One of the most difficult nights of the year for getting small children to bed on time is Christmas Eve.
With all the excitement it’s hard to make sure they get enough sleep, and remain on top form emotionally during Christmas Day itself. I remember all too well being grumpy as a youngster on Christmas evening as by that time the lack of sleep had caught up with me..
Here are ten top tips on how to help your kids get to sleep on Christmas Eve so you can have all have a fantastic and wide-awake Christmas Day
Top Sleep Tips for Christmas Eve
1) Agree on a plan for Christmas Eve.
Start by agreeing on a broad plan for Christmas Eve. Make the morning active, to tire your children out. Then wind things down in the late afternoon. In the evening meal make things even slower and more relaxing to prepare your children for bedtime. Have set bed and wake times which everyone agrees with. If you are going away or changing sleeping arrangements agree on who is sleeping where and in what bed too.
2) Wake earlier on Christmas Eve too.
If the plan is for the family to wake up earlier than normal on Christmas Day you could ease the impact on your children’s body clock by staggering the change. This would mean waking earlier on Christmas Eve too. For example, if you are planning to allow your children to get up at 6 am on Christmas Day and their normal wake up time is 7 am then set the alarm for 6.30 am on Christmas Eve. Not only does this help their body clock to cope with the change in times but it also sets them up to fall to sleep a lot easier on Christmas Eve evening, as they will be ‘sleepy earlier’.
3) Make the morning physically active.
Get your children outside to exercise. This burns off energy and provides a deeper and more refreshing night’s sleep. A long family walk is great and playing an energetic sport is even better. Sunlight early in the day also strengthens the body clock. This in turn makes it easier to get to sleep at night.
4) Have boisterous games in the afternoon not the evening.
Schedule any boisterous indoor games and computer games in the afternoon rather than the evening. Loud music is better in the afternoon too. Then plan calmer evening activities, such as family board or card games and reading which is more conducive to sleep.
5) Avoid too much sugar, it reduces sleep quality.
Certainly children who sleep less than required crave more sugary food, and in studies it’s be shown that poor sleep quality is significantly related to higher added sugar intake. However, there’s no scientific evidence that sugar speeds children up and causes hyperactivity. This ‘myth’ was created by research in the 1970’s which has since been proven to be inaccurate. It’s thought that when we tell children that sugar will make them ‘hyper’ that this sets up this behaviour as a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’. However, it’s always best to reduce sugar intake across the day, and especially closer to bedtime. Here, it’s especially important not to eat within two hours of sleep, as this can keep us awake. If you have relatives visiting, make sure they know not to offer treats late on too.
6) Technology curfew.
Keep all the normal tech curfews. Ideally, all technology should be switched off at least an hour before bedtime and preferably two hours.
7) Do a bedtime countdown.
Give your children plenty of notice with 30, 20 and 10-minute warnings as to the agreed bedtime. Children tend to lose track of time when they are excited, although they can be taught the concept of time from a very young age. The problem is that young children are able to estimate time correctly only if they are forced to pay attention to it, to experience it on the basis of duration required to perform their actions. So maybe if you aren’t doing a bed-time countdown as part of your child’s usual sleep routine, Christmas Eve is a good place to start! It certainly works in my experience.
8) Keep the routine going.
Our brains like habits. Therefore maintain with your child’s usual bedtime routine, i.e. warm bath, brush teeth and story. This is even more important when you are staying away from home over Christmas. Here, sleeping in a strange room, and on a different mattress makes it harder to get to sleep. This is known as ‘first night syndrome’ when we naturally stay more alert. So bring cuddly toys, favourite books, and even bedding and their favourite pillow to make your child feel secure and ‘at home’, minimising the ‘first-night effect’.
9) Allow extra time to get to sleep.
If you think it’s going to take them longer to get to sleep, get them into bed half an hour earlier to allow for the additional excitement. Perhaps remind little ones that Santa won’t come until they are sound asleep.
10) Set a good example.
Children tend to copy what we do. They also ‘buy into rules’ if they think they are fair. Therefore, always set a good example by going to bed on time too. This helps your children understand that they won’t be missing out on any more fun. For more tips on kids-sleep see our post https://thesleepsite.co.uk/how-to-help-your-children-sleep-better/
I hope these tips give you a few ideas on how to reduce stress and get your children to sleep easily on Christmas Eve.