There’s nothing more exciting than a much-needed break away. So much prep goes into creating the perfect family holiday but then comes the often-dreaded and exhausting issue of dealing with sleep problems, during and well after the fun is over.
There is no doubt that it is extremely common for sleep problems to develop either during or after holidays, even with children who have previously been good sleepers. Your child may now need extra help to fall asleep at bedtime, wake in the night and for the younger ones, may have become used to new habits such as feeding during the night.
Kids thrive on routine and regularity. Even after a short weekend getaway, they come to expect that whatever the sleeping situation was on holiday, will continue at home. Why wouldn’t they when it’s much more easy going on holidays.
So when they return and find that they can’t share a room or a bed with the family, or that they have to go to bed earlier, they no doubt will put up a fight. While it generally takes about 3-4 nights for good sleep habits to be established, the reverse can also develop in a similar time frame.
Why do sleep problems develop on holidays?
There are a number of reasons that sleep problems may develop on holiday. It is fairly common that your child may have become used to one or more of the following:
- Sleeping in the same room as parents, both at bedtime and during the night.
- The usual bedtime hour being extended to an hour or so later, altering the regular routine.
- If you have a young child, extra aids may be used to settle both at bedtime and to resettle during the night; eg. feeding to sleep or feeds during the night.
- And the most challenging one, if you’ve just holidayed in a different time-zone.
Tips for returning to your child’s normal sleep routine
Take comfort in knowing that things will eventually return to your normal. When looking to resolve your holiday sleep problem, there are several tips that will help your child return to settling and sleeping through the night as it was before you left.
- Getting the rules back on track. This will require the adults in the house to be on the same page. Explain that vacation was a special treat and now that you are back at home, we have to follow the usual house rules.
- Schedule less the first week back. It’s a good idea to clear the schedule upon your return. Maybe consider giving after-school activities a miss such as swimming or soccer in exchange for a slower home pace and creating a bit of calm in your evening routine. Introducing a slightly earlier bedtime is also a good idea.
- Bedtime routines. Make sure your child is in an age-appropriate sleep routine including appropriate day sleeps and bedtime that extends no later than 7.30pm and that your child knows how to self-settle at bedtime and can mostly get back to sleep during the night without your help.
- Adjust time zones. Try to get back to the time zone where you are as soon as possible by adjusting naps and bedtime accordingly.
Remember it’s the nature of the game. Try to manage your own expectations. As your kids adjust to life at home again, they may wake during the night or very early in the morning. If you are dealing with jet lag, you can safely assume your kids are suffering even more than you are. Although these disruptions may be frustrating, it is normal and kids will take a few days to a couple of weeks to get back on track.
Be patient and enjoy the ride.