A Sleep Coach’s Holiday Sleep Tips for Your Kiddos

Mother hugging child goodnight with holiday decorations in the background

I can’t believe we’re talking about the holidays already! 

I don’t need to tell you that the holiday season is often a hectic period with lots of special events, parties and changes to your usual routine … which includes your kids’ sleep routine. Not to mention there are lots of festive foods around that may disrupt sleep and also send the sleep routine on a sharp nosedive. Is it even possible for children to stay well rested when there’s so much going on? It’s not easy for us as adults!

Yes, it is possible – with a little flexibility and preparation. Just because your kids’ good sleep habits are temporarily disrupted doesn’t mean you need to give up altogether on helping them get the rest they need so you can all enjoy the holiday season. 

As a gentle sleep coach, I’ve been helping kids (and their parents) sleep better for more than a decade. Here are some of my top sleep tips for the holiday season. 

Naps and Routines 

Mother stroking her child's hair as they settle in for a napMother stroking her child's hair as they settle in for a nap

If you have toddlers or babies at home, you’re in that stage where the sleep routine is everything. Wavering even a little can cause great upset. However, the chaos and excitement of the holidays tend to make it unrealistic to rigidly keep to your child’s sleep routine. Here are a few suggestions to see you through: 

  • Plan ahead: When you’ve got a late night, keep the following morning free to allow everybody to catch up. A slow, peaceful start to the day can make all of the difference!
  • Keep the nap: Good daytime sleep makes for good nighttime sleep, so don’t be tempted to skip naps and run the risk of your child becoming overtired. If you can, arrange your day around nap times and be conscious of the need for your child to rest at appropriate times. You can plan for naps on the go if needed and take some familiar items to help your little one settle.
  • Don’t rush them to bed: They’re more likely to sleep well if you follow your usual routine. You might even want to extend this slightly to gently ease them into bedtime away from the overwhelming lights, sounds and atmosphere of the holidays.

It’s also worth noting that if you have a newborn this holiday, it may help to scale things back. Young babies feed on demand and have no concept of night and day, so their sleep pattern is likely unpredictable! Your sleep is probably quite disrupted too, so take it slow and easy and limit your commitments as necessary. 

Travel and Visits Away From Home 

Baby wide awake in their carseat with a green pacifier in their mouthBaby wide awake in their carseat with a green pacifier in their mouth

Home base is naturally where kids feel the most comfortable, which means it’s also the best place for quality sleep. If you’re traveling at all during the holidays, you can expect some bumps in the road when it comes to sleep. Holiday sleep tips for travelers include: 

  • Time your travel with sleep: For any extended travel, plan your journeys around naps so your children can sleep on the way. Lots of families love to take long road trips at night. Your child can sleep for the majority of the drive!
  • Pack for sleep: If you’re staying out late but coming home afterwards, take nightwear with you and, if possible, bathe/change your children at their usual time. They’ll hopefully – fingers crossed! – fall asleep while you’re traveling. Then, you can transfer them straight from the car to bed when you arrive home. For younger babies, try to work it so it’s time for their last feed when you get in. Then you can feed them and settle them down to sleep as usual.
  • Leave the home ready for your return: If it’s impossible to bathe and change your children whilst you’re away from home, set out everything you’ll need for your return so you can swiftly transition straight into your routine when you get home. Don’t skip any steps if you can help it but be mindful that you may need to speed things up a little to avoid delaying bedtime any longer than can be helped.

If you’re staying overnight away from home, take everything you need! It might be that the curtains in the room your kids will be staying in let in too much light, so you’ll need a blackout blind, or it could be colder than their bedroom at home, so you’ll need a thicker sleep sack or blanket, etc. 

Make sure you let your toddler scope out the room beforehand and unpack their belongings, and then you can get it ready for naps/overnight sleep later on. Perhaps spend a short period playing in the room earlier in the day to help them familiarize themselves with their alternative sleeping space. 


Mother and daughter coloring together on the couchMother and daughter coloring together on the couch

All the excitement and bustle of the holiday season can make your children tire faster and more easily than usual. It can help to bear this in mind and watch out for any sleep cues or changes to their demeanor, indicating they’re feeling weary. It’s absolutely fine if they want/need to go for an earlier nap, and I’d advise you to go with the flow, keeping things flexible and child-led, and then adjusting the rest of your daily routine accordingly. 

If your child no longer naps, plan for quiet time or peaceful activities such as coloring or reading stories. Trust your instincts. You know your little one better than anybody else, so if you think they need to go to bed slightly earlier or that they’d benefit from a longer nap, give it a try! Here are a couple more tips for overstimulation:

  • Take breaks: If you feel like your children are becoming too overstimulated, it’s OK to step back and do something that’s NOT festive! Take time to reconnect and focus on their needs, whether it be an imaginary play session, low-key activities such as puzzles or games, or a long walk to the park.
  • Avoid sugary foods/drinks in the run-up to bedtime: Let them indulge earlier in the day, say after lunch, and give them a choice of sleep-inducing foods for supper, such as oatmeal or a turkey sandwich. It’s a good idea to make sure all family and friends are in the loop with this, too, so they’re not offering unsuitable snacks later in the day. 

Returning to Normal 

When the holidays are over, it can take some time for normal service to resume. After all, your kiddo is coming down from the most magical time of the year. It’s a lot of excitement for their brain and body to process. Don’t panic. It’s usually short-lived, and you can help things along by being consistent with your sleep and daily routines. You’ll be daydreaming about the next big holiday before you know it!

Rebecca Michi, Gentle Sleep CoachRebecca Michi, Gentle Sleep Coach

Rebecca Michi has been a children's sleep consultant for over a decade and has worked with hundreds of families all over the world. She loves supporting families as they work with their children to gently encourage easier sleep. Born and raised in England, she now lives in the USA with her husband, two teenagers and German Shepherd. Rebecca loves a good nap, fresh flowers and cups of tea. Learn more about The Michi Method for sleep at childrenssleepconsultant.com.