Published: 06:00, 24 December 2021
Getting children to bed nicely on Christmas Eve is likely to be top of many families' festive to-do lists.
Last-minute preparations for the big day should be straightforward, so long as the kids settle down on time.
But putting excitable children to bed on Christmas Eve can be a long, drawn-out process as thoughts of Santa, reindeer and presents keep small minds wide awake.
Here are our five top tips for getting your little ones to sleep on December 24.
1. Set an early alarm and keep active
A good Christmas Eve routine starts with getting children up early in the morning, say the sleep experts. Avoid letting them lay in even if the peace and quiet is tempting and would allow you to tick a few jobs from the list.
Advisory organisation The Sleep Council says that preparation for the best Christmas Eve bedtime routine begins much earlier in the day. And that if families can find the time, a hefty dose of fresh air, a walk, a cycle or a play in the park will also pay dividends later.
Being outside not only tires your children out and may make them easier to settle later but will also increase your child’s vitamin D intake, which can in turn boost their serotonin and stop them from feeling so sleepy.
It might also mean that you can cut out the often problematic afternoon nap in favour of a marginally earlier bedtime.
2. Watch their sugar intake
We all know the effect that a sudden injection of sugar can have on youngsters.
If you're aiming for a quiet and calm evening routine the Sleep Council suggests not letting them over indulge in sweets and sugary snacks and definitely not too close to bedtime – even if it is Christmas Eve!
On the flip side, there are foods that can have the opposite effect.
The sleep experts working with Mattress Next Day say that foods such as oat biscuits, bananas and milk contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which can help children feel more drowsy and, therefore, more likely to fall asleep.
3. Limit screen time and gaming devices
In more recent years keeping an eye on Santa tracker apps have become a popular activity. But once you've taken one last look at the sleigh's location in the world try and banish any form of electronic gaming ahead of bedtime.
Whilst it may seem reasonable to put a Christmas film on for your children before they go to sleep, the light emitted from the TV or a tablet can trick their mind into thinking it’s daytime, keeping them awake for longer.
Where possible keep Christmas films for the morning or early afternoon of Christmas Eve, and keep them away from any electronic devices at least two hours before bedtime.
Instead try settling down with books or a quiet game before bed such as a puzzle. Taking them away, briefly, from the excitement of the impending festivities can often help calm their minds as well.
4. Enjoy a warm drink
When children are leaving a festive drink out for Santa, encourage them to have one themselves.
The Sleep Council suggests making a 'Snowman Smoothie' which can include bananas, oats, milk and plain yoghurt – said to be both healthy and sleep inducing!
Walton Holcomb at sleep organisation The Dozy Owl said – while not the healthiest option – a milky hot chocolate close to bedtime could also help.
He added: "A lovely relaxing warm drink can really put you in the right mental state to drift off. Although not something you should give your children regularly, as a treat at Christmas it could be the perfect way to help your child sleep."
5. Stick to your normal routine and make plans clear
It can be hard when the house is so excited but aim for a normal routine where possible.
The Sleep Council recommends a calm bath close to bedtime to help children wind down and parents can use this time to talk to their children about what the night will bring and what they should do if they find themselves awake in the night.
And if you're really concerned about how long it might take for them to fall asleep you can always consider introducing a marginally earlier bedtime or failing that at least moving them to their bedrooms a little earlier whilst keeping the lighting low and noise to a minimum.
Finally, remind them Santa can’t come and give them their presents unless they’re fast asleep!