By Kathryn Trudeau
Bedtime battles are hard enough without all the excitement of Santa Claus coming to visit. The anticipation of an exciting Christmas morning can make kids jittery, hyper, and nearly impossible to get to bed on time.
All hope isn’t lost though. With a little planning, you can create a cozy bedtime routine that will add to the festive spirit -- and help your child get a good night of sleep.
1. Start Early...and Stay Active
Bedtime routines don’t start 20 minutes before bed. On Christmas Eve, your bedtime routine may start well before the sun even sets! On Christmas Eve, try to schedule a walk around 2 p.m. Many studies show that both exercise and time spent outdoors actually helps you sleep better and fall asleep faster. Why? The sunshine helps to reset your circadian rhythm, and the exercise helps to get out the excited jitters.
While you’re outside, you can sing Christmas carols, play a festive version of I-Spy (focusing on Christmas decorations outdoors), or simply talk about your favorite holiday traditions. If you live near any woods, you can go for a Christmas Eve hike to see if anyone can find reindeer tracks, you can build a snowman, go sledding, or try ice-skating. All of these activities can put your kids in the holiday spirit while tiring them out, making for an easier bedtime later.
2. Don’t Deviate from Your Normal Bedtime Routine
Sometimes, just the deviation from your child’s normal bedtime routine can spell disaster. You don’t need to abandon your normal bedtime routine, but you can find ways to enhance it and make it more Christmasy.
For example, if your child usually takes a bath before bed, consider playing classical Christmas tunes while he or she bathes. You might also add a candy cane scented bath bomb. If you normally sing a lullaby or two, consider singing a softer Christmas carol instead of your normal lullaby.
Tip: Avoid pushing back your child’s bedtime.
3. Choose Your Bedtime Books Carefully
Reading books is a special part of most families’ bedtime routines, and choosing holiday-inspired books can make your reading time even cozier. As you read the stories, your child can look at the illustrations. If you have any illustrated holiday books in your stash, your child can imagine the pictures again as he drifts off to sleep.
Here’s a small sample of popular Christmas books for children:
- The Shepherd’s Treasure
- The Nutcracker
- The Night Before Christmas
- A Christmas Carol (picture book)
- The Legend of the Candy Cane
- The Polar Express
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas
4. Choose a Fun, Festive Bedtime Snack
Many children love to have one last snack before bedtime. Even though Santa eats cookies and milk, cookies might not be the best bedtime snack for kids. The sugar consumption so close to bed can make it harder for them to fall asleep. However, there are many tasty bedtime snacks that won’t sabotage the bedtime routine. Here are a few examples:
- A piece of whole wheat toast with almond butter (You can use a cookie cutter to cut out the bread into fun shapes: snowman shapes, stars, Santa shapes)
- A glass of warm milk with cinnamon (not cinnamon-sugar) sprinkled on top
- Apple slices and cheese (you can use a cookie cutter to make shapes out of cheese slices)
Why warm milk is a great tool: Whole milk contains tryptophan (the amino acid known to induce sleep) and melatonin, a hormone that helps create the sleepy feeling.
5. Make New Traditions
While it’s essential to get a good night of sleep on Christmas Eve, it’s also important to make the night stand out as extra special. There are many traditions you can adopt without sacrificing a good bedtime. Here is a list of fun traditions to make your Christmas Eve bedtime routine even cozier:
- Give everyone new Christmas pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve
- Read bedtime stories around the cuddled around the fireplace or Christmas Tree
- Set out cookies for Santa and carrots in the yard for the reindeer
- Let everyone open one present (a holiday book) and read the books together
Tip: If you anticipate any of your new traditions taking up a lot of time, start the process earlier so you can still get your kids to bed on time.
6. Use Cozy Lighting
Have you ever wondered why it’s so cozy and peaceful to sit around a fire? Unlike blue lights (the kind of light in your phone or tablet), orange lights help you fall asleep. The orange light triggers your circadian rhyme and signals “time for bed.” It’s why “night mode” on your devices turns your screen amber. Not only does orange light help you fall asleep, but it’s very soothing and cozy. Whether you light candles or sit by your fireplace, be sure to squeeze cozy, warm lighting into your bedtime routine.
What is your favorite Christmas Eve bedtime tradition?
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