You might have seen my story over the weekend on dealing with holiday stress. Well, in addition to the shopping and parties and other activity that goes on this season, there’s another stressor that many parents are familiar with: sleep-deprived kids. It can be a problem at any time of year, but the busy holidays are an especially tough, said Alison Bevan, a Certified Pediatric Sleep Consultant with a practice in Norwalk.
She said when children (and adults, for that matter) are overtired, their body’s adrenal gland secretes cortisol, the stress hormone that is responsible for the dreaded “second wind.” Kids then have trouble going to sleep and staying asleep, which leads to sleep deprivation, which leads to behavioral problems and potential illness - all of which create even more stress for families.
Here are three sleep tips from Bevan to help keep holiday-related sleep troubles to a minimum:
1. Respect your child’s need for sleep – with all the excitement and activity, children need more sleep, not less. Remind yourself that a rested child is a happy child. Make their need for sleep a priority.
2. Stick to your child’s regular routine as much as possible - if you’re having a marathon shopping day or attending a string of holiday parties, enlist a friend or sitter and leave the kids at home. Keep bedtime and naps rock solid to avoid overtired meltdowns, and “second winds”, which set everyone up for a stressful night.
3. Plan ahead – if traveling or disruption of routine is unavoidable, think through how you can get your child the sleep they need. Plan flights or long drives to coincide with naps, be sure that your destination has the cribs, pack and plays or cots that you’ll need, and bring along items that make sleep easier – favorite blankets, loveys, night lights, and baby monitors all minimize the stress of unfamiliar environments.