Your Holiday Survival guide: Getting enough rest is key

The Holiday season has arrived-and as it does each year, it feels impossible that we are already less than a week out from Thanksgiving.

This is a time that so many of us look forward to. The Holidays are full of family, activities, good food, and plenty of fun.

I’m so looking forward to spending time with family and seeing the joy on my children’s faces throughout the festivities and quality time spent together.

Unfortunately, it is also a season of meltdowns, tantrums, and complete de-railing of schedules for many of us with small children.

I do look forward to the Holidays each year. I love participating in the fun festivities in our neighborhood-especially seeing the way it brings people together.

What I don’t look forward to, is the overload of everything-sugar, activities, crazy schedules, over-stimulation, too many presents and people, and the inevitable gain in my waistline.

Unfortunately the one thing I definitely don’t gain during the Holidays is sleep.

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

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.

So, I have compiled my top 5 Holiday survival list, so you can enjoy this Season without sacrificing your family’s sleep schedules-also with less tantrums and more smiles.

#1 Understand your 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.

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 that there were just too many people and noises and despite their best intentions, they did not understand the black hole of sleep that I was in.

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.

I basically had to say- “Neither of us are enjoyable without adequate sleep and thus we might not be able to participate in ALL of the things, because sleep is going to take priority”.

Seven years later I am still communicating the same message that my child’s health comes first and sometimes that means leaving in the middle of family game night to put him to sleep.

You might be surprised that your family is more understanding than you think-I definitely was.

#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 miserable if you can plan for more realistic options

·         Schedule activities around nap time if possible. This might mean you miss activities if that is not possible. Skip the family outing or skip nap time and deal with a cranky child the rest of the day? Nap sounds much better to this Mama.

·         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 amidst 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.

There 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 if you don’t co-sleep at home. 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 now since it can feel like a big shift.

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 or too close of quarters, a hotel might be a better option.

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

#4 Avoid sugar like the plague

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. While I still enjoy these Holiday treats, I have also learned that sugar and my kids equals significantly more meltdowns and sleep interruptions.

Thankfully, I have found a way to make some simple substitutions when baking and preparing treats (including a few other healthy swaps)

Instead of…

Sugar use syrup, honey, fruit juice or applesauce

White flour use almond or coconut flour

Cow’s milk use almond or coconut milk

Milk chocolate use dark chocolate or carob

Using the full amount of sugar, use ½ of what the recipe calls for

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

Dairy, fried foods, citrus, fruits high in sugar, spicy foods, and of course caffeine.

Everything in moderation, yes-but most of these foods have proved to cause disruptions in sleep when eaten too close to bedtime.

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

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!

Good luck and Happy Holidays

Rachel GortonComment