Keep Your Child on a Sleep Schedule During the Holidays

A Special Series on Sleep and Parenting

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation

As cute as seasonal jammies are, the holidays can do a number on kids’ sleep routines. With school on a hiatus, migrating meal schedules, and family and friends pouring on exciting new toys and treats, it can be tempting to give up on getting your child to sleep until the New Year’s confetti settles. But unless you want the Grinch at your holiday table—not to mention major sleep wars when school starts again—it’s best not to throw all healthy habits to the wind. Learn how to help your little one get more zzz's, while still letting him or her enjoy all the hoopla.

Be Realistic With Your Plans.

Kids can be adaptable—to a point. But depending on your child’s age, a dinner that starts with cocktails at 7:00pm may simply not be in the cards. If it’s a festive affair with family members or close friends, consider asking the host well in advance if there might be a way to shift the schedule to be more family-friendly. Otherwise, consider a babysitter for the evening, or simply make another plan that better suits your family’s needs.

Find Consistency Where You Can.

If late nights are a must, try to keep naptime sacred. On the other hand, if naps have flown the coop, do your best to have your kids maintain a normal bedtime routine. Even a slightly later bedtime may be harmless—as long as it’s consistent and your child is able to sleep later to still log the hours that he needs. And if you’re traveling, consider bringing along a pillow, blanket, or another familiar object that your child associates with sleep to help him hit the sack.

Make Time To Chill.

Holidays can be a blast—there's no doubt about it. But all that stimulation from new toys and doting relatives can leave kids wired. And that doesn’t make it any easier to go to sleep when it’s time. To ease the transition to bedtime, resist the urge to keep playing with your little one until the last possible second and pencil in time to wind down. Put the toys away, dim the lights, and read a book to calm down, for example.

Reverse the Damage.

Had your fun and survived the holidays? Start thinking about getting back to a normal routine before school starts again. If bedtime has shifted later than usual, gradually push it earlier by 15 minutes a night to make sure that your tot is getting the healthy sleep that she needs.