Maintain Your Child’s Sleep Schedule This Holiday Season

"Maintain Your Child’s Sleep Schedule This Holiday Season" - Baby dressed as Santa
Christine Brown

Christine Brown

The holiday season is in high gear, calendars are booked up and there is no shortage of fun to be had!  Holiday parties, trips to see Santa, Christmas light peeping, holiday shopping and more.  All that fun can quickly result in overtired, cranky children and parents too.  I don’t know about you, but I prefer it when my children are well rested, because it usually means I’m well rested too!  Here are my top tips to help maintain your child’s sleep schedule during the holiday season.

Make Naps a Priority

It is easy to think “oh, I can just skip this nap or she can take it in the car and she will be just fine.”  Next thing you know, your child is melting down at family dinner, your aunt is looking at you side eye and you are feeling judged!

To avoid that type of debacle, remember that daytime sleep is extremely important to keep your child well-rested.  Skipping naps, decreasing the length or taking naps on the go (stroller, car seat, etc.) too frequently can quickly put your child into an overtired state.

When Children Are Overtired, You’ll Find They:

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

Daytime sleep affects nighttime sleep and you may find that your child starts having night wakings.  This is what I call the overtired downward spiral.

The Solution:

Ensure that you give your child the opportunity to nap during her normal nap times and try to give her at least an hour of sleep for the morning and afternoon nap to ensure the nap is restorative.  Limit movement sleep because it isn’t as restorative.   If you do have to do a nap in the car, try not to couple it with a late bedtime.

Maintain Your Sleepy Time Routine

When life is unusually busy and our kids are socializing a lot more, it is easy for them to become OVER everything: overwhelmed, overtired and overstimulated.  One way that we can make sleep easier for our children is to ensure that we maintain our sleepy time routine.

Children love routine and consistency so when life is a little more unpredictable, that bedtime routine will calm them down, relax them, make them feel safe and make it easier for them to fall asleep and stay asleep.

The Solution:

Whether you are traveling to visit family or just getting home after a holiday party, try to leave enough time to get your child settled in and do your normal bedtime routine.  It will make bedtime easier – promise!

Preserve Bedtime

If your little one is rocking around the Christmas tree one too many nights, you will start paying for it with night wakings and all the other fun stuff we talked about above with the overtired downward spiral!

The Solution:

This holiday season commit to getting your little one down at their normal bedtime as much as possible.  And if they took a nap on the go, had a short nap or missed a nap, move bedtime earlier.  An earlier bedtime in an overtired child helps your child to not become even more overtired and enables them to make up for lost sleep or less restorative sleep in the beginning part of the night.

Manage Your Family & Friends

If you’ve read anything I’ve written above and thought “my family is going to think I’m crazy!” you are right!  They will.  But also remember, they aren’t going to be getting up with your child in the middle of the night or in the early morning and dealing with cranky pants ALL. DAY.  LONG.

They want to spend time with your kids and you, but they oftentimes don’t have to deal with the repercussions.  I think it is our job as parents to preserve our children’s sleep, even when other people don’t understand the importance of it.

The Solution:

I recommend making a joke of it!

Family member: “Oh you are leaving this early?  Come on – stay longer!”

You: “I’d love to spend more time with you, but unless you are coming with me to put Johnny to bed and get up with him in the morning, we’ve got to go so he can go to bed!”

Avoid Sleeping In

I am NOT a morning person.  Like at all.  My desired wake-up time is 7:20 am.  I still wish my kids wanted to sleep in later than they do now!  When they are teenagers, I know I will miss them in the morning!  I got sidetracked, but it all does tie together…

If you let your babies and toddlers sleep too late in the morning, it can throw all of their sleep off for the day and backfire.  The average wake time for babies is between 6:00 – 7:00 am and for toddlers on one nap, in between 6:00 – 7:30 am.  Ensuring you are waking your child by this time, will set them up for sleep success that day.

The Solution:

Set an alarm and get your baby up by 7:00 am and your toddler on one nap up by 7:30 am to ensure your child can get daytime sleep during the times that are most restorative.

Get Your Child’s Sleep Schedule Back on Track After The Holiday Season

The tree is down, you’ve already cheated on your resolutions, your pants are tight and you are in the throes of sleep deprivation deliriousness and a holiday hangover.  In the middle of the night, you find yourself blurry-eyed.  You are Googling “how do I help my baby or toddler get back on track with sleep?”  Here are our top tips to maintain your child’s sleep schedule after the holiday season.

Step 1: Deep Breaths

You are human. This is temporary.  Your little one can and will get back on track with you staying calm, confident and consistent moving forward.

Step 2: Prioritize Sleep

Begin to consistently prioritize naps and bedtimes and don’t be flexible until your child is sleeping well again

Step 3: Early Bedtime

An early bedtime is your BFF for an overtired child. And when I say early bedtime, I mean like 5:30 (for babies on two + naps) – 6:00 pm (for children on one nap).  Like I mentioned above, an earlier bedtime in an overtired child, will enable your child to recoup some of their sleep debt.  Don’t fret – an early bedtime in an overtired child WON’T result in an earlier wake time.  Oftentimes they will wake later.  Trust me on this one.

Step 4. Set Boundaries Again

If you’ve had to do sleep coaching in the past, it may be time to start sleep coaching again.  This will help to re-establish healthy sleep habits.

We hope these tips help you maintain your child’s sleep schedule this holiday season!  If you need advice over the holidays or if one of your New Year’s Resolutions is to get more sleep, please reach out!  We’ve worked with over 700 families in the past 4 years and we’d be honored to help your family to be happy, healthy and well rested.

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