By Phillippa Wallis
“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring....” words that give a magical tingle to any parent anticipating the excitement of Christmas morning when their children wake to see their stockings at the end of the bed, yet for many parents those words couldn’t be further from the truth and there has been plenty of stirring going on!
A recent poll on parenting website Netmums revealed that less than half of parents – 45.8% - say that their child regularly sleeps through the night, with more than 11% getting up three or more times, not a recipe for a well-rested parent on arguably the most hectic day of the year.
As a trained sleep expert, I can attest that uninterrupted sleep is the most restful, healthy kind of sleep for infants and adults. Sleep that is broken with night wakings leads to daytime tiredness, a decrease in mental flexibility and attention, as well as considerable impairments of mood.
The juggling act of keeping the turkey moist, the potatoes crispy, making sure the glasses are filled and guests out of the kitchen (a fine art on the best of days!) can become a nightmare for a parent who has been up for the day at 5am and already been woken several times in the night before that ‘joyous’ moment!
Add a grisly overtired toddler and the magic of Christmas starts to lose its shine somewhat.
So how can you prevent this and get your child to drift off to sleep happily at bedtime and not wake until a respectable hour, even on Christmas Day?! Well, I wish I could tell you where to buy that magical dust that I tell my children the big red man sprinkles on them before he comes down the chimney, sadly I can’t. What I can tell you is that every child is capable of sleeping soundly for 10-12 hours a night and waking well-rested, attentive and cheerful, they simply need to learn how.
My top tips for sleep can be downloaded from here and will tell you the fundamental rules you need to know to get you on the right track.
But, in the meantime, if you find yourself staying away from home this Christmas, here are my top tips for travelling with a child:
1. Don’t over schedule yourself – late nights will make sleep harder for your overtired child. Stick to routines and bedtime as much as possible.
2. Bring your child’s sleeping toy/blanket and their unwashed sheets from home so that the smell is familiar.
3. Don’t share a bed with your child even for a few nights, you could find yourself having to re-teach them to sleep independently when you get home.
4. If a separate room is unavailable then make some sort of private space for your baby to sleep, anywhere that you can build a partition so that if she has a night waking she is not excited to see you!
5. Children often test the boundaries around sleep when they are somewhere new, mean that your baby may cry for some time at bedtime or have a night waking or two. Deal with this by not doing much different than if you were at home, go in and offer a little reassurance every 5 minutes or so, but other than that don’t bend!
For many people with a child that wakes every night, implementing a plan is a daunting task in itself and if you find yourself in that situation then possibly the best present you can give yourself this Christmas is to ask for help, something many parents are afraid to do. Find my packages here.
Wishing all of my followers, family and friends a wonderful Christmas! Eat lots, drink lots and sleep lots (hopefully!) Failing that, we can sort the sleep out together afterwards!