We are into the fall season, and with it comes the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend. This will be a time for families to break bread and share in feasts as we get together to give thanks for the many blessing and good things in our lives. It’s a lot of fun to get together with extended family, but this change in routine can cause some worry for parents with young babies and children in regards to their sleep habits and how they will behave. Many people are uncomfortable with their child crying in the presence of others, and crying often does come hand in hand with over-tiredness, so here are a few tips to be prepared and help keep your little ones well rested during the festivities and holiday season.
1. Plan Ahead.
It’s generally well understood that people (including babies) that are well rested are typically more flexible and able to handle longer waking hours or changes to their normal routine than those that are chronically overtired. In knowing that Thanksgiving may end up with family gathered around the dinner table or living room conversing late into the evening past regular bedtimes, ensure that your children are well rested in the days leading up to Thanksgiving weekend. Planning ahead also means that if you will be staying overnight away from home, you should anticipate making your accommodations as comfortable and conducive to sleep as you can for your child. So if you’re planning on bringing a travel bed or play pen, make sure that you bring some other comfort items from home to add familiarity to it. This can include sheets, blankets, a lovey (if your child has one), a white noise machine, and your child’s favorite bedtime stories. Often times children aren’t used to the noises of someone else’s house, especially early in the morning if your hosts wake early to prepare breakfast for everyone. Bringing your white noise machine will help drown out the background noise of the house and other guests that “may” be loud sleepers or early morning risers.
2. Respect the Routine.
If you don’t already have a regular daily and bedtime routine, get started! Many parents sometime wonder if this means that they should put sleep training off until the holidays or continue to implement the behavioral intervention to change sleep habits for the better. I certainly would not advocate for starting “sleep training” a couple days before the Thanksgiving weekend, since it’s difficult to be very consistent when you’re traveling or having many guests over and have to host. However, sticking to your routine, including a regular bedtime routine, helps kids and young babies know what to expect next and prepare their body for sleep. Incorporating a warm bath is also very important, even if you are feeling rushed. Warm baths increase body temperature and once out of the bath the body cools. This causes a drowsy effect and amplifies what happens naturally as the circadian rhythm of our bodies prepares for sleep. So it’s good idea to continue to keep that warm comforting bath before bedtime, even if you are staying overnight in someone else’s home.
3. Manage Mealtime.
Everyone knows eating turkey makes you sleepy! In fact it is well documented that the tryptophan in turkey is a sleep promoting agent as it is involved in the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin, both important hormones in sleep regulation. However, while eating turkey may make you a little drowsy, over eating – which usually happens during thanksgiving meals – is more likely to play a role in promoting sleepy feelings because of increased insulin release, which results in an increase in neurotransmitters that promote sleep, much like serotonin. Eating too much protein heavy foods before sleep can lead to disrupted sleep because they are harder to digest than carbs. As such, it would be best to try and keep mealtime for your child around the regular time that they usually eat with respect to bedtime.
4. Communicate your child’s sleep needs to your guests/host.
Depending on where Thanksgiving is being held this year, letting your guests or your host know what your child’s sleep needs are will help to keep things “smooth” during the festivities. That being said, while your child will likely need an earlier bed time that everyone else, the chatter and talking may still be above ideal levels for your child. So again, bringing that white noise machine along with you can make falling asleep much more pleasant for your child.
Remember that Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time to be merry with friends and family and reflect upon what we are thankful for. Hopefully, with a little pre-planning and tips here in this blog post, you can help your child(ren) stay well rested and you’ll be thankful for their good moods in the morning!