Avoiding The Bedtime Battle On Christmas Eve

Christmas becomes all the more magical when there are children involved. But one thing few parents look forward to is getting their child to sleep on Christmas Eve – when the excitement of the Big Man’s imminent arrival reaches fever pitch. Here are my top tips for avoiding bedtime battles on the most exciting night of the year…

  1. Get outside during the day

Come rain or shine, getting outside during the day gives children a head-start when bedtime comes around. Fresh air and physical exertion are great for sleep so whether it’s a bike ride, a family walk or some football in the garden, outdoor activity gives little ones a constructive outlet for their pent-up excitement. The earlier in the day you can do this the better as, perhaps counterintuitively, it’s actually early-morning exposure to natural daylight that is most helpful when it comes to helping to prime the body for sleep at bedtime. 

  1. Maintain as much consistency as possible

The younger a child is, the more driven they are by what time it feels like. Consistent events such as mealtimes help to keep the body-clock anchored and help a child to anticipate when periods of sleep are approaching. When mealtimes move, the internal mechanisms which ready us for sleep have a harder job predicting when to react. So if you can, keep your usual daily pattern intact. 

  1. Be screen-savvy

Everyone loves a Christmas film and snuggling up together to watch your favourite festive movie is an integral part of Christmas for many families. Most experts agree that ditching screens for the last one-to-two hours of the day is a good idea, and certainly for younger or more sensitive children, keeping screen-use earlier in the day can have a huge impact on how easily, or not, they find settling to sleep. 

  1. Sugar baby

Whilst sweet-treats and Christmas are somewhat synonymous, and no one apart from the Grinch would suggest these are banned, avoiding high-sugar foods in the evening is worthwhile. This is particularly the case with chocolate, which contains the double-whammy of sugar and caffeine – the nemesis combination of sound sleep. 

  1. Don’t push bedtime too late

Logic tells us that a tired child is more likely to fall asleep – and whilst that’s true, an overtired child is likely to do anything but sleep. This is due to the additional wakeful hormones we secrete to “keep-going” through exhaustion. Overtired children are likely to be emotional, unreasonable and awake…very, very awake, so keeping them up late on Christmas Eve in the hope of a smooth bedtime has the potential to become an epic fail. One sneaky trick that works well is to nudge the clocks forward by an hour or two when your child isn’t looking – that way, they feel the excitement of having a late night without losing any sleep!  

  1. Stick to your bedtime routine in full

If timings have slipped a little, it can be tempting to abridge your usual bedtime routine to claw back some time. Whilst this works for some children, some of the time, more often it sees children taking even longer to settle to sleep. Children thrive on predictability and a consistent and positive bedtime routine is one of the easiest ways to help children to sleep well. When steps are missed, this can throw small people seriously off-track and ultimately make it harder for them to prepare their bodies and brains for rest. 

  1. Don’t resort to threats

We’ve all been there…when a child is bouncing around their bedroom at 10 pm on Christmas Eve, the threat that Santa won’t be visiting if they don’t get into bed and go to sleep this instant can feel like the only weapon in the parental arsenal. But wound-up, dysregulated brains don’t switch off – even if a child actually really wants to go to sleep on a conscious level. Instead of upping the ante with raised voices and ultimatums, focus on calming and regulating your child – or better still, trust Koko and company to work their magic to send your small person off into a restful sleep

Whatever happens, your child will go to sleep sooner or later – and the calmer you can be, the quicker it’s likely to happen. So, if you can, try not to leave too much wrapping and other Christmas prep until late on Christmas Eve – the more you can radiate an air of, “we have as long as it takes for you to fall asleep”, the easier bedtime is likely to be! As an added bonus, if your arrangements are in place and your little one settles well, you can take the opportunity for an early yourself, because there is nothing to be done to persuade small people to sleep in on Christmas morning!