Surviving the Holidays Without Sacrificing Sleep

The Holidays are full of family, activities, good food, and plenty of fun.

It is a season of happiness and joy.

Unfortunately, it is also a season of meltdowns and tantrums for many with small children.

I look forward to the Holidays each year. I love participating in the fun festivities in our community and especially enjoy how it brings people together.

What I don’t look forward to, is the overload of everything. Sugar, activities, crazy schedules, presents, people, etc.

I’ve learned over the years, that if I am not prepared before the madness happens, it overtakes my children and rather than enjoying the season, I am simply surviving. And that’s just no fun.

At the top of my priority list is sleep.

Sleep seems to be the first thing that goes this time of year, and yet the thing we need the very most.

So, I have compiled your Holiday survival list, so you can enjoy this Season without sacrificing your family’s sleep schedules. (Also less tantrums and more smiles)

Follow these key points, and I promise your household will run much more smoothly this year.

#1 Understand family dynamics and how they might affect your child’s sleep

During the Holidays most of us have family and friends coming to us, or we are traveling to see them. Either way, there is a shift in the daily patterns and structure of your household and blending of households is often inevitable.

If you are staying put this year, and enjoying the Holidays without visitors then you might be smarter than the rest of us and you get to skip this part. Otherwise, read on.

When my son was a newborn, I got major anxiety about visits with family during the Holidays. Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with family and I was always happy to see them, I just knew how stimulated he would get and how much it affected his ability to sleep.

What I realized was there were just too many people and noises and despite their best intentions, they did not understand how exhausted I was.

I almost skipped Holidays with my family the following year, but realized if I simply had a conversation with them ahead of time it might relieve some of the anxiety I was experiencing.

In short I basically said “I will do my best to participate in all of the festivities but sleep has to take priority so I may miss out on a few things”.

The message I was communicating was basically that my child’s needs come first and sometimes that means leaving in the middle of family game night to put him to sleep or to go to sleep myself.

Surprisingly most people understood and respected my position.

#2 Stick to your child’s current sleep schedule as best as possible

You might already be preparing yourself for nap times and bed times to go out the window.

If so, Stop.

With all of the extra stimulation your child is experiencing around the Holidays, he needs more sleep, NOT less!

Even though this season is temporary, it is still important to keep your child’s sleep schedule as consistent as possible

Here are some ways you can do this:

  • Plan travel realistically. My sister (bless her soul) booked flights at 6am for her husband, her and their two boys out of state and it was a nightmare, as anyone could have predicted. Maybe you get in later than you want, but at least your travel time won’t be completely hellish if you can plan for more realistic options

  • Schedule activities around nap times. Sometimes this means you miss activities. Skip the family bowling outing rather than skipping nap time and dealing with a cranky child the rest of the day.

  • Try for an earlier bedtime if nap-time wasn’t sufficient. It’s possible you might have several failed nap attempts, due to the simple fact that you might be in a new environment or your child is too stimulated. In this case, move bedtime up to ensure you reach your sleep goal for the day

  • Keep your child’s bedtime routine. Sticking with the same routine you practice at home will help your little feel more structured a midst the chaos.

#3 Prepare a healthy sleep environment

Environment is quite possibly the biggest challenge when traveling or when space is an issue. If your child is being put in a new environment for sleep, it can be overwhelming or very disruptive for healthy sleep.

Here are a few ways you can anticipate and prepare a sleep environment if you are traveling or hosting visitors.

Plan your child’s sleep environment ahead of time. This might mean bringing a pack-n-play, preparing another room in the house, or borrowing a crib.

Avoid bringing your child into bed with you. Even though it may just be for a few days, if your child is not currently co-sleeping, it is not best to bring this practice in as it can cause regression.

Ask family members and friends to be respectful of their noise level during nap and bed times. It might mean they need to leave the house during this time or plan a quiet activity during a scheduled nap or bed time.

Consider getting a hotel room, or encouraging family and friends to check out local hotels.If you are traveling and you are worried about noise interruption, a hotel might be a better option. This could also be a good option if you are worried about your child crying through the night and causing disruption for others.

If traveling, try and bring a few things that are familiar to your child, such as a lovey or blanket.

#4 Avoid sugar as best as possible

During the Holidays there seems to be one thing there is no shortage of…sugar!

Growing up I always looked forward to making cookies, building gingerbread houses, and enjoying a large cup of hot cocoa. And don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy these Holiday treats. But I have also learned that sugar and my kids equals significantly more meltdowns and sleep interruptions.

So that my kids don’t completely miss out, I have found a way to make some simple substitutions when baking and preparing treats.

Instead of…

Butter use coconut oil

Sugar use syrup, honey, fruit juice or applesauce

White flour use almond or coconut flour

Cow’s milk use almond or coconut milk

Canola oil use olive or coconut oil

Milk chocolate use dark chocolate or carob

In addition to these substitutions, these foods are off limits for my family before bed…

Cow’s Milk/Dairy in general

Fried Foods



Spicy foods

#5 Consider whether your should adjust your child’s schedule if traveling to a new time zone

Last year we planned a trip to Disney around this time from the East Coast which meant 7pm felt like 10pm and our kids were falling asleep at the dinner table.

If you’re traveling for a week or less it generally makes sense to keep your child on your normal time zone, and only make slight adjustments to her schedule. If you’ll be gone for more than a week I suggest gradually shifting her to the new time zone as soon as you arrive which typically takes a few days depending on the time difference.

The Holidays are meant to be enjoyed, and although a lot of us feel the stresses that comes along with the season, lack of sleep shouldn’t be one of them.

By following these simple steps, you are already on your way to surviving the Holidays this year, all while getting the rest your entire family needs!