Sleep Specialist’s Guide to Surviving Christmas
Going away for Christmas
If you are staying with friends or family over Christmas and the festive season, you can help your little one settle at bedtime by bringing some favourite and familiar things from home, such as a beloved soft toy or blanket. For babies and young children to feel reassured, it also helps to bring their bedding with you as it has the familiar smell of home.
Bedtime routine goes out the window at Christmas!
Christmas is such an exciting time for children of all ages, but to avoid those holiday melt downs, aim to stick to your usual bedtime routine. Even if bedtime is a little later than usual over the holiday, it is important to follow the same simple steps that your child associates with going to bed, which are their trigger for sleep.
The first two nights away from home will set the precedent for the holiday time so focus your energies on these. Children love the familiarity and security that a routine brings which is especially important when they are away from home.
Quieten your little ones well before it’s time for bed. Say goodnight to everyone and take them into a quiet room for about 10 to 15 minutes of quiet activity such as reading or doing puzzles.
If you have concerns that your child will struggle to go to sleep on the first few nights away from home or with guests in the house, aim to do the bathing and bedtime story reading yourself until your child is used to the changes.
Say goodnight and settle your child as you would do normally. Crucially, make sure that your boundaries remain the same.
Getting sleep back on track after the holidays
If it all goes pear shaped and your little one’s sleep has been affected by being away for Christmas or having family to stay, don’t worry. It will only take 3 or 4 nights to get their sleep back on track. Once you are home or your guests have left, resume your normal bedtime routine immediately.
- Start the routine with a 5 min warm relaxing bath with minimal interaction.
- Pre dim the bedroom lights.
- Read a story or two.
- Cuddle and kiss goodnight.
What about the parents?
Christmas can be exhausting for parents; sleeping is the time when our bodies recover from the excesses of life. Over the holidays eating and drinking too much can upset your sleep patterns. See our top tips:
- Keep hydrated. Drink plenty of water or soft drinks throughout the day.
- Avoid that last nightcap! Although having a nightcap can make you feel drowsy, alcohol decreases the amount of REM sleep we get. Missing out on REM sleep will mean you wake feeling exhausted. Give your body time to process the alcohol you have drunk before you try to sleep. It can take an hour or more for the average person to process one unit of alcohol.
- After Christmas lunch try drinking herbal or mint tea instead of a cup of coffee. Caffeine will interfere with your sleep drive as it blocks sleep inducing chemicals in the brain; so it is best to avoid caffeine at least six hours before bed.
- Get some fresh air and perhaps take the family for a walk, this will improve the quality of sleep for everyone.
The party season and the Christmas holidays often mean late nights, so don’t forget to get some quality sleep yourself – even if it’s just a few hours, so that you start the New Year on the right foot.