‘Twas the night before Christmas…..and all the kids were bouncing on their beds going absolutely bananas at the thought of the massive present bonanza that surely awaited them in the morning. Yes they will be peeking out the window in the hope of spotting the big Mr C and his main stag Rudolph, they will be sneaking down the stairs keeping watch of the chimney, and likely causing all sorts of havoc when they should BLOODY WELL BE IN BED!
So God help us, what can we do to make sure we don’t have to send for matchsticks to keep our eyes propped open on the big day?
Here, world sleep expert, Professor Colin Espie, from the University of Oxford and co-founder of Sleepio outlines his five top tips to finally get your children to sleep on Christmas Eve so Santa can do his work in peace.
1. Have an active day
We all know it to be true – regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night. One study found that every hour a child spends inactive adds three minutes to the time taken to nod off. So press pause on that Christmas movie and have a mass exodus to the park to help expend excess energy in good time before bed.
2. Don’t let them get over tired
We’ve heard it all before – but I’m not tired! Young children are masters at refuting the fact that they’re tired – even more so when the alternative to bed is playing with shiny new toys. Look for signs of tiredness before your child starts to be overtired, which is often the driver for ‘hyper’ behaviour. Make an effort to start the bedtime routine at a consistent time. If they genuinely don’t feel tired, they can play quietly in their bed or cot with the lights low. If you notice that your child is often overtired at night, experiment by shifting the whole bedtime routine forwards by 15-30 minutes – you’ve got nothing to lose after all.
3. Prepare the path for bedtime
Children hate things to be sprung on them, so give plenty of notice when bedtime is coming up, and then stick to what you’ve said: “In 10 minutes the cartoon will end and it’ll be bath time, and then we’ll have time for two books.” A timer which rings when playtime runs out could be a useful ‘independent’ signal that it’s time for bed. If your child refuses to stay in bed, try to avoid giving extra attention for bad behaviour. Be as neutral and uninteresting as you can as you return your child to bed, even if you have to do this a few times. Consistency is key – even at Christmas – to help the whole family sleep well.
4. Bedtime routines are key
A regular bedtime routine, or a set of specific ‘rituals’ before lights out, is one of the best ways to signal that it’s time to sleep. If you’re away for Christmas, find ways to recreate parts of the routine, even if they are happening later than usual. Follow the pre-bedtime rituals in the same order each night (e.g. bath, brushing teeth,toilet, stories, goodnight hug), will help with readiness for sleep, wherever you are. A few days of a consistent schedule should go a long way in helping your child settle in a new location, as will familiar bedding, toys and books will help them to relax and feel secure away from home.
5. And if all else fails…it’s down to Santa!
If you’ve followed the tips above and still have a stubborn and weary young one, hanging onto the banisters in slumber-protest, there’s always that handy line that Father Christmas only leaves presents for children who are asleep – which should be encouragement enough to turn the lights out!
Do you have trouble getting your children to sleep on Christmas Eve? What strategies do you use to usher them into the land of nod? Do share in a comment below?
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