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Holiday Sleep Tips

I know that a lot of us are staying home for the holidays this year, however it is still that time of year when a lot of people will pack up and hit the road to spend the holidays with their loved ones. Whether you are staying home or heading out of town, the holidays can really disrupt a child’s sleep. So here are your 12 holiday sleep tips to help make your child's holiday sleep go a little smoother!

You Call the Shots
You are ultimately the one that has the last word on what your child’s sleep schedule looks like. If there are plans with family or friends that don’t line up with what would work best for your family’s sleep schedule, then you might need to skip out on a few activities to keep your sanity and your child’s sleep from derailing. Many times if we push our little ones to their sleep limits, we pay the price with more tantrums and meltdowns, which doesn’t make for the best company. More than likely the time spent with your visitors will be much more enjoyable if you keep your kiddos well rested by keeping their sleep a priority.

Be Realistic with Your Holiday Plans
It is very tempting to attend every invited event during the holidays, but pushing the limits with sleep due to over planning has the potential to end very badly for everyone. Do yourself a favor and decide ahead of time which events are a must to attend and which ones you can sacrifice in order to keep your littles one on a consistent sleep schedule.

One or the Other
If late nights are a must while visiting with loved ones, then make sure to keep your baby’s naps a priority. Vice versa, if you know that a good nap schedule will be difficult to manage during the day, make sure to make a reasonable bedtime a priority so that your little one is not accumulating a large amount of sleep debt.

Wind Down
With the holidays comes excitement! The parties, sugar, presents, and good company can greatly ramp up the excitement for our children. With so much stimulation happening during the day, it is important to create time in the evenings to wind down and relax. Sometime before starting a bedtime routine, create a calm environment by turning down the lights and reading a book or cuddling to create a calm and soothing mood.

Begin the Trip Well Rested
If you are traveling, the last thing you want to do is arrive at your destination already exhausted. Make sure to travel during the day verses night time. Nobody sleeps well while traveling at night, so do yourself a favor and plan to travel when it’s light outside. Also try to time your travels around your baby’s nap schedule if possible. If your baby sleeps well in the car, plan on traveling during a nap time to get him some good daytime sleep. If your baby isn’t feeling the car naps, get him at least one good nap at home for the first and possibly second nap, and then hit the road after he wakes up. It is also best to plan on having his first sleep period in the new environment be bedtime since that is when children are most ready for sleep.

Set Up a Comfy Sleep Space
Sleeping in a new space can be a little scary and lead to some hesitation from your little one. To help with this, try to set up a space that is as similar to their room at home as possible. Make sure to bring their night light, sleep clock, sound machine and anything else that reminds them of their room. Also, have them pack a few stuffed animals with them in case they need some extra cuddles at night. It is also important to keep the space dark and cool to help elevate melatonin levels and keep their bodies comfortable while they sleep.

Keep a Consistent Bedtime Routine with Some Extra Hugs
A bedtime routine is a really good cueing system for your child’s body that sleep is coming. If you are traveling, make sure to keep your child’s bedtime routine as similar to the one they have at home as possible. If your child is having a hard time falling asleep the first couple of nights in their new sleep environment, give them extra hugs and cuddles to assure them that they are safe, and then encourage them to fall asleep the same way they do at home.

Follow the 80/20 Rule
My general rule to preserve good sleep habits is to try to stay on a consistent sleep schedule about 80% of the time and then you can be a little more lenient the other 20% of the time. This means 1 day of leniency for every 5 days of having a consistent schedule. 80% might seem like a lot, but if you have a baby with sensitive sleep needs, keeping to this rule will help keep his healthy sleep habits intact.

Have a Conversation
Moving plans around and sticking to a good sleep schedule might mean having some hard conversations ahead of time with your family members or hosts. Letting them know your scheduling boundaries and limitations due to your children’s sleep schedule right from the beginning will help eliminate any awkwardness or unnecessary tension before the holiday events actually take place. I am sure they would appreciate the heads up as well in case any plans need to be adjusted or moved around.

Balance the Sweets
Often during the holidays diets get infiltrated with lots of sugar which can affect your children’s mood and even their sleep. Try to balance the sugar by offering options that have a little bit of protein. So, if your child has Captain Crunch for breakfast, also offer him a piece of bacon or egg to go with it. Also be sure to have some snacks available on hand such as string cheese or yogurt to offer when your child is hesitant about what is being offered at someone else's table.
Get Creative with the Sleep Space
Sometimes it is a little more difficult to find a space your baby can call their own when traveling. This is where you might need to get a little creative and think outside of the box to find them a sleep space they can call their own. Look into using a bathroom or a walk in closet for a space to park that Pack N Play. If you are in a situation where you need to share a room, make sure you can create as much space as possible between your bed and the Pack N Play so if your baby wakes up at night, he is not right next to you calling for your attention.

Don’t Panic
If your little one's sleep has regressed over the holidays, don't panic! When you get back home go right back to a consistent routine and sleep schedule. If their bedtime has shifted to a later time, try shifting their bedtime 15 minutes earlier each night until they are back to their original bedtime. It might take a week or so for their bodies to recover from the holiday sleep (or lack thereof), but rest assure they will be sleeping well again soon.

I hope these holiday sleep tips will help you navigate your little one’s sleep over the next couple of weeks. If after the holidays are over and you need some guidance on how to get your child’s sleep on track reach out to us at to set up a free call! 

About the author

Amanda Medley

Why didn’t we try this sooner?! As we speak he is sound asleep in his crib – and has been since 7:15 pm.

Karianne Wanggaard

Sleep Well Sleep Specialists

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Working with Shannon, I went from 2-3 wake ups every night to 1 or 0. She aligned the plan with my preferred sleep cycle. She was always coaching, never judging. Shannon was great, I have referred MANY people to her! That's the best testament to her work that I can give.

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