It’s hard to get to sleep before a big event, even for us adults, so you can’t blame kids for finding it tricky to nod off on Christmas Eve. The next day is about as exciting as it gets, with an actual magic person coming to their house in the night and delivering presents.
Thinking about it, that poem, The Night Before Christmas, is nonsense – the mouse will absolutely be stirring, the children will refuse to go to bed, and going to sleep in yourself is a long way off.
So what can you do to make things a little easier on the eve of Christmas Eve?
1. Try this milk drink
Milk contains melatonin, a hormone that helps create the urge to nod off – and it also contains the sleep-inducing amino acid, tryptophan.
“You can try warm full-fat milk with a little honey to make the holiday sweet,” suggests Dr. Harvey Karp, a paediatrician and author of Happiest Baby on the Block. “Milk has tryptophan and fat that promote sleep.”
2. Use white noise
Karp also suggests white noise to help cover up overexcited thoughts – a type of noise produced by combining sounds of different frequencies together – but you can’t produce it on Christmas Eve and expect it to work. “It may be a good idea to start this before Christmas so the child can get used to the sound. Start it in the house an hour before bedtime and play it all night at around 68 dB, the level of a soft conversation,” he says.
You can find these on YouTube, as well as through online apps – all for free.
3. Don’t alter the routine
“Try to maintain their usual bedtime routine,” says child sleep consultant Maryanne Taylor, of The Sleep Works. “Avoid pushing bedtime later, as this will exacerbate the hysteria of the situation due to a release of cortisol.”
“Avoid pushing bedtime later.”
Christmas Eve is a special occasion, of course, but so is Christmas Day itself. With older children, Taylor suggests setting a wake-up time on the clock for Christmas morning, to avoid excessively early starts and make sure everyone gets enough shut-eye.
4. Use warming lights
Cosy lighting can also help with getting to sleep – and if you’re lucky enough to be around a roaring fire, that will work wonders. “Unlike the bright and blue lights that come from electrical devices, which reduce melatonin and delay sleep, the kind of warm orange light you get sitting in front of a fire helps to soothe the brain and prepare us for sleep,” says Karp.
And once they’re asleep...
There are, of course, various sleep stages children will go through, some of which are less deep than others. Santa might want to consult a tool like this sleep calculator, which helps figure out when your little one is least likely to be woken up by presents arriving, carrots being bitten, or the sound of a festive glug of well-earned brandy.