Last updated on May 26th, 2024

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Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

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Ah, the holidays. It’s the most wonderful time of the year…except when it comes time to get your children to bed. Not surprisingly, January is one of my busiest months! The days are shorter, nights are longer (and more exciting!), there are lights, activities, family get-togethers, and more. It’s no wonder your children have sleep trouble this time of year!
Knowing this, you can try to set realistic expectations, and hopefully mitigate some of the potential holiday sleep disasters that come with impending travel plans. If you are visiting relatives that often increases the amount of potential sleep disruptions, as many people do not understand (or remember) the importance of routine with small children.

Prepare for Travel

If your travel will take you across multiple time zones, make sure that you adjust your child’s sleep schedule accordingly. You will find that if you prepare ahead of time, you’ll have a much easier time with her sleep.
Help with traveling through time zones

Create a Plan to Help Maintain Consistency

Before you take off for the holidays, sit down and create a plan to help you navigate your travel, as well as your sleeping arrangements. If at all possible, stay in one place during your trip so that you can maintain some type of sleep routine for your children. This may not be a popular idea, but it will help to give your “new” temporary schedule some consistency.
If your relatives balk at your request to stay in one location, consider offering to stay at a different house during your next visit, or consider a hotel. Having a consistent sleep space not only helps your child know that sleep is immanent, but it also gives you a reason to leave parties or activities in time for a reasonable bedtime.
Consistency is key to your child’s sleep success

Plan for Some Sleep Challenges

The holidays are full of wonderful opportunities to stay up late, and it’s silly to expect you to pass on everything, so instead, plan that you may have a late night, introduce a quiet activity or a third (late) afternoon nap, and expect that you may have to adjust your schedule.
A Note From The Sleep Lady: A child entering the holiday hustle and bustle who is already well rested will fare far better with potential sleep challenges then an overtired child.
If you choose to allow some late nights, make sure that the majority of nights you keep the nighttime routine close to normal. Remember that children thrive on routine, and an overtired child is not going to enjoy the holiday festivities as much as a well-rested one.
Tips to help you deal with holiday sleep disruptions

Don’t Forget The Lovey!

To you, all you may need is a favorite pair of jammies, but for your little one, it’s not just pajamas. Your baby needs her white noise machine, her lovey, and her nightlight, at a minimum. We all know that ‘travel light’ is a myth when you have children, and since you’re likely packing a car seat, stroller, and an entire suitcase of toys, clothes and diapers, be sure that you pack the important items for your child’s nighttime routine.
Being in a new place can be scary for small children, or overly stimulating, so having items from home can help to create a safe and relaxing space. I’ve even had families bring their child’s favorite bubble bath (or had a relative purchase it), or even a crib sheet from home to help their child relax.
A Tip From The Sleep Lady: Although I recommend that you pack as much of your child’s bedtime items as is reasonable, if you’re worried about your child having a safe place to sleep, confirm that your destination has a pack ‘n’ play, crib, or appropriate bed, or bring your own. There is nothing more important than a safe place to sleep, and you definitely do not want to get to your destination and discover that you have all of the “important” items…except the most important one!
Why your child needs a lovey

When traveling, your baby needs her white noise machine, her lovey, and her nightlight.

Stay Flexible

When you travel, it’s important to maintain as much of your child’s normal routine as possible, but it’s also important that you enjoy yourselves. Knowing this, use your best judgment about your child’s sleep. Chances are, especially if you’ve sleep coached, you’ll know when your child has reached her limits. Most small children don’t do well staying up well after bedtime, even if they appear to be having fun.
Make it your mission to be your child’s sleep advocate, and choose truly special events if you’ll be keeping her up late.
How to maintain a flexible schedule during the holidays

Plan For Recovery

Regardless of all of your hard work and planning, chances are that you will have some type of holiday sleep regression or backsliding happen. And that’s okay! The Shuffle is there to help you gently (and quickly) get your child’s sleep back on track after you run into challenges.
Overcoming holiday sleep frustrations

Author: Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

My name is Kim West, and I’m the mother of two beautiful girls, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 21 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. My sleep journey began when I started experimenting with gently shaping my daughter’s sleep by not following the conventional wisdom at the time. After having success (and then more success with my second daughter!), I began helping family and friends and my step-by-step method spread like wildfire, exactly like an excellent night of sleep for a tired parent should!