Silent night, holy night,
All is calm, all is bright
Although this is a line from one of my favourite Christmas carols, it can also double as the wish of worried parents through the holiday season.
If you have a baby or toddler who has a great sleep routine, (or even a mediocre one) 😉 ; multiple family suppers, seasonal travel plans and visiting in-laws can quickly throw your child’s schedule off course, leading to a not so silent night.
It can be a challenge to help your child sleep in a different locations, but even if you’re at home, family visits may run late, making it difficult to get your baby to sleep on time. Stress levels can run high during the holidays at the best of times, and struggling to get your child to sleep while trying to entertain company doesn’t help.
So here are a few holiday sleep tips to assist with managing your baby or child’s routine, while helping to keep your stress level low.
Holiday Sleep Tips #1: Be Consistent
Now, I know that the holidays are the prime time for disruptions to a family’s daily life. There can be travel and extra outings that are exciting for everyone. However, children thrive on routine and it can help counter the overstimulation and sensory overload this time of year tends to bring.
Maintain your child’s regular schedule as best as possible. This means start the day at the same time each morning, keep meal and nap times the same from day to day, and make sure bedtime doesn’t wander too late.
Holiday Sleep Tips #2: Take Sleep on the Road
If you will be travelling during Christmas and staying the night either in a hotel or with family, help your child fall asleep easily with memories of home. This means recreating your child’s regular sleep environment in the new location.
By bringing along anything you use to help your little one drift off at home such as white noise, lovey, same sheets, room darkening shades, you help your child’s brain to release natural sleep hormones into the bloodstream. This saves you from having to work extra hard at soothing and helping your child to fall asleep.
Extra tip; have a soothing and calming wind down routine before a sleep period already in place before you travel. This way, regardless of where you are, this familiar routine will help your child relax and drift off with little fuss.
Holiday Sleep Tips #3: Respect Your Child’s Sleep Needs
Imagine the reaction a parent would get if they said “I’m not going to feed my toddler today so we can get to grandma’s house on time”. Likely the parent would gets some “looks”, at the very least. It’s obvious to us-children need to eat.
What is not so obvious though, is a child’s need to sleep, especially during the day. It can seem as if naps aren’t important, like they are just an extra bonus.
But I would encourage you to view sleep needs through the same lens as you view food. Sleep is essential for our bodies, some say even more than food!
So respect your child’s need to sleep; don’t force them to skip their nap. It will be very hard on their body and you will likely see the repercussions that night or the next with more wakings. It can even transfer into the daytime with temper tantrums and crankiness. Definitely NOT what we want to happen while trying to visit with family and friends.
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Also, keep in mind that a bedtime that is more than 30 minutes later than a young child is used to, will create a sleep debt, especially if it happens consecutively.
So, in order for your child to sleep well, and therefore for *you* to get a good night’s rest, consider how much sleep your child needs and work around their nap and bedtimes.
Holiday Sleep Tips #4: Temperament Counts
It can be hard to resist the urge to soak up all festivities of the season, but trust me when I say that your child absolutely loves just being with you. Remember that when making arrangements throughout the holidays. Too many activities crammed into a day can be hard on a little one and can effect their sleep.
If your baby or toddler is like many young children, they have sensitive temperaments. They will pick up on all the excitement (and stress) this time of year can bring. They can get easily overwhelmed and overtired with too many activities, causing night wakings and short naps. Plan for some “down time” whether you’re visiting at relatives house, travelling or just staying home. It will lead to longer, deeper and more restorative sleep.
Holiday Sleep Tips #5: Early Bedtime Cures All
If your child has had a busy week and is becoming increasingly overtired, then putting them to bed early for a few nights is a simple way to help them get back on track.
The first half of a child’s sleep is filled with many cycles of deep sleep. Later, as the night wears on into the wee hours of morning, the quality of sleep changes into lighter sleep. (Click here to see an illustration of this.)
However, it’s the deep sleep cycles that are the most restorative to the body and brain and can help your little one feel refreshed in the morning. So by putting an overtired child to bed early, you help them have more cycles of the deep sleep, thus helping to pull them out of the sleep debt.
Once the holidays are over, the travelling is done and you are home, expect your child to need about a week to get their routine back on track.