I cannot wait for Christmas and am pretty sure I will be the last one to go to sleep and the first one awake in our house! Even if I am not, a one off won’t be too difficult to deal with.
Christmas can be a time of great excitement, but it can also be full of travelling and upset routines, which can play havoc with a little one’s sleep, and mood. Here are my top tips for coping with the festive season:
1. Try not to have too many things going on at once during the festive period. There is so much stimuli at Christmas, the presents, the lights, films, sweets, relatives…the list goes on. The biggest mistake parents make is that they over-schedule themselves, and their children. Try to stick to your child’s routine during Christmas and let them have some ‘down time’ to recover from all the excitement. This should mean they will get good sleep to allow them to enjoy the fun, without having a meltdown when it all becomes too much!
2. Let your little ones run around in the day time! Natural sunlight (if you can find any) keeps our body clocks on track and will help get rid of that excited energy!
3. An occasional car nap or slightly later bedtime probably isn’t going to do too much harm, but if your little one spends a couple of days taking car seat naps here and there and having late bedtimes, she may become so overtired that by the time bedtime rolls around on the second day she will be so tired she forgets how to settle herself and cry…a lot. It is very important to stick to your routine; being away (or having a little one who is not settling) will make it all too easy to revert to your own familiar ways and you will be back to square one.
4. Try to get your children to have a relatively normal bedtime, especially on Christmas Eve. Easier said than done but if they have plenty of fresh air during the day, a relaxing bedtime routine (as close to their usual one as possible) and if they know Santa will only come once they are asleep, they should go to sleep relatively easily. Make sure they have plenty of warning for bedtime so they are prepared, try not to get them too excited about Santa and make sure they are going to bed before they are too tired – that will not lead to a relaxing Christmas Eve for all.
5. On that note, make the hour before bed a screen free zone! Blue light which is given off by televisions, phones and iPad inhibits melatonin production (and this is the hormone which tells your little one’s brain it’s time to sleep). Try to include games which promote fine motor skills as these can help promote relaxation – try to include some jigsaws, model making, Lego etc pre-bedtime (instead of that Christmas film).
Staying away from home
6. If you are staying away or at relatives’ houses over Christmas, it’s very normal for babies and toddlers to test the boundaries around sleep when they are somewhere new. Just because the rule is the rule at home, that does not necessarily mean the rule is the same at grandma’s house, especially over Christmas when everybody is a little more relaxed. The best way to handle this is to not do too much different than you would if it happened at home. You can go in every five minutes or so to offer a bit of reassurance, but other than that, don’t bend your rules. If you stick to your routine and maintain consistency, within the first night or two, your little one will be used to the new environment and will be sleeping well again.
7. If you are away, use the same sleepwear, toothbrush and stories. This will help your little one feel secure and help them fall asleep more easily.
8. Whatever you do, don’t forget your little one’s favorite sleeping toy and/or blanket if you are going away. They are probably going to need the comfort and familiarity, especially with all the new toys around!
The most important tip of all
9. Enjoy this magical time of year and try to be relaxed about it yourself! Ensuring everybody has a good night’s sleep will also help to ensure magical memories are made and that you can look forward to it, rather than dread sleepless nights, next year!