Tips for Avoiding Holiday Sleep Disruptions

Here we are, in the thick of holiday celebrations and events! This time of year brings so much fun and joy – but it can also bring bedtime battles, middle of the night wakings and early rising. Traveling and visiting relatives can also put pressure on you to break routine, which increases the likelihood of sleep disruptions.

I’ve gathered some tips to review as we head into this busy season, knowing that flexibility will be needed as you navigate the holidays.

1. Work to Maintain Consistency

I feel like I sometimes sound like a broken record when I talk about routine and consistency, but it’s so important for our little ones! When we provide the environment and routine that makes them feel safe and secure, they are much more likely to be cooperative at naptime and bedtime. Knowing that it’s not always possible during the holidays, sitting down to formulate a plan before you begin your adventures is something I highly recommend. For example, if you are traveling out of town, try to stay in the same location throughout the trip if possible (versus switching houses/hotels, etc.). This will help to provide a consistent sleep space while you are away.

If you are staying close to home for the holidays, be your child’s sleep advocate and try to protect their bedtime as much as possible. If there is going to be a late night – which by all means I encourage you to enjoy yourselves – plan ahead with possibly a later or third nap and have less hectic activities the rest of the day leading up to the event.

2. Travel – Prepare Accordingly

If you are traveling across time zones for the holidays, work to transition your child to the local time the day you arrive. Some say that for every hour of time zone travel, it will take the same amount of days to adjust. That’s tough if you are traveling across 3 time zones – but there are some things you can do to help them acclimate. Check out this article from Kim West, The Sleep Lady, that outlines some insights and direction on how to go about helping your child adjust.

Traveling Through Time Zones

You may also be making some longer trips in the car and/or traveling on a plane for the first time. Kim also outlines some wonderful guidance on ideas for creating  game-plan to help your child through a potentially long travel day.

The Sleep Lady’s Top Travel Tips for the Holidays

3. Bring Home Wherever You Go

Familiar smells, sights, and sounds can all help your child become comfortable in an unfamiliar location. Bring along their lovey, sheets (if possible), sound machine, night light; all of the things that they use for sleep at home. If your child needs a separate sleep space like a crib or pack n’ play, make sure a safe sleeping space will be available if you are not bringing one along on your trip.

4. Remain Flexible

Some children handle changes to their routine better than others. Try to stick to their normal schedule as much as possible, but by all mean enjoy the holiday season and your family. Watch your child closely on those days where you may not be following their normal routine and pay attention to when they reach their limit. Pushing them further than they can handle will only result in a challenging night for both them and you if they become extremely overtired. If you are going to be out late, consider bringing along the pack n’ play and putting your child to bed, then transferring them home when it is time to leave – some children can handle this transition better than others and it’s one to be used sparingly.

5. Give Time to Recuperate

If you end up experiencing regression on sleep progress, know that getting back on track is possible. Be consistent in your coaching and responses and go back to using the Sleep Lady Shuffle if you have previously done coaching.  After you regroup and spend a few days focused on providing that consistent support and routine, your child will be right back to where they were before your hectic holiday season.

Wishing you all a very Happy Holidays and wonderful New Year’s!

About Elizabeth Sarles

Elizabeth Sarles is a Certified Gentle Sleep Coach and the owner of Nite & Day. She lives in Edina, Minnesota with her husband Lien, two little guys – Lien and Harrison, and her first baby (and bed-hog), Eddie the Yorkie.

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