Monday 25 September 2017

Christmas sleep solutions

Late nights, visits to relatives and the small matter of waiting up for Santa can disrupt your child's sleep schedule over the Christmas period. Sleep expert Lucy Wolfe has the solution

Picture posed
Picture posed

As the Christmas holidays and fun approaches, you may want to have a quick think about your child's sleep practices for the festive period. It can be such an exciting time for young children, but it is also a busy time with extra activities and holiday visitors, along with late nights and possible stays away from home.

While you need to embrace the merriment, be mindful about how your little one's sleep can be affected. Over-tiredness, over-excitement and travel can mean that you get less sleep than normal, with some families finding that issues that arise over Christmas can linger well into the new year.

Ideally, in the run-up to the festive period, you would do your best to have your young child optimally rested. That way they will be more tolerant of schedule changes and lost sleep.

Ultimately, you know your child best, but if you observe that he is normally slow to warm up or not very adjustable, or seems sensitive to being over-tired, then you will need to preserve and maintain your current sleep practices as much as possible.

Of course, you need to have fun. But your fun could be impaired if your child starts to resist sleep, wakes frequently and early and is fussy with their food and unable to enjoy themselves because they have built up a sleep debt.

I am aware that lots of parents may decide to help their child give up the dummy or the bottle and give it to Santa. I would proceed with caution here. That is a huge adjustment and may affect everyone's enjoyment at Christmas time and, crucially, may affect your child's sleep ability, especially if they have been using the dummy or bottle at sleep time.

I would save big changes for the new year. Furthermore, I don't recommend that you work on your child's sleep this time of year, unless you are able to be home on time for bedtime and won't miss daytime sleep, and if you are not planning on staying away from home even if just for a night or two. Any of these elements will affect your efforts and may make it hard to establish different sleep practices and are best addressed in 2017.

Sleeping away from home

Many families will travel to be with loved ones this yuletide, so Christmas-proof your child's sleep with the following tips:

1 Ideally travel during the day and arrive at your location in advance of sleep time. This way you can acclimatise your child to their new sleep room.

2 Don't forget your familiar items - the music that you normally play and familiar books that you routinely read.

3 Ensure that you are providing a good sleep space - a cot (travel or conventional) or bed if that is where your child normally sleeps. Bring with you the sheets from their cot at home that they slept on the night before so they can smell their familiar environment.

4 Try to keep bedtime as similar as possible, both timing-wise and procedure. Consider adding an extra 10 minutes to your bedtime routine to help ease them into the unfamiliar environment.

5 If you are room sharing when you normally don't, then move the cot or bed as far away as you can.

6 Avoid sharing the bed if you don't normally so that you don't create an expectation when you arrive home.

7 If you are travelling through time zones, get straight into the location time.

8 Re-establish your typical sleep routine as soon as you arrive home.

How to manage holiday naps

1 Try not to deviate too much from your usual nap schedule.

2 You can adjust naps forward or back as much as you feel your child will tolerate.

3 Don't allow your child to over-sleep by day as it may affect their night-time sleep, but allow some extra duration or additional sleeps in the day.

4 Travel on the nap if your child readily sleeps in the car, and travel directly after the nap if they won't sleep in the car.

5 Remember that some of your naps can be in the car or buggy, but don't be inclined to miss a nap.

6 If you have had some late nights, offer a nap to an older child who doesn't normally nap.

7 Try not to have too many late nights in a row and keep the wake time around the same as normal, but allow a slightly longer first or second nap to catch up on missed sleep.

Above all, have a wonderful Christmas time with your family and friends and look forward to a rested 2017.

Lucy Wolfe, CGSC, MAPSC, is a paediatric sleep consultant and mum of four young children. She runs a private sleep consulting practice where she provides knowledge, expertise and valuable support to families across the country. See sleepmatters.ie;

t: 087 268 3584 or e: lucy@sleepmatters.ie

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