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How to make sure children get some sleep this Christmas

We all remember the giddy excitement of Christmas approaching from our childhood, so the parents among you will no doubt appreciate why your own children are finding it difficult to sleep at night now we're into Advent.

TV programmes are book-ended with adverts about toys and party food, visitors are coming round more frequently than usual and even the shops are festooned with decorations, never mind your own home.

Nobody wants to suggest that kids shouldn't get excited about this time of year and that all this should stop - but as adults, you won't want them completely hyped up and therefore sleep-deprived either, because it's going to affect their mood and could spoil what should be a nice time.

To prevent your offspring turning into little Grinches as the big day approaches, here are our top tips on ensuring they get plenty of rest.

Retain your routine

Although things like Nativity plays will undoubtedly keep them up past their bedtime, try to stick to your usual routine as much as possible. Half an hour later in bed 'just this once' can quickly become a habit - and it's hard to wrench away once the festive season is over.

A bath, a story and a peaceful goodnight can work wonders for bringing on sleepiness, so lay the groundwork now and you should find children's minds and bodies are 'trained' to feel tired when they should, even as December 25th is just around the corner.

Tire them out

Even though it's winter, aim to get little ones exercising as much as possible so they're physically tired. Whether it's a brisk walk back from school, a play in the park at weekends or a bounce on an indoor trampoline when the weather's bad, burning off excess energy can only be a good thing.

Reduce noise levels outside their bedrooms

Kids hate to feel like they're missing something, so don't make it obvious when you put them to bed that you've got 1,001 'fun' things (or tasks they'll perceive as exciting) like wrapping presents to do before you retire. They'll only get up wanting to help, so insist you're going to bed soon too.

Similarly, tell visitors to either come during the daytime or when youngsters are already fast asleep - it's amazing how many well-meaning people turn up right on bedtime otherwise. 

Don't overdo the Christmas fun

This is the perfect opportunity to dance to a Christmas CD, put decorations up and do Christmas crafts, but it can all get a little bit overwhelming, especially if the TV's been on and everyone's at home all at the same time.

Instead, try to tone it down and do one thing at a time, as well as limiting anything festive-themed so it doesn't come to a stop right before bedtime. Also, tempting as it might be, don't put trees and dangly garlands up in kids' rooms - stick to the lounge so they don't get overly giddy.

On Christmas Eve itself...

December 24th is the ultimate day of excitement, when children know Santa is on his way and every grown-up is asking them what they're getting in their stocking.

You might have to accept that some level of sleeplessness is unavoidable - but at the same time, a few easy techniques can ensure this doesn't mean having them up all night.

Wake them up early on Christmas Eve

Sticking to the idea of tiring them out, raising them early will give you the best chance of them being bleary-eyed by 7pm. Let them run errands such as delivering last-minute presents with you too, rather than leaving them at home to fill up on Quality Street.

Read 'The Night Before Christmas' and snuggle down

Swapping their usual bedtime story for this charming poem will allow everyone to feel Christmassy but maintain some semblance of calm at the end of the evening. If they have toys like Pillow Pets that emit a soothing glow, get them out and say the toy is going to sleep ready for Father Christmas as well.

Schedule a getting-up time

For youngsters who can tell the time (or very nearly), point out that they can only get up to open their presents from, say, six or seven am to avoid a very early morning visit. Insist they'll have to go back to bed if they get up any earlier (you might have to restrain yourself if you're excited too!).

Point out that Santa won't come

And finally, if you're desperate, you could always point out that Father Christmas can't deliver presents to mischievous children whose eyes are still open. Funny how that can stop them mid-protest...

It's tricky to stop the thrill of the season from spilling out towards night-time, but hopefully we've given you some good ideas to keep kids happy and healthy this month - and to avoid any tired tantrums. 

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