During the Christmas break the change in routine and dark, colder nights can often make sleep difficult. It can be even harder for children who don’t sleep well anyway. The changes and excitement can be a lot for our children to deal with.
Our sleep team give their top tips for getting a good night’s sleep this Christmas.
- Try and keep bed and wake times consistent, eating at similar times where you can over Christmas also helps with our internal body clock. It stops you getting hungry at the wrong times which can affect the body’s natural rhythm and ultimately your ability to fall and stay asleep.
- Avoid caffeine (e.g. Coffee, some fizzy drinks, chocolate etc.) in the 6 hours before bedtime. Especially avoiding all of those lovely Christmas treats at this time.
- Avoid exercise in the hours before bed – this raises our body temperature, which can make it harder to fall asleep.
- Spend 30-60 minutes before bed engaging in calming/relaxing activities, meditation or mindfulness. This can help wind down from the Christmas excitement.
- Keep the bedroom as dark as possible at bedtime. Well-fitted blackout blinds can be useful. This allows our natural melatonin to be produced.
- If your child is afraid of the dark a red based light/night light is better for sleep and it has the added benefit of helping Santa find the right house.
- In cold weather, try and keep an eye on the temperature of your child’s room at night, drafts can be a real problem. You don’t want it too cold or too hot. Some children with sensory issues don’t like change, so adding blankets may not be the answer but turning the room temperature up via central heating or a safe heater for your child may work.
- As long as your child doesn’t find it overstimulating a warm bath just before bed can help cool and relax the body.
- Play calming music/white noise at bedtime and throughout the night to drown out the noise of others making noise through the festive period.
- Using visual resources can help with changes to your child’s routine over Christmas (visual timetables, social stories, checklists etc.).
- If bedtime during the holidays is significantly later than during school time, spend the three or four days of the holidays slowly bringing this earlier by 15 minutes a night. This is much easier on our body clock than a big change in one night.
- Families may have very different experiences with Christmas and Santa Claus, coming down the chimney etc. so we suggest being mindful of any sensory/anxiety issues relating to that. Don’t be afraid to change how Santa brings presents to ease your child’s worries.
- For children who are fascinated with Santa the official Santa tracker may be helpful. Showing your child how much Santa has to do in other countries before he reaches the UK may help you get them to go to bed.
- Everyone is individual – if your child already struggles with the ‘pressure’ put on them to fall asleep, telling them they have to sleep before Santa comes may have the opposite effect!
- Most importantly of all don’t worry about it not being a “perfect family Christmas” if you need to make changes for your child.