Getting your children to sleep on Christmas Eve

by Lauren Abbott

The night before Christmas and all through the house...every child was stirring?

If that's likely to be the scenario in your home come December 24 then look no further.

Getting young children into their beds and persuading them to stay their on Christmas Eve can be a challenge of North Pole proportions. And even if they nod off nicely an estimated one in three parents will be up between 4am and 7am with excited little ones!

Encouraging your children to sleep over Christmas can be one of the more demanding evening jobs.
Encouraging your children to sleep over Christmas can be one of the more demanding evening jobs.

We've spoken to world sleep expert from Oxford University, Professor Colin Espie, for his top tips on getting your children to sleep the night before Christmas:

1 Be active during the day

Evidence suggests exercise can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night. Take a break from the Christmas movies or the food preparation and head to the park to burn off some energy in good time before bed.

2 Try to stick to bedtime routines

A consistent bedtime routine, or a set of specific 'rituals' before lights out, will signal that it's time to sleep. This may be a warm drink, story or quiet cuddle before bed. Try to continue these during the Christmas period even if not at the normal time.

If you’re staying away from home, find ways to recreate parts of the routine, even if they are happening later than usual because it is Christmas. Bringing familiar bedding, toys and books will help children settle if they are away from home.

Wide awake and waiting for Santa?
Wide awake and waiting for Santa?

3 Act before your child gets overtired

Young children are often reluctant to admit that they're tired - even more so when the alternative to bed is playing games or with new toys.

Look for signs of sleepiness before your child starts to be overtired, which is often the driver for 'hyper' behaviour. If children say they really don't feel tired - suggest that they play quietly in their bed with the lights down low before tucking them in to sleep.

4 Give plenty of notice

Give plenty of notice as to when bedtime is coming up, and then stick to what you’ve said. Use perimeters like: “In 10 minutes the cartoon will end and it’ll be bath time, and then we’ll have time for two books.”

If your child refuses to stay in bed, try to avoid giving extra attention. 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.

5 And if all else fails...

Play the Santa card!

With a house full of guests, new toys, maybe even unopened presents your child or children may understandably feel as though they are missing out on all the excitement by going up to bed ahead of others in the house.

If you’ve followed all the tips above and still have a stubborn but weary young one it might be worth reminding them rumour has it that Father Christmas only leaves presents for children who are asleep!

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