Travel and Your Child with Special Needs – Keeping to the Sleep Routine

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5 Tips on Maintaining Healthy Sleep Habits When Traveling

When planning a family trip, consider how your travel plans are going to affect your child’s sleep routine. You’ll have a more enjoyable vacation if you organize your trip in a way that allows for as little disruption as possible to your child’s sleep schedule.

For a child with  special needs, vacation is already a really big change to their usual routine.

Every child reacts to that temporary change differently.  If you can maintain their usual sleep routine, this will be comforting to them.  Sticking to your routine will help ensure she gets the rest she needs to be happy, healthy, and alert during your trip—which is bound to make your holiday more enjoyable for everyone!

Here are some tips to help ensure your child with special needs gets the sleep he needs during your travels:

Don’t over-schedule

One of the biggest mistakes parents make is to try to pack in all the fun and adventure they possibly can. The fact is, when you travel with your family you can’t plan bungee-jumping in the morning, swim with dolphins in the early afternoon, go parasailing in the late afternoon, and go on a dinner cruise in the evening.  It’s better to slow down the pace and make sure you schedule regular naps and early bedtimes, just like you would at home.  Too many changes can be overwhelming to your child!

Be consistent with naps and bedtime

An occasional nap in the car seat or a later-than-usual bedtime probably won’t do too much harm.  However, if things go all over the place, your child will become so overtired and cranky that a complete meltdown will be inevitable.  So, if you’ve been sticking to consistent naps and bedtimes at home, don’t “un-do” this too much.

Be patient as your child gets used to the new environment

Even if your child is an amazing sleeper at home, when you’re in a strange environment things might be very different.  For some kids, this change of scenery can be really hard.  And, many kids will take this time to try testing the boundaries a bit.  That’s expected, too.  Just because you have certain rules at home, they won’t automatically understand that the same rules apply at Grandma’s house.

In a strange place, your child may take more time to fall asleep at bedtime or wake up at odd times during the night. The best way to handle this kind of behavior is to react the same way you would at home. Go into the room every ten minutes or so to offer a bit of reassurance, but other than that, don’t bend your rules. If you hang on tight to your consistency, within the first night or two, your child will be used to the new environment and will be sleeping well again.

Make sure you bring your child’s sleeping toy and/or blanket

If your child has a treasured comfort item, it will go a long way to helping him feel safe and secure enough to fall asleep in a strange environment. Forget it at your own risk!  Bring their usual favorite bedtime toy, usual pajamas, heck, pack their pillow from home!  The more familiar the items are, that change of environment will be an easier transition.

If you’re not a co-sleeping family, don’t start now

Another big mistake parents make is to start sharing a bed while traveling. Even if it’s only for a few nights, if your child decides this is her new preferred way to sleep, you could find yourself dealing with a big problem when you get home.  She won’t want to go back to her bed or crib!  Most hotels have a crib you can use or rent.  If your child is in a bed, make sure that there’s a cot that they can use.

Melissa Doman helps get kids with special needs sleeping great through the night.  Want to learn more? Schedule a free discovery call with Melissa now!