Here we are, Christmas is upon us, and ‘tis the season for parents to worry about whether their kids will (or won’t) sleep come Christmas Eve so Santa can sneak those presents under the tree without getting caught red-handed. But no need to panic! Sleep expert James Wilson AKA The Sleep Geek is on hand to help with five super suggestions to help us all snuggle down for a peaceful night before Christmas…
I’m not here to make those worries worse, or to offer a regimented, prescriptive, hard to stick to list of rules that will just make our stress and anxiety worse. So firstly, don’t get too het up. It is one night, and our children’s excitement and wonder is a beautiful (if not tiring) thing. No matter how poorly your children sleep, and no matter how early they get up, it isn’t really that important, because it’s Christmas! But if you are concerned a restless night will result in a grumpy Grinch making an appearance before you’ve even made it to Christmas dinner, here are my top tips to try…
- Have a targeted bedtime in mind, but if they are still buzzing and wired, don’t send them to bed, but continue to try and wind them down. Before bed we need to create a drop-in heart rate, be relaxed, and a drop-in core temperature, be cooler. A bath or shower about an hour before bed will help the latter as it raises our core temperature and then as we get out it drops. Then get the little ones ready for bed, teeth brushed and good to go. In our house we have Christmas PJ’s to try and help this process. It also means as they are winding down as soon as you see signs of sleepiness you can get them into bed and (hopefully) snoozing.
- Think about your pre-sleep Christmas viewing. Although we all know that Die Hard is the best Christmas film ever, I wouldn’t recommend it as a family favourite on Christmas Eve. The same goes for Gremlins. Gizmo might be cute, but we don’t want nightmares caused by Gremlins. Think about watching The Snowman, Santa Claus The Movie, Miracle on 34th Street or Elf. Perfect pre-sleep viewing that will help the kids feel relaxed.
- Think about sleep at the beginning of the Christmas holidays as getting it right then makes Christmas Eve easier. Try and support your children in getting a regular sleep pattern, which is driven by a consistent wake up time. If you want them to sleep as well as possible across the Christmas holidays, then don’t let them lie in for more than an hour and a half past their usual wake up time. This will also make it easier for them to re-adjust to going back to school or nursery.
- A note for the adults. Remember that alcohol is not a sleep inducer but a sedative, so it does not give good quality sleep. A drink on Christmas Eve is fine, but too much will leave you feeling shattered the next day and less able to handle the excitement, arguments and having to put together countless toys on Christmas Day.
- For us parents who might be struggling with earlier and darker mornings (and of course Christmas morning is likely to be particularly early) it may be worth investing in a sunshine alarm clock or a light box to help you rise easier during dark winter months. The sunshine alarm clock rises like the sun; it pulls you out of the deepest stage of sleep and even if you still need an audible alarm, you will be more likely to stay awake if your room is bathed in light. The lightbox can then be used as you start to get ready for the day. The light box mimics the light frequencies of the sun and reminds your body it’s daytime, even if it is dark outside. This should leave you feeling more alert and less lethargic in the morning and ready to face the excitement of Christmas day!
Having suffered from insomnia from a young age James decided to tackle the problem hands-on in his late twenties by training as a sleep practitioner. This, along with his personal experience with poor sleep, gave him a unique insight in helping people to solve their sleep issues, and so The Sleep Geek was born.
James also offers an informative sleep guide to help parents with younger children. To find more from James visit thesleepgeek.co.uk