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  • Cara Fielden

Helping the kids sleep well at Christmas

When my parents told me ‘Santa won’t come if you don’t go to sleep’, it never encouraged me to go to sleep. I was just far too excited that Christmas was the very next day! In only a few hours, I’d be opening presents from Father Christmas, eating delicious food and spending time with my loved ones. We all look forward to Christmas, but when it comes to the little ones - how can we help them still get good sleep amongst all the excitement? Read on for our top tips.

For us adults, Christmas can be a stressful and overwhelming time. From organising social events, finishing the never-ending food shop, decorating the Christmas tree and staying on top of our own wellbeing, it can be a lot to handle - and that’s before we’ve even thought about the kids!

For our youngsters, Christmas is the most magical time of the year. They might see extended family, get time off school, play with new presents and, if they’re lucky, play out in the snow. They even wait 365 long days to see if their hard work paid off to get them on the Nice List! But let’s be real, the magic is mostly down to you, the parents creating special moments for your youngsters to remember forever.

Whilst we’re rushing to get into bed on the 24th for a good night’s sleep before the big day, they’re wide-eyed and ready to watch the dark sky to see Rudolph and his crew coming to nibble away on the carrots left out for them. It’s magical and exciting - and the last thing on their minds is going to sleep - unless they’ve been bribed like I was as a child!

And of course, we don’t want to rob them of this extraordinary feeling, so how can we help encourage them to get some sleep in before Christmas morning?

Here’s some tips from us:

Stick to a routine

As we know when it comes to our own sleep, having a good routine is key. If we stick to a familiar routine for our children, their sleep schedule will stay consistent too. That means when it comes to bedtime, they’ll feel sleepier as they are in a routine that they are used to - which will avoid any anomalies when it comes to bedtime!

Move plenty

Staying active and avoiding staying in one spot on the sofa for days on end (easy to do over Christmas, I know) will help our little ones feel more tired when bedtime arises. Why not get outside for a run around or take the dog out for a festive family walk? Natural light is great for our circadian rhythm, which in turn will improve our sleep and help regulate our body clock. Combining fresh air with a bit of movement will help to establish that rhythm.

Wind down before bed

Part of that all important routine is having a good amount of time to wind down before trying to sleep. Jumping into bed with all that left over excitement is a recipe for disaster on Christmas Eve! So, sit down with the kids and decide on a few pre-bedtime activities that they would enjoy. Make sure that these activities work to calm both their heart rate and core temperature. For example, maybe they have a warm bath before getting into bed to read a book. If you’re opting for TV or screen time, make sure it’s something relaxing or repetitive so not to cause too much excitement.

Allow the bedtime chat

Do you get 20 questions at bedtime? Anything to avoid actually laying down, closing their eyes and drifting off - even if it’s just to tell us they’re tired! Of course it’s not a habit we want to create every night (we’d be exhausted) but as it’s Christmas, stick around for a little while and listen to their random thoughts, wild ideas and biggest wishes for the big day. Rather than rushing off, telling them to sleep, try listening and they’ll likely run out of steam in enough time for you to dash off to finish the final bits of wrapping.

Don’t worry if things don’t go to plan

If the worst case scenario occurs, and the kids are rockin’ around the Christmas Tree at 11pm, try to keep calm. Know that sleep will always return, and there is always time for a nap with Grandad on Christmas day - that’s if you can convince them! Keeping communication open and being able to regulate your own emotions will help our young ones to turn to us for help. Take each moment as it comes and don’t be afraid to recruit some help from the grandparents or in-laws if you need to!

Merry Christmas! Christmas is a tiring time regardless. For us parents and adults it is exhausting having endless errands to run up until Christmas morning, socialising for weeks on end and watching the kids too. For the kids, there’s a lot of excitement and a lot more going on than on a normal day. So approach the festive season with compassion for yourself and them, and make time to rest and recharge - even if that looks like escaping to the bathroom for 10 minutes whilst the turkey is cooking!

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