Christmas excitement can quickly turn into no sleep for your kids (and therefore you). Save your holiday with these seven tips for getting kids to sleep.
Christmas is right around the corner, and your kids know it. Their excitement will build and build all season long until Christmas Eve arrives and they can’t fall asleep. Some of them might sneak out at night to take a peek at what Santa brought. And others might stay up all night talking and laughing with their siblings, making Christmas Day exhausting for everyone.
Excitement is good, but only if everyone has enough energy for it.
From bedtime stories to good ole bargaining, here are some tips for getting kids to sleep so that everyone enjoys Christmas.
How to Get Kids to Sleep on Christmas Eve
1. Keep Up Your Routines
As humans, over 80 percent of our actions are automatic. That’s why it’s so hard to break a habit; everything is a routine! Your regular bedtime routine signals to the children that it’s time to wind down, which is why you don’t want to change that, even for a holiday.
If you don’t already have a routine, start now by adding calming activities. This could include activities like reading a story, taking a warm bath, or listening to soft music. And for Christmas Eve, although it’s special, you don’t want it to be too special because that would just get the kids excited all over again. Instead, add the festivity in small ways, such as a holiday-themed story or singing quiet Christmas songs.
2. Sugar Isn’t the Problem, But It Could Be the Solution
Children and sugar is one of the great parables of parenthood: the child who eats sugar on the night before Christmas shall not sleep! Although sugar often gets a bad rap, studies have shown that sugar probably isn’t what’s causing your child’s hyperactivity. Instead, it’s more likely the excitement. So what does this mean if you’re trying to get your child to sleep on Christmas Eve?
Getting your kids to sleep, although it doesn’t hinge fully on sugar, might be easier if you manage how much sugar they eat, especially in comparison to foods that will promote health for their growing bodies. Too many sweets, and the day will feel extremely special, and therefore your kids will get more excited. A normal amount of sweets paired with healthy foods that will make their bodies feel better, and the day will still feel special, but your kid will find it easier to sleep.
3. Create a Cozy Atmosphere
When you think of a cozy place, you might picture a fireplace, fuzzy blankets, fluffy pillows, and hot chocolate. But the one requirement for cozy that you probably don’t think of is cold temperature. You need cold weather for cozy to actually be cozy, and that includes your house thermostat.
Experts say that the ideal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit For infants, you might consider one or two degrees warmer. Since our body temperature drops while we sleep, a colder environment will make it easier to fall asleep—and make our blankets feel cozier. Aside from ensuring the temperature is best for getting kids to sleep, you can also make their bedrooms a comfortable and cozy space. Use soft lighting, warm blankets, and perhaps some holiday decorations to create a soothing environment. This has the added benefit of making the holiday even more special.
4. Santa Knows When You’re Awake
“He knows when you are sleeping. He knows when you’re awake.” What was once fun folklore for kids is now the best tool parents could ask for. Just saying that Santa can’t come until everyone is asleep will often be enough to get your kids to sleep on Christmas Eve. But the question is, when should your kids go to sleep?
Consistency is key. As mentioned above, our brains are creatures of habit, and one hour could be the difference between sleepy and manic. Kids should stick as close to their regular bedtime as possible. Consistency helps regulate their sleep patterns, even during the excitement of Christmas. This is the time to start talking to your kids about the importance of getting a good night’s sleep so they can enjoy Christmas Day to the fullest.
If setting a bedtime isn’t enough to get your kid to sleep, create a countdown timer. You can count down to bedtime or until the time Santa is expected to arrive. This can help build anticipation in a positive way and signal when it’s time to start winding down.
5. Holiday Games or Crafts?
When you’re looking for something fun to do with your family during the holiday, you probably gravitate toward games and movies. While fun, sometimes it can get too fun for kids. Instead, if you want to get kids to sleep, encourage activities that promote relaxation, such as coloring, drawing, reading, or doing a simple holiday-themed craft.
That’s not to say that you can’t play games or watch action-packed movies, but once the sun goes down, it’s time to avoid stimulating activities. You can try for a quiet movie that ends just before bedtime, or a low-energy game with soft music in the background. But if your family is competitive, perhaps you should save these exciting activities for earlier in the day.
6. Create a “Santa’s Helper” Routine
Kids love to be helpful, especially if they’re helping Santa. Encourage the idea that getting a good night’s sleep on Christmas Eve will make them better helpers for Santa. Explain that Santa needs everyone to be well-rested to assist with all the Christmas preparations. And then add in a few little tasks to their holiday bedtime routine.
Kids can help Santa by putting out milk and cookies, leaving a gift for Santa, making sure Santa can find their stockings, turning on all the Christmas lights, and doing any other small task to prepare the house and themselves for sleep. Taking this extra time during their bedtime routine will tire them out more quickly and motivate them to go to sleep. Especially if they open the present Santa delivered early to find comfy, cozy pajamas.
7. The Last Trick: For When Excitement Has Become Bedtime Mania
Although excitement makes the holidays fun, that excitement can sometimes be too intense for your little one. This big emotion can lead to agitation, hyperactivity, and even disappointment. If they express worries or excitement that are a bit out of control, reassure them and offer comfort. Sometimes, a few minutes of quiet conversation can help calm their nerves before bed. But if this is a constant, your child might benefit from some mindful techniques.
Zen exercises, while usually reserved for calming anxious adults, can be a great way for getting kids to sleep. Teach your kids simple relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or guided imagery to help them relax. This will ease the excitement they’ve felt all day to something more manageable, giving everyone the chance to have a great night’s sleep before the big day.
The Best Christmas Books for Your Bedtime Routine
Lit for Little Hands
A Christmas Carol
The Gifts of the Animals
Shaelyn Topolovec earned a BA in editing and publishing from BYU, worked on several online publications, and joined the Familius family. Shae is currently an editor and copywriter who lives in California’s Central Valley.