Many parents worry about their children getting to sleep on Christmas Eve. The air is thick with children’s anticipation. They are fuelled by the excitement of unwrapping presents, the hope of catching a glimpse of Santa, and the promise of festive treats. In my experiences working with countless families, a recurring strategy emerges: the gentle reminder that Santa’s arrival depends on them being in a deep sleep. So how can we help them settle down to allow Santa to do his job?
Keeping to Routine
While it may be more difficult, encouraging your child to go to bed at their usual time increases the likelihood of them reaching an optimal level of tiredness. This is because their body clock will be attuned to their regular sleep and wake schedule. It is much harder to settle a child who is overtired for sleep. If you already have an established bedtime routine, I would advise to maintaining consistency. This signals to your child that bedtime is approaching, prompting their body to recognise that it’s time to start feeling sleepy. I always love reading a magical Christmas story to help them settle down and would definitely recommend adding this into their routine for Christmas Eve.
I recommend to start turning of electric devices an hour before lights out. If you don’t have a bedtime routine for your child I would recommend engaging in some of the following activities to help them relax before bed:
- Turning off electronic devices
- Christmas colouring or puzzles
- Putting away toys
- A warm bath
- Putting on PJ’s
- Reading a Christmas Story
Sugar and Caffeine
During the holidays we love enjoying extra treats and snacks with our little ones. However, too much added sugar close to bed time can make it harder to fall asleep. I’m of the opinion that Christmas Eve deserves to be special, and indulging in treats is certainly fitting. However, it’s important to monitor the amount of food your children are consuming closely. I also recommend having a cut off time for treats. Typically 2 hours before bedtime is a good estimate as it takes 1.5 to 2 hours for our bodies to metabolise sugar.
Caffeine is a stimulant that promotes wakefulness. Therefore, regulating the amount and timing of caffeine intake could also be beneficial. Whilst your child might not necessarily be drinking tea and coffee, its important to remember that caffeine can be hidden in other items. Cola, energy drinks and many sodas contain caffeine. Most caffeinated beverages are also loaded with sugar. Research suggests that we should avoid consuming caffeine at least seven hours before bed and therefore it may be a good idea to limit sodas after this time.
Have an Active Day Time
It’s important that children have the chance to release any excitement and energy during the day. A good way of doing this is getting outside for some winter sun. Exposure to natural light aids the bodies circadian rhythm which maintains heightened wakefulness during the light hours and promotes sleepiness during the dark hours. Melatonin production, stimulated by exposure to natural light, helps to regulate our circadian rhythm. A few ideas that I enjoy are a morning walk with the family, going to the park, or taking out a football. Even if you only play in the garden, its great to be outside. Just make sure that you and your children are wrapped up appropriately for the cold weather.
Allow Extra Time to Sleep
Finally, if you feel that your child will take longer to settle down try allowing extra time for them to fall asleep. You could put them to bed slightly earlier, or extend their bedtime routine for longer. This will give you more time to spend with them whilst they wind down and get out any emotions of excitement or frustration as the day draws to a close. Turning off electric devices earlier and spending longer doing tasks such as colouring, puzzles or reading can be beneficial. Slowly dimming the lights as it gets closer to bedtime will also send signals to the body that it is time to sleep.
I hope that with these tips I can help to give you the gift of a well-rested child which is a treasure that makes the holiday season even more special. Finally, I wish you and your family a magical Christmas eve with sweet dreams of sugarplums and the promise of a joyous morning ahead.