The busiest month of the year for most sleep consultants is January. It’s generally the time when parents have finally decided enough is enough with their child’s sleep. During the fall, people put sleep on the back burner since there is often traveling and holiday disruption. But once January rolls around, everyone is ready to get back on track. Here are some ways to set yourself up for quality sleep in the New Year.
While it was all fun and games staying out late during December, in January, it’s important to get back to the basics in terms of your bedtime routine. I like to make sure my kids get a bath, brush their teeth and put on pajamas, read a few books, and then get a song or story in the dark. Once their routine is done, they go into their respective beds awake. Almost every night (there are exceptions of course), this is our routine. While yours may vary, keeping consistent with your fixed routine is key to cueing your child’s brain into bedtime as well as bringing them back to a set of behaviors that they are familiar with.
A lot of times over the holidays, we let things go. Children eat too many sweets, stay up too late, and often end up outside of their normal sleep space for the sake of convenience or just due to parental exhaustion. But if your desire is to have things return to normal once January comes, then you may need to start reinforcing boundaries that you neglected over the previous few months. This may mean putting your child back into their crib when you had been rocking them to sleep. It could also look like keeping your toddler in their own bed and you sleeping on their floor for a few nights to get them to adapt. Whatever it is you choose, remember that you may have a few tough nights but the consistency will result in better independent sleep long-term. For me personally, if my children end up waking more on those first few nights while getting back on track, I go to them in their rooms, comfort them briefly and perhaps even get them a cup or water, but then I remind them it’s time to stay in their own beds and I go back to my own bed. Usually after 3 or so nights, they are back on track.
Sleep tends to take a backseat to activities during the holiday season (as does healthy eating for us parents...but that’s a topic for another day). We often end up with our kids awake later than normal or skipping naps, all so that we can do all the fun holiday stuff. But with the New Year, it’s time to once again enforce your baby or child’s sleep schedule. This means going back to your previous nap times, often at home or at daycare, and aiming for the bedtime that may have shifted later in the previous month. It’s ok to temporarily alter your timing especially when you are traveling, but if your baby is still going to bed late and therefore looking tired, waking too early in the morning, or having rough nights, then really make sure their schedule is back in place.