family in holidays pajamas

Managing Your Family’s Routines During the Holidays

Dear Parents,

The holidays are coming, and while there are plenty of reasons to be jolly, there are also moments that parents dread. Will the kids behave? Will we get any sleep? Can I survive another holiday season without an extra round of eggnog?

Much of the worry and stress from this season centers around helping your children maintain their sanity during a time when sleep seems optional. Schedules are jam-packed with parties and events that push bedtimes later than normal, nap times are shorter or non-existent, and the hectic activities of the season leave us feeling stretched thin. But, rest assured the holidays can be full of merriment and cheer for both you and the kids with the help of some tips that will allow everyone to get some rest and relaxation.

First, don’t let the holidays destroy your routine.

It’s not uncommon for children to push their bedtimes later when they are out of school for vacations. Avoid this temptation. Why? Because even when children go to bed on time, they’re likely to still wake up at the same time in the morning, leading to sleep deprivation and emotional regulation difficulties. And even if your child is able to sleep in to make up for later bedtime, it can be hard to readjust when school starts again.

Second, watch what your kids eat.

Sweets and treats may be on the menu, but it can really hurt your child’s sleep. Try your best to avoid caffeine (think dark sodas, tea, chocolate, and of course, coffee) at all costs. Even morning caffeine may still linger in the system when it’s bedtime.

Third, remember to plan for some downtime.

This downtime should preferably come with the option to take a quick nap. When the kids are sleep deprived from the non-stop fun of the holidays, it’s easy to forget that exhaustion may be the reason behind that midday slump. Naps are a great way to avoid the negative consequences of sleep deprivation. But be sure to plan them before 2 p.m. The later the nap, the more likely you are to have difficulty falling asleep at night. The ideal length for a nap is 20-30 minutes or 80-90 minutes. Waking up after 45 minutes can be difficult since that’s when deeper stages of sleep occur.

Finally, remember that sleep is not just vital for the kids’ energy, but also yours.

The average adult needs anywhere from seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Make sure you give yourself adequate opportunity to rest so you have the energy to take on the day. Keep in mind that alcohol is not your friend when it comes to sleep. Although it may help you fall asleep faster, it ends up causing sleep disruption during the night and often leads to early awakenings. So, go easy on the eggnog.

Here’s to hoping for a safe and restful holiday season.

Sleep well,

Dr. Sujay Kansagra

About The Author

Dr. Sujay Kansagra

Sujay Kansagra, MD is the director of Duke University’s Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program and author of the book “My Child Won’t Sleep.” Dr. Kansagra offers Daily Doze readers tips and insight about the importance of sleep, especially for kids who need plenty of rest to grow and develop. Dr. Kansagra graduated from Duke University School of Medicine, where he also completed training as a pediatric neurologist. He did his fellowship in sleep medicine at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, before joining the faculty at Duke as an assistant professor. He specializes in treating a variety of sleep disorders, including sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy and parasomnias. He shares advice on sleep, medicine, and education through his Twitter accounts @PedsSleepDoc and @Medschooladvice. When he’s not busy at work or on social media, Dr. Kansagra enjoys spending time with his wife and two sons. And yes, they are both great sleepers.

Best Night’s Sleep: Not just a sleep expert, but also an expert sleeper, Dr. Kansagra can sleep almost anywhere, thanks to years of sleep deprivation during medical school and residency call nights. But his best sleep is at home with his family, on a mattress he purchased at Mattress Firm long before he joined our team.

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