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Sleeping On Vacation!

By Natalie |

Having trouble sleeping?

We are in Portland for a few weeks, and holy cow does traveling across time zones funk with your baby’s sleep!

Our nap time and bed time seem to be unaffected, but at night Huck is having a hard time staying asleep. It seems once his natural REM cycle ends, he has a difficult time easing himself back to sleep in unfamiliar territory (poor dude!). Add that to budding new talents (waving, pointing, eating olives, and almost crawling) and meeting all kinds of new people (plus I think some separation anxiety might be to blame, as well), and it’s been quite the challenge for either one of us to get any decent nighttime sleep.

But I’ve done a bit of research and, after the jump, I’ve compiled some tips for easing vacation sleep woes.

1. If your baby is sleeping in a pack and play (like mine is), try draping a sheet or light blanket over the mesh sides so baby can’t easily see out and know he’s somewhere strange when he wakes between REM cycles.  (If you have time before you travel to get your baby accustomed to sleeping in a pack and play, that might be even better!)

2. Pack your sound machine, fan, mobile, or baby’s favorite blanket so you can keep as much of his usual sleeping environment consistent. If baby normally sleeps in a different room and you are sharing a hotel room, consider putting him to sleep in the bathroom and running the faucet (make sure the drain is not obstructed) until he is in deeper sleep cycles.

3. Consider co-sleeping if you’re concerned about finding a crib once you’ve reached your destination. Be sure to follow all safety precautions for co-sleeping, and ditch the fluffy pillows and excessive blankets, and experts recommend not co-sleeping if anyone sharing the bed has had too much to drink.

4. Yes yes, sleeping in a car seat or stroller is not ideal. But for my dude, the car seat is a life saver. When he wakes in the middle of the night and doesn’t need to eat, I plop him in the car seat or stroller and soothe him down. Anything to get sleep!

5. As tempting as it may be to attempt sleep training while on the road when your baby simply will not cooperate at night, experts agree that travel time is not the time to let your baby cry it out.  (Especially if you’re in a hotel or sharing walls with sensitive family members.)Travel can be tough on babies, and sometimes what they need more than sleep is security.

6. For older babies, adjust their meal times, nap times, and bed times to reflect their new time zone. (Infants and newborns will still need to eat on demand.)

7. Thinking of trying Benadryl? Doctors recommend that you don’t, especially if you’ve never used it before and are not sure how baby will react. Many babies become quite hopped up on Benadryl–not what you’re going for!–and sleep-inducing drugs will only make their natural transition to a new time zone more difficult.

8. Be patient! It may take a few nights, or it may take until you are back home in familiar territory, but eventually, your baby will sleep normally again.

What tips for travel sleeping do you swear by? Tried anything that might be helpful?

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About Natalie



Natalie Holbrook is a hopeless optimist living in a tiny apartment in New York City with her husband Brandon and her fat baby, Henry August. She blogs at Hey Natalie Jean, a love letter from her family to New York City, and where she capture all the lovely little things that make up a wonderful life. Read bio and latest posts → Read Natalie's latest posts →

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5 thoughts on “Sleeping On Vacation!

  1. Janssen says:

    The sound machine! Oh, how I love the sound machine. I also find that if we can put her pack and play in a closet or bathroom with no windows, she sleeps much better, since she can’t tell things are new and different.

  2. Emily M. says:

    i don’t think it’s the vacation– it’s probably the crawling and new skills. my baby didn’t sleep well for a few weeks before she started crawling and for a few weeks after she crawled, but she’s back to normal again.

  3. Nik says:

    We were just visiting relatives in Portland as well. Prepare yourself, the trip back east is always harder on our little ones than going west due to the time changes. But what I really want to say is thank you! for making a simple list after the jump, rather than this newer babble format if having to click through items one after another. I find this new format to be cumbersome, annoying and usually unnecessary. Why are all the babble bloggers using it so often??? Just my opinion… Have fun in Portland… Check out Tasty n sons on north Williams for some fabulous and fun food!

  4. Alicia says:

    somewhat related: does Huck still sleep swaddled? My daughter is a week younger than Huck and we’ve successfully weaned her from the swaddle, and she has become a tummy sleeper.

  5. Elizabeth says:

    I just got back from a near month-long trip to Japan (from Seattle) about time changes! We bought a Kidco Peapod travel crib to give my daughter her own sleeping space since we didn’t know where we’d be sleeping half the time. Livi loved to play in the crib during the day, but she didn’t sleep in it well. Most days she’d start in there, wake up in the middle of the night, then I’d pull her into bed. The jet lag going over to Japan basically wiped us all out and we got on a normal sleep schedule almost immediately…I thought I had the most amazing baby in the world..immune to travel woes! However, upon returning home, it took us over a week to get her back to normal sleep. She only wanted to sleep with me in bed, would wake up all night long, then sleep long hours during the day. It was a rough week, and I can’t figure what we could have done differently, but after a week of hardly any sleep, I broke all my previous sleep rules…I let her cry it out! We’ve never had better sleeping habits after that: she now takes all naps in her crib, sleeps through the night, soothes herself if she wakes up in the middle of the night, etc… IT IS GLORIOUS! I know CIO isn’t for everyone, but it worked for us.

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