As the Christmas holidays and fun approaches you may want to have a quick think about your child’s sleep practices for the festive period. It can be such an exciting time for our young children, but it is also a busy time with hopefully a chance to reconnect with family that we have not seen much of this year and possibly staying away from home.
Whilst you absolutely need to embrace the merriment, do be cautious and mindful about how sleep can be affected and that over tiredness, travel and over-excitement can mean that you get less sleep than normal, with some families finding that issues that arise over Christmas can linger well into the New Year. Here are some suggestion for you to have a merry and rested Christmas time.
Ideally in the run up to the festive period you would do your best to have your young child optimally rested. That way they will be more tolerant of changes and lost sleep if applicable.
Decisions for festive fun
Although this time last year you may have had no children and enter this Christmas time as a new family or you may have added to your numbers, you may find that you have to make decisions about what events you attend, how late you stay, if you travel or if you stay at home. Ultimately you will know your own child and children best, but if you observe that your child is normally slow to warm up or not very adjustable or seems sensitive to being overtired then you will need to preserve and maintain your current sleep practices as much as possible. Of course, you need to have fun! But your fun could be impaired if your young child starts to resist sleep, wake frequently and early and is fussy with their food and unable to enjoy themselves too because they have built up a sleep debt.
Avoid big changes
I am aware that lots of parents may decide to help their child give up the dummy or the bottle and give it to Santa and I would proceed with caution. That is a huge adjustment and may affect everyone’s enjoyment at Christmas time and more relevantly, may affect their sleep ability, specifically if they have been using the dummy or bottle at sleep time. I would save big changes for the New Year. Furthermore, I don’t recommend that you work on your child’s sleep this time of year, unless you will be able to be home on time for bedtime and won’t miss day time sleep and if you are not planning on staying away from home even if just for a night or two. Any of these elements will affect your efforts and may make it hard to establish different sleep practices and are best addressed in 2022.
Sleeping Away from home
Many families will hopefully travel to be with loved ones this yuletide, so Christmas-proof your child’s sleep with the following tips:
- Ideally travel during the day and arrive at your location in advance of sleep time. This way you can acclimatise your child to their new sleep room
- Don’t forget your familiar items, the lovey, the music CD that you normally play and familiar books that you routinely read
- Ensure that you are providing a good sleep space-a cot (travel or conventional) or bed if that is where your child normally sleeps. Bring with you the sheets from their cot at home that they slept on the night before, so they can smell their familiar environment
- Try to keep bedtime as similar as possible, both timing wise and procedure. Consider adding an extra 10 minutes to your bedtime routine to help ease them into the unfamiliar environment
- If you are room sharing when you normally don’t then, move the cot or bed as far away as you can.
- Avoid sharing the bed if you don’t normally so that you don’t create an expectation when you arrive home
- If you are travelling through time zones, get straight into the location time
- Re-establish your typical routine and sleep approaches immediately on arrival home
How to manage holiday naps
- Try not to deviate too much from your usual nap schedule
- You can adjust naps forward or back as much as you feel your child will tolerate
- Don’t allow to over-sleep by day as it may affect the night but allow some extra duration or additional sleeps in the day
- Travel on the nap if your child readily sleeps in the car, travel directly after the nap if they won’t sleep in the car
- Consider that some of your naps can be in the car or buggy, but don’t be inclined to miss a nap
- Offer a nap to your older child who doesn’t normally nap, if you have had some late night
- Try not to have too many late nights in a row-keep the wake time around the same as normal, but allow a slightly longer first or second nap to catch up on missed sleep
Above all, have a wonderful Christmas time with your family and friends and look forward to a rested 2022.