With the Christmas season well underway, many parents are faced with the struggle of maintaining a peaceful sleep routine for their children. Many argue that sticking to a healthy sleep pattern is never more crucial than during the ‘happiest time of year’, with late nights, early mornings, rich food, and the typical holiday excitement causing disruptions across November and December.
To help combat this, the father of one, James Higgins, who is a sleep specialist and CEO of Ethical Bedding – the UK’s only BCorp-accredited sustainable bedding company – offers his expertise on managing these challenges effectively.
“Parents often envision a calm bedtime routine, but this can be derailed by the day’s fatigue and children’s resistance to sleep,” James explained. “This situation is heightened during Christmas, with its flurry of activities and ramped-up excitement.
“Before having kids, many parents have great expectations that they will be able to ensure a calm and smooth bedtime routine. However, when this expectation doesn’t align with reality, such as when a child refuses to go to bed on Christmas Eve, it can be a source of significant stress.
“However, there are plenty of ways that various methods can help support a better sleep routine for children.”
James continued: “Firstly, ensure you create a cosy, dark, and quiet bedroom by investing in comfy blankets, heavy curtains, or eye masks, which could be especially helpful when Christmas lights are shining outside and the light is coming through the curtains.
“I would also recommend setting a digital curfew. It may be difficult to follow with exciting films and TV shows on around Christmas time and not forgetting new toys on Christmas day. However, limiting screen time is crucial, as the blue light from screens can disrupt sleep.
“As an alternative, why not buy some festive books to read with your child or engage in some Christmas crafts in the run-up to bedtime? Puzzle games, storytelling, or just having a relaxed bedtime conversation can help tire out your child while avoiding those pesky screens.”
In the run-up to bedtime, James also emphasised the importance of addressing any fears and anxiety that the child may be feeling. He said: “Providing reassurance and creating a comforting environment is vital, as the excitement of the holiday season can sometimes heighten children’s anxieties. Some children may have anxiety about Santa visiting the house, or there may be more deep rooted issues relating to sleep that need to be looked into.
He adds: “Ensure you open communication to allow children to express and work through their fears. Establishing a calming bedtime ritual, such as reading or gentle stretching, can also be beneficial. Providing a comfort object like a favourite stuffed animal, using a soft night light for those afraid of the dark, and creating positive narratives about Santa can help alleviate anxieties.”
For more persistent sleep-related concerns, James recommends consulting a child psychologist or sleep specialist. Additionally, maintaining consistent bedtime hours, even during the holidays, and introducing simple mindfulness or relaxation techniques can reinforce a sense of stability and security, ensuring a peaceful sleep environment for children during the festive period.
By implementing these strategies, parents can help ensure their children get the restful sleep they need, even during the excitement and bustle of the Christmas season.