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Halloween and Your Child’s Sleep

Halloween and Your Child's Sleep

For the fourth-year in a row, my son Ryan is dressing up as a police officer for Halloween. Every year he says he is going to go as something else, but each year he asks for a similar costume. Too bad he keeps growing and I can’t recycle!

With Ryan’s costume and my thoughts around this time of year, it’s more like groundhog day than Halloween! This year, just like the others, I’m thinking about their sleep well in advance of the spooky holiday! I’m also thinking about Halloween and YOUR child’s sleep!

Why?

Maybe your children are like mine.

My children turn into gremlins when they are overtired. Add sugar and it can be a full-blown sh*tshow.

So let’s figure this out together…

Want to learn how to successfully navigate Halloween and your child’s sleep based on my personal and professional experience? Read on…

Tip #1: Start Rested

  • Ensure that your children have adequate rest leading up to the night of trick or treat.  Ensure either a good, restorative nap or quiet time before heading out for the night’s festivities
  • The week leading up to the holiday, ensure you are sticking pretty close to your little one’s schedule so they are meeting their sleep needs
  • Children who are better rested navigate disruptions to their schedule much easier and get back on track quicker, which will help a sleep debt from building

Tip #2: Plan Ahead

Communication is everything and cuts down on confusion and tension. Talk with your spouse or partner to come up with a game plan:

  1. What time your children will start trick or treating
  2. How far you’ll be going
  3. What time you’ll be going home
  4. How the bedtime routine will be altered for the night

If you are on the same page, it will be easier to discuss the plan, in an age-appropriate way, with your children so they can know what to expect.

  • Give your children plenty of notice of when the fun is coming to an end.  “We are visiting 4 more houses and then we are heading home to check out our candy and get ready for bed!”
  • Try to set limits around candy intake. This one can be hard – especially with older children.

Tip #3: Start Trick-or-Treat Early

  • If trick-or-treat starts at 6:00 pm, plan on going out right then, especially if you have little ones
  • Your child will have plenty of fun, but can keep a reasonable bedtime and a short routine
  • Starting early ensures that you can relax and enjoy, without feeling super rushed
  • A bedtime swing of 30 minutes for toddlers and preschoolers won’t significantly affect them.  But keep in mind that you really don’t want to extend much beyond that time frame

Tip #4: Setup For Bedtime In Advance

  • If your little one normally has a bedtime snack, I recommend offering a protein and complex carbohydrate-rich snack before bed. This helps with the sugar crash if they have something of substance in their tummies at bedtime
  • Shorten your bedtime routine some, but ensure that it still gives opportunity for calming and connecting:
    • Skip the bath for a sponge bath
    • Brush teeth REALLY good!
    • Have pajamas set out and prepare the bedroom before you go out for the night
    • Instead of two books, shorten it to one

Tip #5: Expect Curtain Calls

  • Even super star sleepers may call out and try to delay bedtime to prolong the fun. Sugar gives them fuel for this!
  • Stay consistent with your bedtime routine and stay lovingly firm with your expectations
  • If they know the limits and you stick with them, the stalling tactics should stay to a minimum and won’t push bedtime even later

Tip #6: Comfort Bad Dreams

  • If your child wakes from a bad dream or is scared by something they saw on Halloween, comfort them because the fear is real for them
  • Stay calm and don’t make a big deal out of it so your little one doesn’t try to keep using this attention technique in the future
  • In the morning, if your child wants to talk about their dream, reassure them that monsters aren’t real and that everything on Halloween is make-believe.  Keep reinforcing that message if they continually bring it up.
  • If your child is really afraid and having a tough time moving past it, consider a behavior technique called Name It To Tame It.

Tip #7: Monitor Candy Consumption

  • Once you’ve finished pilfering their stash (peanut butter cups are mine!), try to ensure your little one doesn’t have candy before bed every night after Halloween
  • This can push your child’s time to fall asleep later due to the sugar rush and the caffeine in chocolate
  • When blood sugar drops, our bodies naturally produce stress hormones (cortisol and adrenaline), which can wreak havoc on sleep
  • Offer treats after school / daycare / later afternoon so your little one’s body has a chance to stabilize their blood sugar before bedtime
  • Consider donating leftover candy to overseas Veterans with a program like Operation Gratitude

We hope these tips help you navigate Halloween and your child’s sleep! Have fun and don’t eat ALL of their candy!

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