Have Twins, Will Travel

Jet Lag

Kirkkonummi, Finland – I completely forgot about time zones. Or, more importantly, jet lag.

In all of our travels in recent years, we have only lost or gained an hour or two, which caused barely a blip in the twins’ daily schedule. But on this trip we moved ahead seven hours, so I should have known that would wreak havoc on sleep schedules.
We arrived mid-afternoon, after about 14 hours of travel time. The twins had slept on the overnight flight, but only about five or six hours, so I knew they would be exhausted when we arrived. Twin S fell asleep in the car on the way home from the airport, but only for about 30 minutes. Still, this was my first mistake.
Our hosts, the Finns, also have their grandson visiting. The poor kid was sick, so he was lying on the couch watching TV. Daddio and I were also tired, of course, and we wanted to catch up with our friends, so we let the twins watch TV too. Mistake number two.
We got settled and had dinner, and then it was time for bed. Twin V cooperated, Twin S did not. The grown-ups had hardly slept at all on the airplane, so by now we were beat. So we let Twin S lie in bed with us to watch a DVD until we all fell asleep. That was mistake number three.
He did fall asleep, but he woke up when I got up to turn off the computer. Then he fell asleep in my arms, but he woke up when I tried to put him down in his crib. And just to remind us about the joy of twins, he woke up his brother.
So Daddio retreated to the twins’ room to soothe Twin V (and sleep on the floor), while I read, sang and cajoled Twin S to sleep in the big bed with me. By now it was probably 2am, which is 7pm at home, which is when they might be going to bed anyway. So they slept through the night – and woke up refreshed and happy at noon the next day.
I was neither refreshed nor happy.
On the second day we did much better, implementing some of the tricks we learned when we took the twins to Moscow two years ago (and apparently had forgotten since then):
Limit napping during the day. In our case this meant no nap, which was easy, since our day started at noon.
Spend as much time as possible outdoors, soaking up the sunlight. Sunlight suppresses melatonin, which is a chemical that the brain produces to promote sleep. So exposure to sunlight uring the day is important for the body to adjust to the time change. We spent some quality time at the playground and at the lake, so the twins could catch some rays and expend lots of energy, so they would be tired by bedtime.
Big dinner. Bless the Finns, who made ravioli, one of the twins’ favorite and most filling foods.
Limit screen time, especially before bed. Like sunlight, this artificial light suppresses melatonin but this is exactly when you want the body to produce this chemical.
Keep lights low during the mid-night wake-up. Also, no TV or computers (again, the melatonin). When both twins woke up around midnight on our second night here, we read some books by flashlight, I sang some songs and they went back to sleep peacefully. On our third night here, all they needed was a drink of water and a song.
Today, on our third full day, the twins woke up around 9am and they were asleep by 10pm. Bedtime was still tricky (and it does not help that it is still light outside at 10pm during Finnish summer), but it didn’t take long for them to settle down and fall asleep.
So we’re almost back to normal. Tomorrow is the twins’ first day at Finnish “kindergarten” so here’s hoping that they are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. (Low expectations, high hopes.)