How to get the family to sleep this Christmas Eve

Because no evening of the year comes close to the difficulty of getting children to sleep on Christmas Eve...


A heady concoction of pre-Christmas day sugar, St Nicholas speculation and raw excitement means it is near to impossible to get tots to bed for more than a few hours.

The folks at Sleepy People want both you and your children to have a good night's sleep, so here are their top tips to get tots to sleep on Christmas Eve:

1. Have an active Christmas Eve

It's scientifically proven that exercising can help us sleep, and you'll probably have had experiences in the past (day trips, long walks, visits to the park) which have truly exhausted your children through the day, seeing them heading for bead extra early. If you can find the time on Christmas Eve, head out and be active.

2. Keep sugar to a minimum

While this seems a bit obvious, it's trickier than it sounds. Over the festive period many of us over indulge and buy far too much chocolate and treats for everyone to get through by the first week of January. Of course, no-one loves sugary treats more than your children, and we all know how it can affect bedtime routines if it has been gorged on too close to lights out.

3. Stick to their normal routine

There's no hiding the fact to your children that Santa and his reindeers will soon be overhead, but that doesn’t mean you should alter their bedtime routine. You work hard during the normal working week to get them into a routine, and changing it will only reinforce the idea in their heads that something interesting is on the horizon.

4. Keep distracted

This works for both you and your children, and is something you can incorporate into their bedtime routine. Depending on their age, try reading a story, playing them an audio book or getting them into reading. These activities are better than watching television or playing on a tablet as your eyes and brain are engaging less. As an adult alternative, there are thousands of podcasts available that can ease you to sleep later on and could replace that pre-bed TV.

5. Set present opening times

Your little one's excitement will often force them up in the early hours of the morning, assuming that because they are awake it's time to open presents. To make sure they don’t leave their rooms until it's at least light outside, continuously remind them of a specific time that you're opening presents. This is particularly helpful if your children are a little older and can tell the time, as you can leave them with a clock to check instead of disturbing you every hour.

6. Have a pre-bedtime bath

One proven method to help anyone get to sleep is to have a nice relaxing bath. This works not dissimilarly to exercise in the sense that the natural cooling down of the body following the bath helps us relax, and is therefore a great thing for just before your child's bedtime.

7. Try warm milk

While it might not be the favoured bedtime drink of everyone, milk has science on its side to help you and your children off to the land of nod. Milk contains a sleep-inducing enzyme called tryptophan. If you really hate the idea of milk, a little late snack of cheese (particularly hard and mature) and crackers can help as well.

8. A little tipple

This is most definitely a tip for you as parents and NOT your children. Many of us leave at least a little of the present wrapping until the kids are in bed on Christmas Eve, either because of a particularly tricky present or because of lack of time. If you're a fan of the wine, then a good glass of merlot is sure to do the trick. Grapes contain melatonin in a form similar to the hormone we produce which tells us it's time for bed. Red is particularly better than white because it's made using the grape’s skin, whereas white isn’t.

9. Get cosy

Having the correct duvet and pillows during the winter can make a huge difference to you and your family's sleep. Way ahead of Christmas you should make sure you have a warm enough duvet, the right pillow and bedding so you have the perfect place to drift off on any night of the week.

10. Tell them Santa won’t visit

Yes, this is certainly the last resort because it’s so cruel, but if your children are defying the other tips then what else can you do? Those earth-crushing words “go to bed or Santa won’t come” will see them flee under their duvet before you can say Scrooge. This is by far the meanest thing you can do, so please only break this glass in case of a metaphorical fire.

We hope you can overcome your children’s excitement and get them to sleep this year, you've earned it mums!

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