Coaxing your littles to sleep each night is hard enough in the comfort of your own home. Add in the excitement of the holidays, an influx of sweet treats, veering away from your daily routine, and sleeping in a different environment, and bedtime can become an outright disaster. Whether you’re headed to the grandparents’ house, another family or friend’s home, or even a hotel for the holidays, recreating your home sleep environment is the key to ensuring your littles’ sleep (and therefore your sleep) doesn’t go completely off the rails. Here are the top three items I recommend that you bring on your holiday sleep over:
1. Sound machine: Whether or not you use it at home, using white noise while away from home starting at bedtime and lasting throughout the entire night is a great way to promote sleep and help eliminate nighttime wake-ups. Not only does it help to drown out environmental noises like family celebrating late into the night but it also provides a constant soothing sound. When choosing a sound machine ensure it has an option for a static noise setting as opposed to a variable sound like a rainforest, crashing waves, or babbling brook with chirping birds. Children, and adults too, prefer their environment to remain unchanged throughout the night. We all wake ever so slightly between sleep cycles to check our environment before drifting back into that next sleep cycle. If your child falls asleep with white noise but then the noise changes or is shut off, they are more likely to wake between sleep cycles. This is why it’s important to have a nice static sound that plays throughout the entire night.
2. Garbage bags and tape: You just never know when you’ll need a good ole black garbage on your family vacation! For real though I keep one in my suitcase and end up using it more often than you might guess. Black garbage bags come in handy to cover windows and help re-create the cave-like environment of your little’s own bedroom at home. If your little’s home sleep environment isn’t cave-like at home, investing in some black out shades can really make a huge difference in sleep quality, especially in the wee hours of the morning when the sun starts to rise. Regardless, if you arrive to your travel destination and the windows aren’t covered, you’ll be so happy not to have to bother your host because you brought your own garbage bags and tape! And if the windows are adequately covered, you can always use the garbage bag for your dirty laundry.
3. Comfort Items: The take-away message here is to recreate your little’s home sleep environment. This includes sounds, sights, feels, and smells. Your host may have a pack n' play or extra crib they are letting you use during your stay complete with fitted sheets. While this is so convenient and helpful, your host may use different detergent to wash their sheets or the sheets may be a different material than what your little is used to. If you can, bring your own fitted sheets from home. This will recreate the feel and smells of your own home and help promote better quality sleep. If your child is over the age of 1 and uses a lovey or a blanket, bring those too! Anything you can do to recreate your little’s home sleep environment will help ensure a better night’s sleep for everyone!
So now your white noise is ready to go, your windows are covered and your rooms is cave-like, your sheets and lovey (if your child is over the age of one) are already in the pack n' play, and you’re ready for bed. Don’t forget to use your same sleepy routine that you use at home too! If you always read the same story before bed at home, make sure you bring it on your trip. If you always cuddle before settling your little one into their crib then do the same on your trip. The more you can keep your routine intact the more easily your little one will go to sleep and stay asleep. This all being said, if you have a more sensitive sleeper, expect to have some nighttime wake ups that first night or so that you’re away from home. Subsequent nights should be better as everyone adjusts. Remember to be extra patient if you’ve crossed time zones too.
Recreating your home sleep environment by bringing your white noise machine, garbage bags, and comfort items as well as maintaining your nightly sleepy routine should allow everyone to maximize their sleep potential while away from home. If your sleep does go off the rails while you’re away, employ your trusted sleep training methods to steer your littles back on track once you return home. If sleep doesn’t return within a week of being home, you know where to find me! Happy holidays!!