Keep Your Child Well-Rested This Holiday Season

keep your child well-rested this holiday season
Christine Brown

Christine Brown

This week in the US, we kick off the holiday season with Thanksgiving. For many families, the holiday season may look a little (ok, a lot) different this year due to the pandemic, but it can still be a busy time for families. I’m getting a lot of questions like, “how do I handle sleep when we have family events?” Today we are going to talk all about how to keep your child well-rested this holiday season so you can all have more fun!

80/20 Rule

Unless you are actively sleep training, we try to apply the 80/20 rule to normal life. 80-90% of the time you stay consistent with offering sleep in your child’s bed and at their normal sleep times. 10-20% of the time you live a little!

If we color outside the lines too frequently, we end up with overtired children. You’ll know if you are being too flexible if your child starts exhibiting one or more of the signs of being overtired.

When Children Are Overtired, They Will:

  • Be fussy around dinnertime
  • Have more difficulty settling into sleep
  • Wake more frequently at night
  • Sleep more restlessly
  • Tend to wake earlier in the morning
  • Potentially have difficulty with naps

If your child begins getting overtired, the solution is normally an earlier bedtime. I know, I know…an early bedtime scares you!

In an overtired child, an earlier bedtime doesn’t result in an earlier wake time. An earlier bedtime will help your child to make up for lost sleep in the beginning part of the night. Within a night or two of an earlier bedtime and a consistent schedule, your little one should be back on track.

The Car Nap

Normally we don’t recommend car naps because they aren’t restorative, but if there is a turkey waiting for you, your little turkey may need to take a car nap!

I recommend having your little one (still on 2+ naps) take their morning nap in their crib like normal. Then take their second nap in the car while en route to your destination. Try to give your little one at least an hour of sleep. This may mean driving around if the distance to your location is shorter than an hour.

If your baby has a third cat nap, have them nap in a carrier on you. This way you have both hands free for eating and your little one can get in a snooze.

If your toddler is on one mid-day nap, same suggestion as above. They can take their nap in the car for at least one hour, if possible.


If your little one has taken a car nap that day, I highly recommend trying to get your child home in time for their normal bedtime routine and having them in bed a little bit earlier. Remember, the movement nap isn’t as restorative. Your little one may be overtired and the earlier bedtime always helps here.

If the early bedtime is a no-go, change your child into their pajamas before leaving the party. If your child falls asleep in the car, you can transition them right into their crib or bed when you get home. In the early part of the night, children are in a deep sleep state. This makes it easier to make the transfer without a lot of disruption to sleep.

The next day go right back to your normal schedule and know that your little one may be a little overtired. You don’t want to have a wacky schedule two days in a row if you can help it.

Wake Up Time

Just because your little one went to bed late the night before, don’t expect your child to sleep in. Most babies are naturally programmed to wake up sometime between 6:00 – 7:00 am on average. Toddlers normally wake up sometime between 6:00 – 7:30 am.

A later bedtime usually results in the same or an earlier wake time. I know, I know – it’s not logical at all. It’s biological! The later bedtime with the same or earlier wake time just results in less sleep and an overtired little one.

That being said, if your child is one of those magical unicorns that will sleep in (#jelly), try to wake your baby by 7:00 am and your toddler by 7:30 am. It seems like letting your child sleep in is a good idea, but it can actually throw their whole day off.

If your child isn’t able to settle into sleep at their normal nap times, they may not sleep as well or be able to settle into sleep. Your little one won’t have the hormone support that comes from napping at the right times. One little sleep-in, coupled with a late night or off naps the day before can start to create the overtired downward spiral we talked about above.

Other Tips To Keep Your Child Well-Rested This Holiday Season

  • Keep in mind that family gatherings in general are really stimulating for babies and toddlers. It is easy for them to become OVER everything: overwhelmed, overtired and overstimulated.  One way that we can make sleep easier for our over-it children is to ensure that we maintain our bedtime routine.
  • Let everyone have their opinion and do what’s right for your family. If you don’t let your kiddos skip naps all day or stay at the party until 10:00 pm, your family and friends may judge you. Let it go and do you. After all, they won’t be up all night with your child and waking before the sun!
  • Relax & enjoy! If you have a few off days over the next month, it isn’t going to ruin good sleep habits.

If the wheels are completely off the bus or you’ve never had good sleep habits, we are always here to help. Sign up for a free intro call where we can learn more about your sleep situation and discuss how we can work together to improve sleep.

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