Santa may know when they’re awake, but that doesn’t stop kids from being too excited to sleep this time of year. To keep seasonal excitement from leading to overtired kids, Saint Joseph’s University sleep expert Jodi A. Mindell, Ph.D., recommends making sure routine changes don’t affect kids’ sleep schedules.
Consistency is key, says Mindell, who is a clinical psychologist specializing in pediatric sleep medicine. She says parents should try to maintain their child’s usual sleep schedule no matter what, adding that altering your child’s bedtime routine can often be more exciting than calming.
“Skimping on the bedtime routine or doing your routine in another location, such as reading stories in front of the fireplace, will often backfire,” Mindell says. In order to ensure that your little one’s holiday spirit isn’t dampened by inadequate sleep, it’s crucial to set the stage for a good night’s rest.
To do so, make sure your child’s bedtime hour and naptimes are consistent. You might need to change the schedule a little for family gatherings, but be sure not to shake up the routine for more than one or two nights in a row. Too many days of being off schedule can lead to meltdowns, says Mindell.
In the mornings
If sticking to your child’s normal bedtime routine worked and your child slept well, your next challenge might be dealing with an excited early riser.
Mindell says parents can keep mornings running smoothly by, again, practicing consistency. She recommends keeping kids’ morning routines the same, even on days when holiday activities are planned.
To slow down a little early bird who’s eager to open gifts, consider putting a ‘good morning’ light in your child’s bedroom. These nightlights-on-timers can be set to go off at a reasonable time (such as 6:30 or 7 a.m.) in order to let younger kids know when it’s okay to get up for the day.
Dealing with electronic gifts
Smartphones and tablets are often popular gifts. If your child receives his or her first screen device during the holidays, Mindells suggests setting limits right from the start.
These devices emit a blue light that can interfere with sleep by suppressing the natural production of the sleep hormone melatonin. For this reason, electronics shouldn’t be integrated into a child’s bedtime routine.
Mindell recommends having the whole family plug in their gadgets at the end of the day for changing, either in the kitchen or in another common area of the house.
And if, despite your best efforts, your child’s sleep schedule does get shifted during the holidays, don’t fret. Just push your child’s schedule back by 15 to 30 minutes every day, starting two to three days before your family’s schedule resumes its normal state.