Supporting Healthy Sleep Habits on School Breaks

December and January - with the holidays, vacations, travel and extended family time -  can be "the best of times" in terms of fun, family and adventure and "the worst of times" when it comes to routine, behavior, and sleep.

If you are traveling, welcoming visitors into your home, or simply anticipating changes in routine for your child, follow these steps to help your child (and yourself!) get much-needed rest during this time.

1. When the time changes, it's best to change with it.

If traveling across time zones, it is best to adjust your schedule to the new time zone as quickly as possible.  Even if it is just an hour difference, you may notice your child waking up or being tired at different times.  My 6 year old is extremely sensitive to time changes and it takes him 2 nights to get back on track anytime we travel. Some children are not as sensitive to the time changes, but regardless of how long it takes your child to adapt, it is important to move everyone's internal clocks to the new location.

2.  Bring your friends!

If you are traveling and your child has a lovey, pacifier, specific books, or even special music or white noise you use at home, make sure they travel with you!  Some families even pack a crib sheet or blanket from home, so that their children feel even more comfortable in a new or unusual environment.

 3.  Take time

Whether your child is sleeping in a different room at home due to visitors, or in a completely new room altogether as you are traveling, make sure that you are able to have a specific bedtime routine (even if it is abbreviated or altered due to the circumstances).  This will help your child feel comfortable, safe and secure - no matter where he is sleeping.

4.  Consistency, Consistency, Consistency

If you’ve recently moved from sharing a bed to room sharing, or to your child sleeping in her own bedroom from your room or your bed, try to continue with that if space and logistics allow during the holidays.  Creating a plan before you leave and trying to stick to it as much as possible while you are gone will be the best way to support your child’s sleep needs.  Often times, I suggest to families to stay in one place during a trip instead of moving from one relative’s house to another during a trip.  If it is possible, staying in one place will help your child feel comfortable and she will not have to get used to a whole new place every night.  If it is not possible to keep much consistency around these logistics, keep reading to number 5.  Regardless of the details, remember to be consistent about your routine (see #3 above).

Read this post ( for some more tips on consistency with sleep routines.

5.  When all else fails, do what you need to do

In order to make yourself and your family happy and comfortable during holiday vacations, travel, or visits from friends and family, try to find a balance between rigid schedules and no schedules at all.  Being flexible while still creating the same approximate routine will be best for you and your child.  If your child had a supportive routine before the holiday madness began, he will return to this within a few days, even if things are a bit out of whack over the holidays.  Try and avoid your original sleep crutches as much as possible, but again, be flexible enough to know that sometimes even the best laid plans will fall through for us during this busy, yet exciting time.  Give yourself a break, make a plan to get right back to your consistent schedule and routine as soon as you get home, and enjoy your quality time with your family and friends this holiday season!