‘Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house – not a creature was EVEN THINKING ABOUT SLEEPING – not even a mouse.
Most parents know that 24th December is one of the hardest nights to get your child to sleep. There is so much excitement and anticipation of the big day that the last thing your child wants to do is lie still and go to sleep.
So how do you help your little one fall asleep in time for Santa’s arrival?
Here are my top tips for getting your little one to sleep on Christmas Eve:
1. Stick to your normal daytime routine
Children thrive on routine. Although the holidays might mean that you are not doing you usual activities, you can stick to getting up at the same time and having your meals at regular times. This helps to keep your child’s internal body clock regular.
2. Make a plan and tell your children
Planning helps children (and adults) feel calm. It helps them to know what is coming next and what to expect. Make a plan for Christmas Eve and let your child know what will be happening over the day. For example, you might tell them that 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
You may be tempted to skip naps as you are too busy or you might think that skipping naps will make them really tired and they will go to bed early. Let me warn you that the 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 asleep.
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. Consider going 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. Sunshine 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 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, and hidden caffeine which can be found in chocolate. How about a ‘Snowman Smoothie’ which includes bananas, oats, milk and plain yoghurt.
Try to limit your little one’s sugar intake on Christmas Eve. If your child has too many sweet treats and sugary snacks too close to bedtime it will give them a sugar rush. This will 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. Don’t keep them up late
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. In addition, 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.
10. Lastly …
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!
Michelle founder of The Baby Sleep Experts helps 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 or head over to my Facebook or Instagram pages for regular sleep tips and advice.