How to Get Little Ones to Sleep On Christmas Eve

Getting kids to bed on a regular night is tough, but on the evenings before big events—Christmas, birthdays, the first day of school—it’s pretty much impossible. Osteopath Vicky Vlachonis can lull even the most wired little one to sleep, and so we asked her for some tips.

Calming Everyone Down the Night Before Big Days

As a parent, you already know how important sleep is for both you and your child, especially during the holidays. With all of the festivities, excitement, family, and holiday traditions, the last thing anyone needs is to get sick, irritable, or cranky. Getting the proper amount of rest boosts your immune system’s defense against those inconvenient holiday bugs, while also improving your mood and energy levels so you can all enjoy the holidays to the fullest.

But easier said than done. Luckily, there are effective tricks to help speed up your little munchkin’s trip to dreamland and also allow you to get your beauty sleep. While I can’t personally guarantee the time it will take for them drift off and start dreaming of Christmas, I’ve used these tips with my own children to successfully ease the “night-night” frustration, so I’m confident they will help you, too. Keep it mind, even doing only a couple of these is beneficial.

Outdoor Games

Get your kids to bundle up and play outside in the day while it’s still relatively warm outside.

Not only is exercise good for their mood, immune system, and digestion, it will also help tire them out much earlier, helping them fall asleep quickly at night. So why not heat up a few thermoses of hot chocolate and play “Capture the Flag” outside? In true holiday spirit, replace the flag with a Santa hat. You can even use treats as prizes, such as organic chocolate bars.

Limit Their Sugar Intake

Speaking of chocolate; try to limit their sugar intake on Christmas Eve. I understand that treats are likely a part of holiday traditions, but make healthier substitutes for sugary treats wherever possible. Sugar acts as a stimulant and will encourage them to stay up much later, despite their activity levels during the day.

Healthy substitutes could be homemade hot chocolate (instead of store bought), made with raw cacao powder, almond milk, and sweetened with a little bit of raw honey. Perhaps you can switch chocolate and candy for dark organic fair trade chocolate, which is significantly lower in sugar (and also contains magnesium to promote relaxation and restful sleep).

If you find it impossible to avoid refined sugar during the holidays, cut servings in half, avoid serving sugary drinks like soda, and let their last sugary treat be consumed no later than 2pm.

Better yet, make your own holiday treats by baking with natural sugar substitutes such as coconut sugar or green leaf stevia. Natural sweeteners will have less of an impact on hyperactivity, and do not cause intense blood sugar spikes the way refined sugar does.

Turn Off All Electronics Before Bed

If your child plays games, reads books, or watches TV shows on an iPad or another electronic device, be sure to put away their games and shows at least an hour before bed. Although it’s tempting to watch The Grinch right up until bedtime, electronics will stimulate your child before bed, and sabotage all of your efforts towards a restful sleep.

If TV shows or electronic books are part of your bedtime ritual, substitute the electronics with a calming bedtime activity such as reading a special holiday paperback book or coloring holiday pictures for Santa.

Relaxing Epsom Salt Baths

Epsom salt baths are an effective technique for multiple reasons: You help soothe your little one’s achy muscles from running around all day, calm their nervous systems, and get them into a state which promotes a relaxing, deep sleep. You can also add a few drops of lavender essential oil for an extra sense of calm.

Epsom salts are made from magnesium, the calming mineral. Soaking in Epsom salts helps the body efficiently absorb magnesium sulfate through the skin, promoting relaxed nerves, muscles, and a calm mental state. Use 1-2 cups in the bath.

Quiet Gratitude Voices

Using quiet voices after dinner will signal to your child that it’s time to wind down. Using even slightly louder voices can help stimulate excitement and alertness in your little one, regardless of how tired they may be. For this reason, using soothing, quiet voices an hour before bed will also promote relaxation and sleep.

If you practice prayer, meditation, or gratitude with your child before bed, use only quiet voices throughout this bedtime ritual as well. Take three deep breaths and have your kids repeat after you:

I’m grateful for my home. I’m grateful for my family. I’m grateful for the food.

Bedtime Foot Rub

As adults, we’re all familiar with the calm and relaxation massages provide. In fact, we often fall asleep during massages.

Giving your little ones a calming foot rub with a sleep-promoting essential oil can help. Just be sure to avoid accidentally tickling their feet by carefully and slowly applying gentle pressure without using your fingernails. Tickling them will wake them up rather than put them to sleep. Tuck them in tightly—this is your time to connect with your children and make them feel safe!

With these tips, you’re sure to finally get that restful sleep that’s been on your wish list all year. And even though we’ve called them holiday sleep tips, you can use them year-round, as the gift that keeps on giving.

Vicky Vlachonis is an osteopath, pain expert, and author of The Body Doesn’t Lie.

Vicky began her professional career working as a musculoskeletal specialist at some of London’s most prestigious holistic clinics, including the Hale Clinic and the Integrated Medical Centre, treating dancers from the Royal Ballet and major West End theater productions such as Cats and The Lion King.

Vicky established her own practice in 2001, combining a variety of holistic treatments and methods which include individualized, concrete steps and practices to alleviate and release physical, emotional and mental pain. With a reputation for achieving long-term, sustainable results, Vicky has gained a dedicated following, including members of the British Royal Family and some of the world’s most recognized faces in business, media and the arts. She is also the Chief Wellness Officer of Gaea.