Christmas is such an exciting time, not just for children, but for everyone. It is a time when routine really goes on hold and probably one of the only times of the year where you really get to have quality time together as a family.
However, it is a time that can really interfere with sleep for children (and adults!). The excitement can make it difficult for them to settle down and then this is compounded by a lack of routine that they may be used to.
Here are a few of my top sleep tips when it comes to maintaining as settled sleep as possible for your little ones;
- Prioritise napping but in the same breath, you may need to be flexible with it. For example, you may need to be at a family gathering in the afternoon that involves travelling during nap time. My advice would be to allow them to have a longer nap than normal in the morning and then nap in the car on your way there. However, if your child is down to 1 nap a day I would advise holding the nap time and explaining to those hosting that you will be arriving a little late. This will allow everyone to be rested and result in a more enjoyable afternoon for you all.
- Be prepared for bedtime. If you are out and about visiting family or friends then bring your child’s pyjamas with you. That way when it is time for you to leave you can pop their PJs on and should they fall asleep in the car on the way home, you can transfer them to their cot or bed. A travel sleeping bag for younger babies and toddler is very handy when travelling like this.
- Try to keep meals regular and nutritious. We all fall into the trap of too much sugar over the Christmas period but for children, this will take the edge off appetite and limit their intake of regular meals. Stick to one treat a day if at all possible or only allow on Christmas Day.
- When at home stick to your routine as much as possible. It might be tempting to snuggle up on the couch and watch a movie in the late afternoon and into the evening with the children however we know that the blue light from the TV and devices has a negative impact on sleep and makes it harder for us to fall asleep. Turn off the TV in the hour before bedtime and switch to Christmas books or telling your children stories of when you were small at Christmas. Children love this type of one to one interaction with their parents.
- Keep your family active. Get out for daily walks as much as Irish weather will allow! This physical activity will help with tiredness at bedtime – as opposed to lounging around the house all day. Fresh air and time in the outdoors will always help everyone sleep a little better.
- Make sure to let your child know when bedtime is coming. Remember they are going to be out of routine over Christmas and will lose track of things. In the hour prior to bedtime start to give them little warnings on when bedtime is happening – 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes and then follow through with bedtime.
- When it comes to Christmas Eve and younger children make it special but also plan. I would advise sticking to your normal bedtime that night but starting your bedtime routine a little earlier. Allow them time to leave out their snack for Santa and talk to you about how excited they are about him coming. Keep reminding them that they must go to sleep as Santa does not come while children are awake.
- Don’t be afraid to be the host for family and friends meetups. In doing this you will get to see those you love and have the opportunity to keep your child in their napping routine. Yes, they might be stimulated by the extra activity that day and Aunty Joan may not want the little one to go for their nap but you are the parent and know best so stick to your routine around sleep as much as you can.
- Don’t expect Christmas to be a time to work on sleep issues you might be experiencing with your children. As described above, Christmas is a time for visiting family and generally one where we are out of routine. Working on sleep requires consistency and follow-through. This isn’t something that you will be able to give over Christmas. So wait until the new year when things are quieter and you can really focus.
- Lastly, make sure you have fun. I am a firm believer in the 80/20 rule when it comes to routine and parenting. Yes, we do need to make sure that we are leading the way for our children and keeping a sense of what is normal and expected. However, we also need to have fun. Get out and about, make memories that will last a lifetime but remember that your little person is just that, little. They won’t cope with disrupted sleep and routine a few days in a row and what will result will be a grumpy overtired little human. If you have a few days on the go ensure you have a few days at home in routine to allow your little one to catch up.
Erica Hargaden is a Certified Child Sleep Consultant and helps families achieve The Gift of Sleep through her private practice Babogue. She is also the creator of the Sleep Series, an online course to help empower parents on their family sleep journeys using her 7 Steps to Better Sleep Program. To find out more check out @babouge_sleep on Instagram, her website www.babogue.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone +353 86 8260887