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Christmas countdown: How to get your excited child to sleep in time for Santa

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, the kids were wide awake listening for old St Nick's sleigh.

Dr Deirdre Peake of 3fivetwo Group, a private medical solutions company in Northern Ireland, wants to advise parents about how to establish a good sleeping pattern before Christmas, helping to get them, and you, rested.

Dr Peake says that many problems with sleeping can be improved with 'sleep hygeine' - a term used to describe good sleep habits.

Follow the four pillars of good sleep hygiene to establish a good sleeping pattern for your kids, just in time for Santa.

1. Bedtime schedule

Create a bedtime routine that works for you and your child and then stick to it. It must include both a regular bedtime and a regular waking time. Make sure the times you select are practical and realistic for you and your child's schedules.

Consistency is the key! If you must adjust it for weekends, then don't adjust it by any more than an hour in either direction, or you defeat the purpose.

2. Bedtime routine

A regular bedtime routine, about half-hour long leading up to bedtime itself, is how you can best help your child to prepare for a good night's sleep. Dr Peake recommends a warm bath, reading a story or listening to tranquil music.

Parents should avoid television, caffeine, big meals and rough-and-tumble play.

Whatever activities you (and your child) decide upon, the cornerstone of your child’s bedtime routine is that he/she knows what time to get changed for bed and brush his teeth, what time to be in bed, and how much time he can spend on in-bed activities such as reading.

3. Environmental conditions of the bedroom

Comfortable and consistent environmental bedroom conditions such as the following will help prevent nighttime wakings:

  • Set a comfortable bedroom temperature that will remain consistent throughout the night.
  • Make the room sufficiently dark, as too much brightness interferes with restful sleep.
  • Take the television out of your child's bedroom. All TV-viewing should cease at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Keep the bed for sleeping - not playing, reading, eating, or watching TV.
  • Comfortable pyjamas.
  • Encourage children to sleep alone.

4. Daytime behaviors and habits

Good daytime behaviours are a key influence in good sleep hygeine.

Opening the curtains at the same time very day and exposing your child to sunlight first thing will help set circadian rhythms for the rest of the day, and long-term for the rest of their life.

Avoid using your child's bedroom for punishments or time-outs - it should be a positive place.

Monitor the content of your child's television viewing as internet surfing, and video game playing, as exposure to excessively violent, disturbing, or confusing images could be responsible for sleep disturbances such as nightmares.

It's important to note that while improvements in your child's sleep patterns likely won't happen overnight, you should start to see improvements once you begin implementing good sleep hygeine. 

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