Sleep expert, The Go-To Nanny, shares her top tips for getting your kids to sleep over Christmas.
Sleep needn’t be disrupted over the Christmas period if you bear a few key things in mind. Here are my top tips for sleep at Christmas.
Whether you’re at home or away this Christmas try to follow your little one’s usual routine as closely as possible. Not only will itl prevent overtiredness it will help them feel secure in what might be a new environment with unfamiliar faces.
Routines act as cues for little ones and creates rhythmicity, letting them know what’s coming next. This helps them settle to sleep and stay asleep for longer, win, win! That said, don’t stress if routines do go slightly off, it’s inevitable. You know your little one best and will know when it’s time to put them down for a nap or declare it’s bedtime. The odd late night or two or later nap isn’t going to undo well established routine, it will soon fall back into place when things calm down. Relax and enjoy!
Overtiredness is one of the main culprit’s behind sleep problems, little one’s will struggle to settle at bedtime, they may wake frequently during the night and are more likely to wake early in the morning. The signs of overtiredness can be yawning, eye rubbing, irritability and they may appear ‘wired’.
If you notice any of these behaviours, get them down for a nap asap! An early night if needs be is fine, contrary to belief it will not mean they wake up earlier! For older children quiet time after lunch with books, puzzles, lego or colouring is a good way for them to recharge and have some down time. If they wake early on Christmas morning just bear in mind that they may need to go down for their nap a little sooner if at all possible!
If you have house guests or are staying with relatives then nap times may not go to plan. Where possible try and stick to the usual nap times and wakeful window. Your house guests won’t mind if you take them off and it will be a much better than dealing with a little one that hasn’t napped!
If you are away from home, again, no one will mind if you whip your little one off for a nap. Continuity is key try so try to replicate the usual nap environment so it’s nice and dark and quiet.
Invest in a portable blackout blind if you haven’t got one already, silver foil also works well on the windows. Follow the same steps as you would at home when putting them down for a nap so they recognise it’s time for a snooze.
If getting them down for a nap just isn’t going to happen then take them for a drive or a buggy walk as any daytime sleep is better than none! Making sure they have enough daytime sleep will help prevent overtiredness and help them settle at bedtime. The age old saying ‘sleep breeds sleep’ is true!
We are surrounded by sweets and chocolate at Christmas and as yummy as they are they are not conducive to sleep! To avoid sugary meltdowns and adrenaline rushes in the run up to bedtime a nice idea is to gather all sweet treats in a bowl and let you child choose a few for earlier on in the day. You can do hunts around the garden or around the house to spread it out a bit too.
Your little one’s are bound to be super excited on Christmas Eve! There will be stockings to hang, snacks for Santa and his reindeers to put out, who can blame them for wanting to stay up late! To ensure the smoothest possible bedtime make sure they have had plenty of opportunity for fresh air, daylight and exercise throughout the day, particularly later in the afternoon, so they are ready as they can be for sleep.
Talk to them throughout the day about what to expect at bedtime so that they don’t try and stall when it’s time for lights off! Acknowledge their excitement too, it will help them process what they are feeling.
Avoid screens in the run up to bedtime and have at least one hour of screen free time before the bedtime routine starts. The blue light omitted from screens acts as a stimulant and hinders the production of the sleepy hormone melatonin, needed to fall asleep.
When it comes to bedtime itself, they will need a good wind down time, a routine from start to finish should be no longer than 40 minutes, less for babies. Follow the same steps as you usually do so they recognise that it is time to sleep.
Give your little one lot’s of positive and descriptive praise around what they are doing right at bedtime eg “thank you for putting your PJ’s on when I asked you to” or “you are lying down nice and quietly in your bed ready for a story”. When you notice all the good bits you are more likely to see more of the behaviour you want.
Finally, enjoy the moment, it’s only a few days of madness and things will soon slot back into place once the excitement of Christmas is over, that’s the beauty of routines, they can be flexible for times like these.