Dear Santa: Get my kids to sleep

5 ways to handle restless little minds and bodies

“Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.”

The writer of that Christmas classic obviously did not live in a house with children.

For many, the week of Christmas, and especially Christmas Eve, renders children unbearably excited.

“For children, especially around exciting holidays, the two biggest culprits to consider are active minds and restless bodies,” said Jameel Clark, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group – Dixie.

Dr. Clark offers five tips for helping children who are just too active and restless to fall asleep:

  • Stick to the normal routine. Nightly routines are important for proper sleep hygiene — and never are they more important than a big day like Christmas. Children who keep a nightly routine expect the usual reading time, music, cuddling or other ways to get them into a relaxed state of mind. Even if you are traveling for the holidays, it’s critical to find ways to keep that routine.
  • Get sweaty to get sleepy. Restless little bodies are hard to calm down before bed. Find time between holiday parties, family rituals and cookie-making for 30 minutes of good exercise. Bundle up and go to a park, play a backyard game of basketball or go on a quick walk around the neighborhood to look at lights. Exercise helps release stress and pent up energy, which can add up to a restful night of sleep.
  • Cleanliness for sleepiness. Warm baths and showers are likely a part of your kids’ nightly routine. If they aren’t, try winding down the day with a warm bath or shower to ease the child into a calm manner.
  • Put the screens away. This advice applies for any day of the week, but especially for Christmas Eve. Our bodies rely on darkness to produce melatonin, which helps us sleep. Staring at a TV, smartphone or tablet delays the melatonin and can cause disturbed sleep.
  • Earlier is not better. Don’t make their bedtime earlier in hopes of having more time to “prepare” for Santa’s arrival. Going to bed early may cause more anxiety and restlessness, which might actually prolong sleeplessness.