Navigating your child's sleep on family vacation

Summer is finally here and many families have planned exciting family vacations to get a break and enjoy one another. All though they are fun, vacations can be exhausting for everyone, especially kids. Here are some ideas to ensure your little ones get adequate sleep while away from home.

Try to start the travel process off on a good foot. If you can, chose departure times that are generally good times of the day for your child. If your toddler takes an afternoon nap at 1pm, you probably want to avoid a 2pm flight that would require you to get to the airport right before nap time. A 12pm or earlier flight would be a better option to allow your child to nap before you leave or even on the plane. The goal is to not arrive at your destination with a cranky, overtired kid in tow.

Try to pack items that make your child feel at home. Sheets and pillow cases (if child is old enough) from home will provide a comforting smell and sense of security. If your son or daughter typically sleeps with a sound machine on, bring it with. If you can't, smart phones have tons of free sound machine apps that can play through the night. Whatever you do, DON'T FORGET THEIR LOVEY. I even suggest your bring a back up if possible. I say this from personal experience. To this day, my own parents talk about the time we went on a family vacation sans lovey. Back in the prehistoric era of no smart phones, my dad spent an entire day driving to toy stores looking for my beloved glow worm replacement. Once he found one and brought it to me, I would not accept the replacement and he ended up driving 8 hours round trip to go home and get mine.

Keep your child's schedule and bedtime routine the same. Even though you are in a different location, try to keep them on schedule. Offer naps and bedtime at the appropriate times. Complete your bedtime routine as normally as possible. Keep your expectations realistic and remember that your child will probably be unsure and need some extra cuddles. This is totally fine, but remember that you might need to break this habit once you return home again.

What if you are traveling across time zones? The general rule is that if you are travelling for 3 or less days or over less than 3 time zones, try to keep your child on their regular time zone schedule. If your vacation is lasting longer, transition them to the new time zone for the duration of your stay. You can even begin before you leave home. Spend 4 nights putting your child to sleep 15 minutes earlier or later (depending on direction of travel) each time so they have one hour less to transition when you arrive. If you are traveling internationally across many time zones, spend the first day or two allowing your child to sleep when they need to. Natural light will be your best tool to smoothly make this transition. Make sure your child gets outside, especially in the morning and late afternoon, so their body can recognize what time of day it actually is. In many cases, children are much more resilient to time changes and get lag than adults.

Above all, have fun and enjoy each other. After all, they are only little for so long!

Tips to Synchronize the Sleep Schedules of Twins

Raising twins is an exciting challenge. Double the fun, love, memories, and giggles; twice the diapers, bottles, baths, and tears. Synchronizing twins' sleep schedules is a positive for everyone. It allows parents time to recharge and ensures the babies will be awake at the same time to feed and play together. Here are some tips to achieve a good schedule...

1. Identical vs. Fraternal. Identical twins will be much more likely to naturally fall on the same sleep schedule as they should have the same biological sleep needs. Fraternal twins will have to do some adjusting with encouragement from their parent(s).

2. Sleep Environment.  It is acceptable to put the twins in the same crib while they are infants, but once one or both twins are able to move/roll they should be separated. Whether or not the twins share a bedroom is up to the parent. If they do share, a noise machine will be essential to make sure they do not keep each other awake.

3. Bedtime Routine. When creating a sleep routine for your twins, be mindful of logistics. Try to include activities that can be done for both babies at the same time. Reading, singing, and rocking together in a chair are all good options. Baths and bottles are more difficult to incorporate as they will leave one twin waiting which can be hard if they are tired. That being said, make sure you always have a safe place to put one twin while you are putting the other in bed.

4. Same Exact Schedule?  In my experience with twins, it is perfectly fine to stagger sleep schedules by 15 minutes or so. It gives the parent or caregiver a few minutes to focus on getting one twin down and then the other. his allows the parent a little one on one time to bond with each baby separately. However, if you prefer to have them on the same exact schedule that is certainly fine as well, but always keep your expectations realistic.

5. Never Wake a Sleeping Baby? ou've heard time and time again "Never wake a sleeping baby". However, it may be necessary for the sake of synchronizing twins' sleep schedules. If one baby wakes to feed at night, wake the other one to eat at the same time. They should then be ready for their next feeding at the same time. Keep on this method until at least 4 months from birth. After that, you may want to experiment with letting the non-waking twin sleep as they may be ready to sleep through the night.

Nightmares and Night Terrors: What's the Deal?

Over the last few weeks I have been noticing the terms "nightmare" and "night terror" being used synonymously to describe why children wake up crying in the night. I wanted to take a few minutes and clear up the confusion between these two sleep issues. It is important to know which of the two your child is experiencing so you can take the correct steps to remedy the situation.

Nightmares

Nightmare is defined as a frightening or unpleasant dream. We have all experienced nightmares at one time or another as they are a very common occurrence. Nightmares happen during the Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep in both children and adults. Children will remember their nightmares and if they wake crying in the night, the best thing to do is to reassure them they are safe and comfort them back to sleep. The next day, keep the discussion about their dream simple. Just acknowledge that it happened, remind them it was not real, and let it go.  Do not give the nightmare any power by causing anxiety over it or taking special measures to prevent it.

If your child has frequent reoccurring nightmares, there could be a problem. Try to identify any stressors at home or school that could be causing the nightmares. If there are changes going on within your family, try to keep the child's routine consistent and make sure your child is confident they are safe in their environment. One possible trigger of nightmares in children that is often overlooked is seeing or hearing about violence in the media. Try to take notice of what is playing on your TV or radio. Often times children see scary images or hear violent words and have a difficult time processing what is real and what is fiction.

Night Terrors

Night terrors are a whole different ball game. Night terrors usually begin around 3 years old. They can very rarely happen as early as 15 months, but almost never before then. Night terrors are often hereditary and occur more commonly in boys than girls. The most obvious way to tell a nightmare from night terror is that a child cannot be awoken from a terror and they will not remember it in the morning. If you try to ask the child if they are ok or reassure them you are near, they will not coherently respond because they are technically still asleep.

Unlike nightmares, night terrors occur during the transition from the deepest stage of non-REM sleep into the lighter REM sleep. Normally, people transition seamlessly through sleep stages, but if you are genetically predisposed to night terrors and your brain triggers it at this time, the terror will occur. Some common triggers of night terrors in children include: sleep deprivation, excitement/anticipation of an upcoming event, and family stress. If your child is experiencing night terrors, try to take note of how they slept that day and what is going on in their life at the moment. If you can identify the trigger and work through that issue with the child, night terrors almost always cease to exist. While the terror is actually happening, make sure your child is safe, but try not to touch them or change their environment at all (by turning on lights for example). They simply need to be left alone so their brain can finish the transition from one stage of sleep to the next. Touching, moving, or talking to a child in the middle of a terror often prolongs it. Even though it is scary, try to remind yourself that the child is asleep and will have no recollection of this in the morning. Night terrors are almost always more difficult for the parent(s) than the child.