Wednesday, 21 February 2018
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Christmas & New Year 2017

How to Get Your Kids to Sleep the Night Before Christmas

Getting young children into their beds and staying there can challenge parents at the best of times, let alone the night before Christmas.

With one in three adults having to jump out of bed on Christmas morning between 4 and 7am, to help you get some shuteye, sleep expert from the University of Oxford, and co-founder of digital sleep improvement programme Sleepio, Professor Colin Espie, offers five top tips to get your kids off to sleep before Santa stops by...

1. Be active during the day

Regular exercise can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep through the night. One Australian study found that every hour a child spends inactive adds three minutes to the time taken to nod off. Take a break from Christmas movies and head to the park to help expend excess energy in good time before bed.  

2.  Stick to bedtime routines and rituals

A consistent bedtime routine, or a set of specific 'rituals' before lights out, will signal that it's time to sleep. Preparing for bed in the same order each night (such as a bath, brushing teeth, stories, goodnight hug), will help with readiness for sleep. Bringing familiar bedding, toys and books will help them to relax and feel secure if you are away from home.  

3. Act before your child gets overtired

Young children are often reluctant to admit that they're tired – even more so when the alternative to bed is playing with shiny new toys. Look for signs of sleepiness before your child starts to be overtired, which is often the driver for 'hyper' behaviour. Try to start the bedtime routine at a consistent time. If they really don't feel tired, they can play quietly in their bed or crib with the lights low. If you notice that your child is often overtired at night, experiment by shifting the whole bedtime routine forwards by 15-30 minutes.

4.  Give plenty of notice

Give plenty of notice when bedtime is coming up, and then stick to what you’ve said: “In 10 minutes the cartoon will end and it’ll be bathtime, and then we’ll have time for two books.” A timer which rings when playtime runs out could be a useful ‘independent’ signal that it’s time for bed. If your child refuses to stay in bed, try to avoid giving extra attention for bad behaviour. Be as neutral and uninteresting as you can as you return your child to bed, even if you have to do this a few times. Consistency is key – even at Christmas – to help the whole family sleep well.

5. And if all else fails...

If you have a house full of guests, your child may understandably feel as though they are missing out on all the excitement by going up to bed. If you’ve followed the tips above and still have a stubborn and weary young one hanging onto the bannisters in slumber-protest: the suggestion that Father Christmas only leaves presents for children who are asleep might just be enough incentive to encourage lights out. At least that’s what the elves told me.

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