The nightmare before Christmas: Six GP-approved tips to help your child sleep on Christmas Eve

Dreading trying to get over-excited children to bed on Christmas Eve? Here are six GP-approved tips to help them (and you!) get to sleep.

It’s Christmas Eve. You promised yourself this year you’d be on top of presents, but stuff happens. A couple of last-minute preparations should be stress-free so long as the kids go to bed early, right?

But it’s not that easy… putting excitable children to bed on Christmas Eve can be a nightmare! The prospect of Santa and his reindeers and all those presents to open on Christmas Day is enough to keep any child awake on Christmas Eve. 

Fear not, Dr Preethi Daniel from London Doctors Clinic has shared her six top tips on how to get your excitable child to bed and keep them well rested for the big day. This is especially important to let you wrap those last-minute gifts and finish up the prep for Christmas day dinner.

1) Set an early alarm

Wake them up early on Christmas Eve. Fill it with activities to fill their mind and tire out little arms and legs. Go for a walk, play in the playground, spend time with other children where they can tire each other out. 

There is research to suggest every inactive hour adds three minutes extra to get them to the land of Nod…that’s an extra three minutes that you could be spending wrapping those last minute presents.

2) Avoid watching TV

It’s so tempting on Christmas Eve to make hot chocolate and sit on the sofa with a blanket – and whilst that’s fine for us adults, it’s important to make sure that your child gets some fresh air if you want them to sleep well.

In fact, research has found that children sleep better at night if they’ve had some fresh air that day. So, switch the Christmas movie off and take them to the park.

3) Stick to your normal routine and make sure they know the plan

It can be so hard when everyone is unbelievably excited but the best way to get your child to sleep is not to waiver from your usual routine. 

It is important to inform them of the plan for the day: breakfast, movie, baking, food, play time, movie and bedtime. Consistency is key.

4) Make sure they know when bedtime is

Giving your child notice about when their bedtime is – particularly on Christmas Eve – will help them know when it’s time to begin to wind down. And the more notice that you can give them, the more they will be aware that there is no negotiation. 

5) Consider introducing an earlier bedtime

If you’re really concerned about how long it might take for them to fall asleep, consider introducing an earlier bedtime. However, be prepared for them to wake even earlier come Christmas morning! 

6) Know the signs

Pounce on subtle signs of tiredness and sleepiness. This is your opportunity to get them to their bedroom, start their wind down and get them settled in. 

Children always fight the urge to sleep, even more so with the thought of presents to wake up to but it’s important to not let them get overtired. This is when they tend to become hyper. If they really don’t feel tired, allow them to play quietly in their room, with the lights low for a certain amount of time, before insisting that they must get into bed. 

Later on, remind them that Santa can’t come and give them their presents unless they’re fast asleep. 

Read more sleep tips

Do you often struggle to get your children to sleep – or fall asleep yourself? You’ll find more advice in these articles:

By Doctor Preethi Daniel, Medical Director at London Doctors Clinic.

Photo by Annie Spratt