Psychologist Shares 8 Rules to Guarantee Your Child Stays Asleep on Christmas Eve

It won’t be long before the schools break up for Christmas and that’s when the real chaos begins. And it’s safe to say, Christmas is far from a restful time if you are a parent…

To prepare adults who have excited little ones to contend with, Dr Lindsay Browning, psychologist, neuroscientist and sleep expert at And So To Bed explains what it is that stops children from falling asleep on Christmas Eve:

“Cortisol is our stress hormone and we usually only associate it with negative anxiety and stress. However, when we are excited, we also produce cortisol. In the evening, our cortisol levels usually decrease and that allows us to fall asleep more easily. 

“However, if you are very excited then your cortisol levels will remain elevated and you will find it hard to relax and fall asleep. This is why children can struggle to fall asleep on Christmas Eve when they are anticipating the excitement of Santa coming to visit.”

To equip all parents with a sleep strategy for Christmas Eve and guarantee they wake up on Christmas ready to tackle the events of the day, here are 8 expert-approved tips to follow:

1. Try to keep a similar pre-bedtime routine

If you always read your child a story before bed then do this on Christmas Eve too. If you normally give your child a bath in the evening before bed, do the same thing on Christmas Eve. 

The more routine we can stick to, theoretically, the easier it will be for children to fall asleep.

2. Be active during the day on Christmas Eve

As exercise is linked to better sleep, you may wish to take the children out during the day on Christmas Eve to do something active, such as going for a walk to see the neighbourhood Christmas lights or a play in the local park.

In addition, increasing your natural light exposure during the daytime can also improve sleep at night.

3. Arrange an acceptable wake up time the night before

Talk to your children and discuss an acceptable morning wake up time in advance. 

If they are old enough to tell the time then you can agree as a family that they are not to come in to wake you before 6 or 7 am, for instance. If your child is too young to tell the time, then you can use something like a Gro clock to indicate if it’s still morning or night time.

4. Avoid bright light before bedtime

As bright light from screens can significantly make falling asleep harder, try to avoid screen time close to bedtime. Especially damaging is the light emitted from iPads, phones and tablets because those are held so close to the face. 

For instance, it will be much better to watch a family Christmas movie on a television attached to the wall before bed rather than allowing your children to either game or watch YouTube videos on their personal devices.

5. No sweet treats before bed

Chocolate (either sweets or hot chocolate) is a bad pre-bedtime food for a few reasons. Firstly, chocolate contains caffeine which is a stimulant that can keep people awake, plus, since caffeine is a diuretic, it can make you more likely to wake in the night to go to the toilet, which would not be helpful with excitable children on Christmas morning. 

Secondly, chocolate tends to contain a lot of sugar which increases alertness and energy level (not conducive to sleep!). Lastly, the cocoa butter in chocolate is high in fat. Fatty foods eaten close to bedtime can overwhelm the digestive tract overnight (while the body is trying to digest the food while you are asleep) disrupting sleep.

6. Close doors

It’s an obvious step but one that’s often overlooked on the long list of to-dos the night before Christmas, but remember to keep their bedroom door closed to reduce the likelihood of the children waking up due to noise levels when ‘Santa’ is busy delivering presents.

7. Wrap or move presents an hour after you’ve put the kids to bed

Don’t forget to tell ‘Santa’ that around an hour after the children have fallen asleep is when they will be in their deepest sleep, and therefore least likely to wake up when he comes down the chimney!

8. Keep Christmas presents out of their bedroom

The key not only to getting your child to sleep but also preventing them from waking you up at a ridiculous hour is to not make the presents immediately visible to them. 

Top tip for Santa: put any presents in the lounge by the tree, then children will not wake up early and be able to see them at the end of their bed, encouraging them to get up at 4 or 5 in the morning.

Brenda Kimble

Brenda Kimble is an entrepreneur and mother of 2 daughters and a son, plus their beagle named Duke! She loves blogging, crafting, and spending time with her family.