How to keep your kids' schedules on track during the holidays
Sleep experts say keeping some consistency in your child's day can go a long way in preventing a holiday meltdown.
Published Wednesday, December 23, 2015 6:00AM EST
The holidays have a certain way of turning a formerly good sleeper into an over-tired child.
Between the excitement of Santa's impending visit, an excess of baked goods in the house, and a number of holiday parties, it's easy to throw your child’s schedule right off track.
But sleep experts say keeping some consistency in your child's day can go a long way in preventing a holiday meltdown.
A team of experts from Dalhousie University recently reviewed the empirical evidence behind 10 common pediatric sleep recommendations and looked at how effective they were in maintaining healthy sleep patterns amongst children.
Penny Corkum, a professor in the psychology and neuroscience department, said if she had to give parents one piece of sleep advice to stick with, it would be keeping consistent bed times and sleep routines.
"Trying to stick to the schedule is important," Corkum told CTVNews.ca. "It's great to have fun and celebrate…but the holidays are short and there's not a lot of time to get a child back on schedule."
Corkum recommends the "30-minute rule."
"So no more than 30 minutes between weekdays and weekends in terms of bed times for younger children," she said, adding that the same is true for children who are home for the holidays.
Corkum added that schedules and routines are important at all ages, but some children adapt to changes in their schedules better than others.
"You have to know your child," she said. "Some kids can switch their schedule and they seem to function fine. With other kids, it will take them a month to get back on schedule."
‘Protect’ children’s sleep ahead of the holidays: expert
Alanna McGinn, founder of the Good Night Sleep Site, said while the holidays are generally a busy time, it's important for parents to remember that they can't do everything.
"You could say no. You don't have to attend every party," she said.
McGinn recommends an 80-20 rule, meaning that parents should aim to stick to a consistent sleep schedule for their children 80 per cent of the time, and going off schedule 20 per cent of the time is OK.
"If one day you miss a nap because it's Christmas day and you're at a relative's home, try and stay home the next day," she said.
McGinn says leading up to the holidays is a good timeto"protect" children's sleep.
"Going into a busy holiday season as well-rested as possible is going to help your child adjust to a missed nap or a later bedtime," she said.
McGinn points out that parents often feel pressure from relatives around the holidays to bend their children's schedules.
"You'll often hear, 'Oh let them miss that nap', or 'Don't put them to bed now, I want to visit'."
In these cases, McGinn recommends getting relatives involved in the bedtime routine, so they can have some "bonding time" with the children without throwing their sleep schedules off track.
"Your child is still able to go to bed when they want," she said. "And mom and dad can go downstairs, pour a glass of wine and Merry Christmas!"