routine as much as possible to make sure they are as well rested as possible.
When you get to the destination, you are probably already really tired but try to jump into the new time zone as quick as you possibly can. Your child may need an afternoon nap if they have had a really rough travel day but don’t let them sleep all day otherwise they will be up all night. A little nap is fine to take the edge off, but then jump in!
Get the melatonin levels corrected for the time of day – shut the curtains, make it dark, avoid screen time if it is night time. In the morning, get outside, go to the park or for a walk. The more daylight exposure you can get the better. It may take a few days to get into the new zone but you may find that your child handles it even better than you do.
Alice: That sounds really reassuring to know! I will definitely need to use this on our next transatlantic flight. I feel that we have had plenty of useful advice here from you so thank you!
If you would like to book a consultation for further sleeping advice, please contact Dana on her website: Sleepsense.net
The BedBox is available to purchase from JetKids for free shipping globally.
Have you got any tips to share on redeye flights? Join in the discussion on our Facebook Group Flying With Kids.