‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house – not a creature was EVEN THINKING ABOUT SLEEPING – not even a mouse.
For some families, Christmas Eve is one of the hardest nights to get your child to sleep. The magic, the excitement and the anticipation is so great, the last thing your child wants to do is lie down and go to sleep.
Here are my top tips for getting your little one to fall asleep in time for Santa’s arrival on Christmas Eve:
1. Stick to your normal routine
Holiday time usually means that your daily rhythm is disrupted. However, children thrive on routine so aim to get up at the same time and have your meals at regular times. This will help to keep your child’s internal body clock regular.
2. Make a plan
Planning helps children (and adults) feel calm. Knowing what is coming next and what to expect makes them feel safe and secure. I suggest planning out your day and letting your child know roughly what will be happening. For example, you might tell them that on Christmas Eve their grandparents will be arriving, you will go for a walk, watch a movie together, have dinner, put out treats for Santa and then it’s bedtime. When they know the sequence of events it will not be a huge surprise or disappointment that it’s bedtime.
3. Don’t skip naps
It’s so tempting to skip naps when you are busy or perhaps you are thinking that skipping naps will make them really tired and they will go to bed early. Unfortunately the exact opposite may well be true. Most of the time if a child skips their normal nap, they will end up being really overtired at bedtime and find it much harder to fall and stay asleep. Read all about naps if you are unsure about how many naps your little one needs.
4. Take them out and wear them out
One way to increase the chances of your child falling asleep is to make sure that are exhausted from the fun and physical activities of the day. Go for a seasonal winter walk, cycle ride or play in the park to use up their energy so that they are ready to sleep at bedtime. Daylight plays a key role in setting your body’s natural body clock so playing outside in the day and dimming the lights an hour before bedtime will help keep their circadian rhythm regular.
5. Eat well
A busy day can distract babies and toddlers and they may not have eaten much. Consider giving them a light snack half an hour before bedtime so that they are not feeling hungry. Avoid foods that are too rich or fatty which can take a long time to digest. How about a ‘Snowman Smoothie’ of bananas, oats, milk and plain yoghurt.
Try to limit your little one’s sugar intake on Christmas Eve especially in the 2 hours before bedtime. A sugar rush can make it harder for them to fall asleep and can be followed by an energy crash which may make them wake up in the night.
6. Keep to your normal bedtime
You might be tempted to keep your child up late as a special treat but this may well backfire on you. Keeping a regular bedtime is really important for establishing good sleep routines. Your child will find it easier to fall asleep if they are going to bed close to their normal time.
7. Don’t skip your bedtime routine
The bedtime routine is a useful tool for your little one to calm down, relax and connect with you. Having a bath is a great way to calm them down if they are getting too excited. When getting out the bath, body temperature falls slightly which is also a signal for our brain that it’s time for sleep. If you are staying away from home, find ways to recreate parts of your usual routine. Being consistent with your bedtime routine will help with readiness to sleep wherever you are. Bringing familiar bedding, toys and books will help them relax and feel secure away from home.
8. Create some calm
Christmas is a really magical and special time for children. However, everything is a bit different to normal and parents can be rushing around and getting stressed. Children easily pick up on these emotions and this does not encourage a relaxing sleep. Maybe you could create a special moment during their bedtime routine where you can get cosy and snuggle up together. Try reading a Christmas book together or having a chat about what things they have enjoyed in the day. This helps to create a calming soothing and relaxing end to their day as well as some one-to-one time which so often gets missed but it is vital for our children’s well-being.
9. Limit screens and gaming
Take a break from the Christmas movies well before your little one is due to go to bed. Aim to turn off all screens at least 1-2 hours before bedtime. Why not dim the lights and connect over some family games instead.
…remind them that Santa can’t come and deliver their presents unless they are fast asleep! At least that’s what Santa’s elves told me!
I hope you find these tips useful to get your little one to sleep on Christmas Eve. Just think, once they’re asleep, you can put your feet up with a glass of wine and watch the Christmas Eve specials. Enjoy!
I love helping exhausted parents with children who struggle to sleep by sharing gentle, loving and responsive sleep solutions that benefit the whole family. If you would like personalised advice and support, please get in touch with me or head over to my Facebook or Instagram pages for regular sleep tips and advice.