Tips to get your kids to sleep on time this Christmas Eve as study reveals that lack of sleep is the most stressful thing for British parents

According to a new study supported by CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), the only Christmas wish for 1 in 5 (20%) British parents this festive holiday, is for their child to go to bed on time on Christmas Eve. One of the most stressful things about the festive season is not avoiding family arguments and prepping the turkey but convincing excited children to go to sleep on 24th December.

festive sleeping habits

The beloved festive holiday is such an exciting time of the year, that almost two-fifths (38%) jump out of bed on Christmas morning before 6.00am to see what Santa’s delivered. Following all the excitement, it takes nearly a fifth of children (18%) more than five days to go back to their normal bedtime routine after Christmas Day.

The study commissioned by sleep wellness brand eve sleep, also reveals that parents surveyed are losing two hours of sleep a night over the Christmas period and with the recommended amount of sleep being between 7-9 hours, this is cutting into our precious 40 winks substantially. Even more shocking is that, almost 1 in 10 (9%) are losing four or more hours of sleep each night.

The insights into sleeplessness of 2,000 UK parents of children aged 5 – 10 years-old, forms part of eve sleep’s campaign to lobby the UK government to recognise sleep as a fundamental human right. It outlines the growing epidemic of sleep deprivation amongst school aged children, with a demand for sleep education programmes to be introduced to the national curriculum. 

The poll found that in an effort to get children into bed for Santa’s visit, over three in ten (36%) parents tell their children that they’ve got to be well rested for Christmas Day, whilst a tenth (10%) let their child play on their phone or device in bed. For kids who still remain wide awake despite these efforts, over half (54%) of parents have resorted to scare tactics, saying “Santa won’t come”, while 12% have said to their that “The Elf on the Shelf is watching and reporting back to Father Christmas”.

child sleep

The research also uncovered further insights into little one’s disrupted sleep during Christmas Eve including over half (56%) waiting up to see Santa, over two-fifths (48%) suffering from a disrupted sleep routine and a quarter (25%) are hyped on too much sugary festive treats.

Lack of sleep during the Christmas period has a detrimental impact on a child’s mood and behaviour, which in turn has a knock-on effect on the family, as this new research from eve sleep highlights. Whilst it’s expected that children lose sleep on Christmas Eve it is a concern that even a week later, things aren’t back on track.

Simple steps such as getting children outside on Christmas Eve morning can prepare your child’s body clock for sleep that night. Removing sweets, even for just one day would be great too as the study highlights that a quarter of children struggle to get to sleep on Christmas Eve as they are too wired and hyper from the sugar.

Apparently, the best gift of all to give parents this Christmas is the gift of sleep, as over a third (37%) experience sleeplessness over the Christmas period due to their children’s lack of sleep, followed by increased financial worries (30%), as a result of the pressures of gifting. In fact, children’s lack of sleep is the number one reason for sleeplessness over the Christmas period.

To add to the pressure, children’s lack of sleep causes over a third (34%) of parents to be more stressed than they should be about the ‘Christmas atmosphere’.

Lack of sleep can also affect the Christmas joy, as almost four in ten (36%) of children become whiney after disrupted sleep during Christmas, followed by over a quarter (27%) misbehaving/ acting out and 26% being over tired and hyperactive.

5 tips to help get your children to sleep on time this Christmas Eve

 One of the consequences of lost sleep is most obvious on the big day itself with the study revealing that a quarter of children misbehaved and acted out on Christmas day, with another quarter moody and whiney from too little shut eye. What’s more, the study showed that a fifth of parents are still struggling to get their children back to sleep almost a week later.

Here’s a simple five step plan to help you to get your children to sleep in good order on Xmas Eve. This will not only mean that they wake up fully refreshed ready to open their presents on Christmas Day, but will also help you keep their sleep on track throughout the whole holiday period. 

Step 1 Plan Ahead

This is especially important if you have visitors or are visiting someone over Christmas. Make sure your children know if they have different beds for the night to accommodate family staying with you. You can take their usual pillow & blanket, or anything else they normally sleep with helping them to relax. It’s important to explain to little ones why they are going to bed at a certain time on Christmas Eve so that they understand that a ‘special’ bedtime routine will help them settle and be ready for Christmas Day!

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Step 2 Christmas eve schedule

Split Christmas Eve day into the power of three.

  1. Excitable morning, full of activities to tire them out e.g. play games together or go for a long walk
  2. Relaxing afternoon, full of Christmas films and time on tech (if allowed)
  3. Quiet evening, with board games and card games

Step 3 Keep to their normal bedtime routine

Children like routine and our brains like habits, so we always get to sleep more easily when we have a consistent bedtime routine. This is especially true on Christmas Eve with all the extra excitement to manage. A familiar sleep routine could be bath, brush teeth, bedtime story and then lights out.  Try not to let festivities change this. Try a countdown to bedtime, starting at 60 minutes, to 30 and then 15 to let the kids know bedtime is coming. You might want to start this half an hour before their usual bed time, to allow for excitement.


Step 4 Minimise Sugar on Christmas Eve, and allow none after lunchtime

Keep sugar and sweets to a minimum. The eve sleep study shows ¼ children struggle to sleep on Christmas Eve as they are too hyped up from sugary sweets, so let your family and guests know not to give out sweets to the kids after lunchtime if you want to allow some on Christmas Eve morning.

Step 5. If your children always wake up early on Xmas Day, bring Xmas Eve forward too. 

Children will inevitably wake up early on Christmas Day due to sheer excitement, so bring ‘Step 2’ forward by an hour to allow that little extra time. The eve sleep study shows two fifths of children aged 5-10 are up and out of bed before 6.00am, so try bringing their routine forward & allow them to still achieve the same amount of sleep they are used too.

These tips across the holiday season will also ensure they can get back into a ‘normal’ routine when they return to school.

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