Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house - not a creature was EVEN THINKING ABOUT SLEEPING -not even a mouse. Is that how it usually is in your house on Christmas EVE?
I can remember years when I didn’t think my boys would ever settle down and go to sleep. They were just so excited!
Well, in this post I am going to give you 10 Ways to help get your children get to sleep so Santa can visit your house with his bag of toys.
Children thrive on a routine. I know I tell you that all of the time - because it it so true!! It may be really tempting to forgo your regular routine for the next few days as Christmas falls after the weekend this year.
But you will do yourself and your children a favor by sticking as close as possible to your regular weekly schedule and routine.
I encourage you to get your children up at the same time and have your meals at the same times that they are used to everyday.
This helps to keep the children’s body clocks regular. This, in turn, helps to keep their bedtime clock in sync.
Our sleep wake cycle is helped tremendously by a regular daily schedule.
If you let your children sleep late and get off of their normal daily schedule, they will get confused about what is supposed to happen in the course of the day -including what time they are supposed to get sleepy.
You may be tempted to skip naptime, thinking that your child will be really tired and be ready to go to bed early. That seems logical, but in all liklihood it will backfire on you.
Most of the time skipping naps leads to a child who is overtired. And what tends to happen with overtired kids? They have a more difficult time falling asleep.
I am sure you have seen this before.
The more tired they get, the more wired they get.
They may get whiny and cranky - but the one thing that doesn’t happen is falling asleep. This makes for a very difficult night for all.
You know how that feels when you are so tired but you just can’t fall asleep.
Make sure children get plenty of exercise during the day so that their bodies are ready for sleep at night.
We want them to be just the right amount of tired when it comes time comes for bed. Make sure that this exercise is several hours before bedtime. If they are too sedentary they don’t burn off enough energy during the day. If they are too wound up too close to bedtime, they have a hard time winding down.
Sunshine is another one of those things that helps to set the body’s natural clock. Daylight helps to establish the circadian rhythms by developing our natural awake hormones that help us to be alert during the day.
The withdrawal of daylight helps to establish night time sleepiness. Playing outside during the day helps to establish that rhythm.
I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this but so many children are drinking drinks with caffeine in them now at such an early age - and especially at parties and special occasions.
And moms who breastfeed are drinking lots of coffee and other caffeinated drinks.
These will definitely have an affect on your child’s sleep.
Avoid all caffeine if you are trying to get your child to sleep early on Christmas Eve.
Even a small amount of caffeine can have a big impact on children.
The thing about caffeine is that it is so individual and it varies. Some people are very sensitive to its effects and some are not. And it can change within a person as well.
In breastfed children, it can cause irritability and fussiness in addition to sleep problems.
The busy day may have caused a lot of children - particularly toddlers - to be too distracted to eat well.
They may have gotten to bedtime and now realize that they are hungry.
Eating a small snack at bedtime will help to keep the tummy full and help children to sleep better. Some foods - particularly ones containing the amino acid tryptophan -may even help your child fall asleep and stay asleep better.
And for those who use getting a snack as a stalling tactic - you have already beat them to the punch!
Provide a snack at bedtime and you will take away the excuse to get up AND keep your child’s tummy full (but not too full).
Foods that help induce sleep are best. Avoid foods that are too rich or fatty and, of course, avoid all caffeine. Give the snack about 30 minutes before bedtime so your child’s tummy has a chance to digest. And keep it small. Here are a few suggestions:
Foods to avoid:
Some parents think that keeping children up late will tire them out and help them to fall asleep better. But we know that this doesn’t work.
Tiring your children out or staying up too late is another one of those things that will backfire on you too.
Keeping a regular bedtime is very important for establishing good sleep routines. As a Child Sleep Consultant, I can tell you that, overtired children have a really hard time falling asleep and staying asleep.
Your child will have a better chance of falling asleep easily at his regular bedtime than a later bedtime. You have a window of time that works well for getting your child to sleep - the time that your child naturally is sleepy.
When you get much past your child's natural sleepy time, your child gets to “the point of no return”. It becomes very hard for them to fall asleep at that point. I am sure you know exactly what I am talking about whether you have realized that is what is happening or not. You have experienced it.
Even if you are later getting to bed because of Christmas Eve celebrations, don't skip your regular bedtime routine. It doesn’t have to be the full blown routine. But don’t skip the routine altogether. This doesn’t have to be a bath night. You don’t have to include all of the parts. But, children become accustomed to the bedtime routine and realize that there is something missing when you skip it.
The bedtime routine signals that it is time to fall asleep for many children and without that, sleep may be difficult. Even if you just do that last part, this will help your child relax to be able to fall asleep.
Parents may be tempted to give a child something to help them sleep on Christmas Eve. The most common choice among parents is usually an antihistamine, such as diphenhydramine (or benadryl).
This may be dangerous for young children for many reasons. The FDA and the AAP has recommended against the use of these medications in children due to their many side effects and medication errors. They may cause sedation, hallucinations, itching, rash, dry mouth and more serious reactions.
But they also have an opposite effect in many children with hyperactive behavior, jitteriness, excitation and sleeplessness.
But many parents report that they use these medications on a regular basis to get their children to sleep - either on trips or just for nightly bedtime practices.
I strongly discourage you from using these medications. Children who rely on these medications for sleep have more disturbed and restless sleep during the night. It is not a peaceful night’s sleep and they can wake up groggy.
Some sleep specialists will recommend the use of melatonin in older children who have sleep disturbances or disorders. While melatonin is the body’s natural sleep hormone and does help some people for sleep, it should be used with caution.
It can work on a temporary basis, but it can decrease the body’s own production of melatonin and can cause more problems in the long term. Some experts say the body can become dependent on taking it.
Some people report having disturbed sleep and vivid dreams and nightmares. It should only be used under the advice of your health care provider with older children.
The bottom line is Christmas Eve is not the time to try something new for sleep. A medication is a quick fix. We need to work on the sleep issue itself. There are many other ways to teach your children to sleep safely and more effectively and I would love to help you with that.
There may be lots of activity that needs to be taking place in your house on Christmas Eve. (wink wink) If you are waiting for your child to go to sleep, it could be a long night! They may be kept awake by the sounds of noise in the home.
Make sure that you are utilizing your white noise machine to block those household noises to help your child sleep better.
If you have not invested in one yet, now would be a good time to get one. My favorite is the Marpac Dohm, which are the ones most often used in doctor’s and therapist's offices. They are available on Amazon and in the stores at Bed, Bath and Beyond.
The best way to use them is only during sleep. Use them closest to the source of noise - so closest to the door or window or wherever the noise is coming in that wakes the child. Do not use them directly on the child’s bed. Use it on the lowest volume necessary to block the noise. There is no need to put it on a loud setting. You don’t want to keep it on all the time. Use it just when needed - keep it associated with sleep. Studies showed that when used with these practices, they are safe for use. However, they can be associated with hearing loss, if too loud, used continuously or on baby's beds or strollers.
I have given you 10 Ways to Help Your Child Fall Asleep on Christmas Eve. I hope that you find these helpful. It is such an exciting time. I hope you have a wonderful and memorable time with your family. Getting a good night’s sleep will help the night - and Christmas Day to go a little smoother for everyone.
I am hoping that you have established some good sleep habits for your child already. If not, you can download my Top 10 Tips to Have Your Baby Sleeping Better Tonight here
And if you are battling sleep issues in your home, then give yourself (and your child) the Gift of Sleep this year for Christmas. I can’t think of a better New Year’s resolution than vowing to get more sleep in the coming year. If you are ready for that, check out my Sleep Like a Baby Custom Sleep Coaching Plan for your family. Let’s get your family sleeping better soon. Check that out here.
If you would like to discuss the sleep coaching plan to see if this is right for your family, contact me and lets see how i can help you in the new year. Send me an email @ [email protected] and we can set up a free 20 minute consult to figure out if this is right for you.
As always, come on over to the Dream Baby Cafe Community and let me know how this has helped you. Tell me all about your Christmas Holidays. Or let me know how I can help you in the coming year. And connect with other moms just like you who are navigating the road to motherhood and would love to meet you.
Enjoy those precious ones on Christmas morning. It is a such a beautiful time.
May your days be Merry and Bright