It’s hard to sleep when you have “visions of sugar plums dancing in your head” but healthy sleep habits, while important year round, are especially important during the holiday season. You don’t want to be carting cranky children to and from holiday gatherings or having them get ill because their immune systems are run down because they haven’t been getting good, restful sleep.

It’s not always easy to stick to tried and true bedtime routines when you’re rushing from family gathering to family gathering and if you add in the fact that you might be traveling for the holidays and having to deal with jet lag. Here are a few issues that may arise during the holidays and ways you can help your children cope:

  • Later than usual bedtimes: If you’re going to parties after dinner times, it’s likely you won’t be home in time for your child to tumble into his or her own bed at their usual bedtime hours. Late nights can cause increased levels of cortisol and adrenaline and those cause a child to be more wakeful than they should be. Even if you’re getting home later than usual, try to settle your child down before you leave and spend some extra time calming them down before you tuck them in. They will likely be in high spirits but be gentle but firm when it comes to getting them to sleep.
  • Planes, trains and automobiles: Many sleep problems that are caused by travel can be addressed if you plan before, during and after your trip for those sleep disturbances. If you’re traveling to a different time zone, start a few days before with adjusting your child’s sleep schedule to the time zone to which you will be traveling. If you can, plan any long trips around your child’s normal nap schedule so he or she can sleep for a large portion of the trip.
  • ‘Tis the season… for stress and excitement: Holidays are so exciting with the parties, and travel and the anticipation of receiving gifts. Excitement is a form of stress that effects children and leads to sleepless nights. You can’t expect your child to adhere to his or her bedtime routine and self-soothe as they typically would. You may need to alter the bedtime routine to include additional warm bath time and/or quiet reading and relaxation before turning out the lights.
  • So many good foods: It’s common to eat large, heavy means during the holidays and that could lead to belly aches and sleepless nights. If possible, allow your child to sample tiny bits of rich foods that they might not normally enjoy but offer fruits and vegetables and limit sugary drinks.

Irregular sleep schedules are the culprit when looking at holiday sleep times, but with planning and understanding you can all get through it and take time out for a good night’s sleep!


Since 2002, Valley Sleep Center, accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, has provided Arizona with diagnostic sleep disorder testing in a home-like atmosphere, ensuring a comfortable, relaxing experience for patients.  Their Board Certified Sleep Medicine Specialists consist of experienced and knowledgeable physicians who provide expert advice across a multitude of sleep related disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, snoring, excessive daytime sleepiness, hypertension, sleepwalking, and pediatric sleep problems.  They accept most insurance plans as well as Medicare.  For more information contact Lauri Leadley at 480-830-3900;