The holidays can get a bit crazy, especially when it comes to making sure kids sleep enough. It all seems to fly by instantaneously with an array of wrapping paper, leftovers, and toddler stocking stuffers remaining. Through all the hustle and bustle kids can lose sleep during the holidays.
After a while it starts to culminate into one utter meltdown ringing in the New Year, which is no way to start 2015 if you ask me. If you are concerned about the holiday craziness impacting your kids’ sleep, try out these tips to protect your kids’ sleep this holiday season without sacrificing all the fun.
Feel confident saying ‘no.’
Saying ‘no’ to others is really tough sometimes. My friend Rachel from A Mother Far From Home had a great tip recently and said that she sets her default to ‘no’ and says ‘I’ll think about it.’ I think that’s a great buffer because if you don’t feel confident saying ‘no,’ saying ‘I’ll think about it’ or ‘I’ll let you know’ is a great way to say ‘I acknowledge your request but I cannot commit yet.’
Prioritize your choices.
It is 100 percent okay not to do it all. Choose parties, events, and family gatherings that pack the most punch and feel good about cutting down on the rest. Doing it all simply isn’t worth it in the long run. When we commit to every single holiday party, gathering or event, our whole family’s energy gets depleted to zero. The fun becomes less and less. Prioritize choices to help minimize burnout.
Embrace the babysitter.
You may feel guilty for leaving your kids at home while you go have all the holiday fun. It’s okay to have a fun night out at a holiday party without your kids. Years down the road, it won’t matter to them. Keeping the kids home to protect sleep is really an easy choice for me if I know it will prevent a meltdown 3 hours past bedtime.
Sacrifice one parent.
Doing it all as a family is wonderful, but if it starts to negatively impact your child’s sleep and culminate over time, it can ruin holiday fun. Sometimes there is an event and only my husband or I will attend. Not always, but doing this sometimes, can cut down on all the holiday craziness.
Be flexible with naps, but avoid skipping altogether.
If your child still naps, it’s okay to shift the nap time around in order to attend events and make it work for your family. But skipping naps altogether can put your child in a sleep debt that starts to snowball over several days.
Protect night sleep as much as possible.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know that I taut night time sleep as the most restorative. Try to keep your kids going to bed at the same time each night, in addition to waking up at the same time each morning. That little bit of consistent night time sleep can really help everyone have a successful holiday season.
If it’s not realistic to get kids to sleep at their regular bedtime, aim for bedtime to be within one hour of the normal time when a holiday disruption is necessary. For younger children, maybe aim for bedtime within 30 minutes of the normal time. If you have small kids, becoming overtired and overstimulated will lead to less sleep overall and increased night waking.
Use the 80/20 rule.
I try to stay on schedule about 80% of the time, and not worry about it the remainder of the time. We know from research that consistently following a sleep schedule the majority of the time and establishing a good bedtime routine will positively impact the sleep of your infant or toddler.
Aiming for a good schedule 80% of the time seems realistic to me. This means 1 day out of every 5 days we experience a sleep disruption. Parenting a young child with high sleep needs is ultimately a short season. Making sacrifices for the schedule will encourage easier bedtime and nap routines and better sleep overall. While 80% may seem like a lot, it’s worth it.
Bring home with you.
Going to a gathering that will go much later than your child’s bedtime?
Take your child and a pack ‘n play and all your sleep essentials. Allow your child to nap or go to bed in someone’s home, while you participate in all the activities. If you are consistent with a good bedtime routine and have a good daily schedule going, this works very well in my experience.
Traveling and staying in another home or hotel?
Once you arrive at your destination, set up a ‘sleep station’ or a special area where your child will sleep. A sleep station may include a pack ‘n play (playard) with a soft and comfortable sheet, along with a lovey and sleep sack or wearable blanket placed in the playard.
If you will be sleeping in the same room as a baby or toddler, consider attaching a light sheet around the outside perimeter of the playard using safety pins to prevent your child from seeing you in the room. Often times, seeing a parent in the room can cause the child to think it’s time to get up. For more on this check out How to Help Your Baby Sleep During Travel.
If major sleep is lost, consider a sleep debt recovery.
Take a break from all the holiday stuff for a few days and keep things low key. Allow for longer stretches of recovery sleep for about 24 hours to help your child to catch some extra rest. If you would like to read more about helping your child recover from lost sleep, you can read my full post here.
Bonus tip: Avoid 2 days of craziness in a row.
Try to keep consecutive days of holiday fun to a minimum, especially for small kids. If you are able to space things out a bit, it helps both kids and adults recover from the hustle and bustle.
Want more awesome holiday posts?
- 10 Ways to Save Money This Christmas
- Why We Don’t Have a Single Holiday Tradition (and it’s not a bad thing!)
- 20+ Awesome Toddler Stocking Stuffers for Under $10
How do you hope to help your child sleep well through the holiday season?