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After the December holidays when many families returning from vacation abroad are struggling with jet lag. Children and babies, as well as parents, are susceptible to the effects of this transition to new sleeping, waking, and eating cycles. This irritating and unpleasant disruption can last as long as two weeks.

It is generally accepted that jet lag is caused by a disruption to your circadian rhythms, confusing your natural “body clock.”

There are many theories about how to avoid or minimize jet lag as well as how to identify the conditions that exacerbate it - many of which are unproven and controversial. These topics warrant discussions on their own and will not be addressed here. Instead, this article will focus on treating the affects of jet lag, to try to reduce the less than pleasant affects it can have on your life.

If your baby or child shows any of the following symptoms after a trip, he/she is likely suffering from jet lag:

• Wakes unusually early in the morning

• Seems unusually tired and lethargic during the day

• Has difficulty getting to sleep

• uncommonly cranky

• Refuses favorite foods or looses his appetite altogether

• Reverts to immature behavior patterns

It is important to keep track of these changes in your child’s habits or temperament; if it is jet lag it will gradually improve, but sometimes jet lag can mask another underlying medical issue. If you do not see gradual improvement or the symptoms have not disappeared completely in two weeks consult a doctor.

You can explain jet lag to older children but a jet-lagged baby, unlike adults and older children, is not influenced by the concept of day and night. You can't reason with him by explaining that his problem is jet lag, nor can you entice or pressure him to sleep.

The following tips may help:

1. Put your child to bed as close as possible to his regular bedtime.

2. Although routines change while on vacation, try to return to your home bedtime routine as soon as possible.

3. Ensure that your child’s sleep place is “blacked out” so he does not interpret the sunrise at 4:00 am in Tokyo as the time to rise and shine.

4. Offer snacks if your child seems hungry, but try to return to regular mealtimes. If you have an infant, however, feed him on demand.

5. Plan outdoor activities for your first few days. Exposure to sunlight and daylight will help you and your baby adjust to the new environment. The daylight will help his body make the chemical changes that will facilitate their sleeping/waking times.

6. Give your child opportunities to exercise (run and play) when awake and in a good mood, but try to avoid activities that make him abnormally tired or bored (like shopping trips), these will allow fatigue to creep up on him.

7. Don't give your child an antihistamine to make him drowsy. The medication may interfere with his adjustment to Tokyo time. It can also rev up your baby rather than slow him down.

8. Never adapt adult “jet lag remedies” or adult medications for your child or infant.

9. Try to keep the same schedule as your child for the first few days. If they go to bed at 7:00pm and wake up at 3:00am, and you do the same, you will both get 8 hours of sleep. But if they go to bed at 7:00pm and you go to bed at 11:00pm and then have to get up with them at 3:00am, you will be exhausted and even less able to cope. If they have jet lag you probably have it too!

10. Keep a journal for the first few days of bed times, naptimes, snack times, mealtimes, daylight out- door activities and meltdowns. It will help you to keep track of the transition to Tokyo time and see the light at the end of the tunnel.

If you must be in a social situation with your children soon after your return, don’t be shy about reminding others that your child is jet lagged and may need special consideration. Most people here will be sympathetic and supportive having been in the same situation themselves.

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Rochelle Battistelli is a mom, a grandma and an “infant development consultant. ” Originally from Canada, she has been living and working in Tokyo for the past two and a half years.