Christmas is such an exciting and busy time of year, it’s no wonder that children often struggle to fall and stay asleep. There’s so much fun and excitement all around them, who would want to spend time sleeping?
Tired parents have been telling me how exhausted they are from battling their over-excited, over-tired children to bed every night, or waking up every few hours through the night. They are becoming stressed, burnt out and even end up threatening that Santa won’t come (which only makes matters worse as they have to calm their distraught child before they can fall to sleep!)
So here are my 5 tips for better sleep in the run up to Christmas, to help your family to enjoy a happier festive season. (And don’t forget to check out my special Christmas Eve tips for managing the big night itself!)
1) Be active, get outdoors
During the daytime take the opportunity to wrap up warm and head outdoors. Go for a walk, visit the park or invent a winter adventure for them. The physical activity will provide an outlet for their building excitement, and the fresh air and exposure to daylight will help to regulate their body clocks (or circadian rhythm) in preparation for sleep.
2) Calm bedroom environment
Even though the world seems to have been dipped in glitter and fairy lights, try to keep your child’s bedroom a calm environment for sleep.
Leave the decorations, advent calendars and trees for other rooms in the house and make sure that the bedroom is not stimulating or exciting. A calmer space will help them to settle down to sleep much more easily.
During December we often bend our normal rules to make room for all of the exciting things that we want to do. Staying up late for a pantomime, getting up early to see what the Elves have done, watching Christmas films on TV just before bed… we are all guilty of it and it’s part of the magic of Christmas. But in all this festive whirlwind, try to maintain a little balance and normality for your child too.
Your trusty bedtime routine provides the familiarity that your child needs, and acts as a cue to their body that it is time to settle down to sleep. Even if you are away on holiday, staying at a relative’s house, or have extra guests in your home – you should try to maintain the same bedtime steps in the same order, to help your child wind down for sleep.
4) The right foods
We all tend to eat far more sugar and sweet treats than we normally would in the festive season. If your little one has too many treats before bedtime, they will feel a sugar rush that will make it more difficult to get them to sleep, followed by an energy crash that will cause them to wake more frequently during the night.
For good quality sleep we all need a balance of the sleep hormones Serotonin and Melatonin, which can be boosted by eating the correct types of foods.
Try chicken, cheese, tuna, eggs, nuts or milk to boost Serotonin levels. And for Melatonin try cherries, apricots or raisins. Other good choices are Bananas and oranges which are high in potassium.
Don’t forget that your Christmas turkey is packed with tryptophan, an amino acid which promotes the production of the sleep hormone Serotonin, it stabilises blood sugar and can induce sleepiness. Anyone for turkey on Christmas Eve??
5) Watch out for Over Tiredness
Nativity plays, Christmas parties, meeting friends, and visits to see Santa. The list of activities seems never ending and it can very quickly take its toll on your child.
If they become over tired they can be more difficult to put to bed, more likely to wake in the night, and even start waking up earlier in the morning too. All of which will only make them even more tried and the cycle continues!
Be aware of how much you are asking your child to take part in, look out for signs of over tiredness and plan in some earlier nights and extra top up naps (if they have them) or extra quiet time. If you enter Christmas with an over tired child, Christmas Eve will be even more difficult to tackle.
And don’t forget to read my special tips for helping your child to sleep on Christmas Eve, coming very soon!
Wishing you and your family a wonderfully happy, magical and restful Christmas
Rachael, The Sleep Sanctuary
If you are having difficulties with your child’s sleep, find out how I can help you to resolve it with a Free 15-minute chat.
The Sleep Sanctuary is an online child sleep consultancy helping your family to enjoy better sleep and live healthier, happier lives