The holidays are a time of high excitement, for kids and parents alike. It may be fun (for the kids, at least) to wake up early and open presents, but all the holiday excitement can turn into a major case of the humbugs if naps are skipped, bedtimes are missed, and sugary treats take over our holiday diets.
These tips will help your family guarantee healthy sleep, during the most wonderful (and busiest) time of the year.
1. Whenever possible, stick to your regular routine.
The winter holidays often disrupt our usual routines. Instead of school, kids head to family events, neighborhood parties, and snowy outings. Despite your busy schedule, try to stick to your normal bedtime routine as much as possible. If you’re staying over at Grandma’s house, pack familiar toothbrushes, story books, and sleep aids like blankets or stuffed animals. When bedtime rolls around, try to resist the request for an extra fifteen or thirty minutes–sticking to normalcy will help your kids’ bodies fall into their natural bedtime rhythms, making sleep seem less far away.
2. Make bedtime fun with a new family tradition.
If you celebrate a gift-giving holiday with your kids, the night before the big day can be far too exciting to get to sleep. One way to curb this is to start the festivities a little early! Create a new family tradition, where everyone unwraps a new set of personalized jammies, curls up under blankets, and reads or tells stories together. This can be a good low-energy way to curb kids’ enthusiasm, and get their minds and bodies ready for bed.
3. Plan a seasonal siesta.
Between cooking, cleaning, gift-wrapping, and snowball fights, the actual holiday can add far too much stress. If your schedule allows, set aside an hour or two where the whole family–not just the kids–takes a brief break to energize and recharge. This can be nap time for the kids (and we all know a nap would be a great gift for Mom or Dad, too), or a quiet time for the adults to enjoy a cup of coffee. If you make the siesta a familiar part of your holiday routine, kids will benefit from the scheduled relaxation time.
4. Keep kids’ diets balanced.
Candy canes! Chocolate! Reese’s Trees! The holidays are full of sugary stuff that keeps our kids up at night. That’s why it’s so important to stick to a balanced diet during the holidays, and enjoy sweets and caffeine only in moderation. Plus, healthy proteins like turkey contain tryptophan, an amino acid that makes us sleepy as our bodies break it down. Avoid sugar and caffeine for a few hours before bedtime, and make sure your kids are eating a healthy ratio of greens, protein, and carbs at mealtimes.
5. Learn some new relaxation games.
If your kids are struggling to fall asleep, relaxation games can be a good activity to try together. Practice body mindfulness by stretching every body part one by one: while laying down, start by flexing the fingers and toes, then move clockwise around the body until you’ve checked in with every body part. You can also turn this into a holiday grounding activity by naming objects in the room, or objects related to the holiday you celebrate. Can your kids name five red things associated with Christmas? How about six decorations you create for Hanukkah? These mindfulness activities can help calm racing thoughts, release pent-up energy, and prepare the mind for rest.
6. Remove distractions.
Holiday decor like lights and music can be a major distraction when we’re trying to sleep. Make sure kids’ windows are well-covered, blocking out any twinkling or blinking lights from the street. If you’re staying with family, try to find a place for the kids to sleep well away from any late-night conversations. Tuck travel cribs in quiet, safe spaces like the laundry room or a home office. If cousins are likely to stay up all night giggling (like in my family), it might be time for separate rooms.
7. Tire them out.
Kids have a seemingly limitless amount of energy, but that’s nothing some good old-fashioned cardio can’t cure! A few hours before bedtime, get the kids up and moving with some holiday games and activities. Winter is a great time for snowball fights, hide and seek, and capture the flag. If they opened new toys or games during the festivities, find a way to make playtime as active as possible. This extra calorie burn will come in handy at bedtime!
8. Try a natural route.
Certain natural supplements, like melatonin or specific essential oils, can help the body relax and calm down enough for sleep. (If you choose to go a supplement route, just be sure to check with your pediatrician first.) Essential oils like lavender, valerian, and chamomile are great for relaxation. A couple of drops in a diffuser, under pillows, or on your kids’ pajamas can help lull them into a smooth sleep.
9. Stay flexible!
We get it–the holidays are exciting! And for many kids, the winter holidays are the highlight of the year. Excitement, adrenaline, and sugar can all be a major detriment to healthy sleep–and kids who are normally well-behaved might fight bedtime a little harder than usual during the holidays. Take a few deep breaths, stay flexible, and remember how you felt about the holidays when you were a kid.
The holidays are a wonderful time to create and share memories with your family. With a can-do attitude, some perseverance, and just a sprinkling of holiday magic, you can ensure your kids get enough sleep to carry them through the excitement of the season.
New Jammies was born as an environmentally responsible company offering 100% certified organic cotton and flame retardant-free children’s pajamas. Learn more at newjammies.com.