Sleep Tips for the Holiday Season
With the holidays approaching, many parents whose little ones are on a good schedule may worry that sleep will regress over the holidays. This is a totally valid concern. Between potential travel, the excitement, and the plethora of activities taking you away from your normal routine, the holidays can throw a wrench in everyone’s sleep schedule, especially babies and toddlers who have greater sleep needs than adults.
But I don’t want any stress about sleep to prevent you from making memories this holiday season. With some strategic planning and a shift in mindset, you can keep sleep on track no matter what your holiday plans are.
Traveling with Baby
Traveling with children – especially babies – can be overwhelming, but things will run more smoothly if everyone well-rested. Here are some tips for both car and plane trips.
If you are driving somewhere, I definitely recommend leaving during the day vs. starting at bedtime and driving overnight. It may seem more palatable to drive when there is a potential for your baby to sleep the entire time, but unless you’re planning a multi-day road trip, I’d avoid driving at night if possible.
Movement sleep is less restorative than crib/bed sleep, so if we have to sacrifice something, I’d recommend it be naps vs. overnight sleep which is deeper and more restorative in nature under the right circumstances. Not to mention, driving during the day is much safer because you won’t be as fatigued.
Plan to be in the car either immediately after morning wake up (for day-long trips) or time it to coincide with your baby’s first nap. If you have several hours in the car, remember to stop frequently to stretch your legs and give everyone a break.
If you’re flying, you may have less control over your daily schedule. You’ll also have an audience privy to your overtired or non-napping baby, so to ease the burden on yourself (and your seatmates), do whatever you need to get through the flight and get your baby to sleep. Pull out all the stops and don’t worry about reverting back into old sleep habits that you’ve worked so hard to eliminate. When you reach your destination, you can hop right back on track.
On travel days, don’t stress too much about nap quality, number of naps, or awake windows between them. Once you arrive, you can make a plan for bedtime based on what sleep has looked like.
More people, more problems
If you’re traveling to visit family and friends, or if company is coming to you, then you’ll have to figure out how to navigate all the excitement that comes with more people around and more activities happening. Family and friends who rarely get to see your baby are going to want to keep them awake to cuddle, play, and take a million pictures. Even though it’s going to be very difficult, it’s important that you advocate for preserving your child’s sleep as much as possible. Be firm about your child’s nap and bedtime schedule and stick to it as best as you can. Overstimulation plus overtiredness can cause cortisol levels to spike which can make falling and staying asleep extremely difficult. No one wants to play with or take a million pictures of a screaming baby – remind them of this!
During the holidays, we often try to pack in as many activities as possible. Unfortunately, all that carefully planned fun can turn sour really quickly with a cranky, overtired baby. Children who are overtired will undoubtedly revert to some of those old sleep habits you’ve all worked so hard to eliminate from your sleep repertoire. If your little one is tired and cranky, you’re all going to have a lousy time, so sticking to a schedule and keeping your child well-rested will ensure that the time you do get to spend with friends and family is fun, happy and relaxed.
If your little one is used to taking more than one nap a day, attempt a solid morning nap at the very least. Starting the day well-rested allows for more flexibility for later naps to happen on the go. Being on the go can get tiring so also keep a close eye on your child’s sleep cues. Remember that if naps are short or happen on the go, bedtime might have to be 30-60 minutes earlier than normal, but if naps are on point or you add an extra one in, you may be able to stay out later!
Stick to routines
Even with lots going on, it’s important to allow for a normal wind-down period before bed. If you’ve already established a predictable bedtime routine, it can be very helpful to stay consistent with this amidst the festivities. Not only will it help cue your baby’s brain and body that it’s time for sleep and help them to relax, but it can also help sleep to come more easily.
When traveling, try to keep your baby’s sleep space as close to his or her home space as possible. If your little one is used to sleeping in his or her own room, room-sharing on vacation can be overwhelming and lead to tough nights. Even sleeping, your baby will be aware of your presence. If you’re staying in a hotel, try to book a room with an attached area or a separate room. If you’re staying with friends or family, talk with them in advance about having separate spaces for sleeping. Home-offices work well as a makeshift nursery!
Maintaining your little one’s own sleep space is the best-case scenario to make sure everyone gets a good night’s sleep. If separate spaces just aren’t an option, at least put some distance or some type of barrier between your bed and their crib. You can even try to create some kind of partition in the room so that baby can’t see you from their crib. I love the SlumberPod for room-sharing during travel (and you can use code OHBABY10 to get $20 off!)
Making your surroundings as similar as possible to your home-nursery will also help the bedtime routine run more smoothly. Bring your sound-machine, your baby’s favorite lovey, even your own crib sheets. Anything that smells familiar and reminds them of their home sleeping environment will help them get to sleep in their new surroundings.
The holidays are a time for merriment and fun and having a well-rested child is going to make this a whole lot easier. But don’t stress; if you have a wonderful sleeper on your hands and stick to a great routine at home, allow yourself to relax and enjoy the holidays. You have all the tools to hop right back on track after the new year, and your little one will be back sleeping like a champ in no time.
If you’re exhausted, totally overwhelmed by your child’s sleep habits, or looking for answers to the sleep questions that keep you up at night (literally), then you’ve come to the right place. I’m Jamie, founder of Oh Baby Consulting, and my goal is to help your family get the sleep you need to not just survive, but thrive!