The Santa Effect is keeping your child awake… ALL YEAR!

December 10th, 2018 by Ashley Lohse

What does Santa (or Christmas eve) have to do with my child not sleeping well?

Funny you should ask. We all know the excitement of Christmas eve and trying to catch Santa in the act of his magical gift giving and, believe it or not, you and Santa have a LOT more in common than you think.

Let me explain.

I loved Christmas Eve as a child. My sisters and I always shared a bedroom for that night and our parents would usher us to bed a little earlier than usual so they could prepare for the morning’s festivities. From a very young age, my sisters and I would talk about trying to see or catch Santa. We would try so hard to stay awake all night. Of course, this means that I would always have a fairly restless sleep on Christmas Eve and every little noise would have me springing up to see if I was finally going to catch him this year! I never did.

santa kids stay awake

 

Many families that I have had the pleasure of teaching the skill of sleep to report that their child will fall to sleep peacefully at their breast, in their arms or in their own bed, while mom or dad stays or keeps them there. But each time an attempt is made to leave or set baby down in their own sleep environment… BOOM! They spring awake and mom and dad are back to doing the bedtime dance to settle them quickly again. Sometimes this can happen over and over until finally the kiddo falls into a deeper sleep and they are able to leave and head to bed themselves, often after over 1 hour of multiple attempts!

Here’s the trouble. Your child has learned, over the months or years of their lives, that every time they fall asleep you will disappear or leave! Well, this can be a great frustration to your little one, since they only know how to sleep with you being there. This is the same thing that I experienced as a child on Christmas Eve, in my attempts to try and catch Santa’s arrival. Your child is going to sleep in a hypervigilant state to try and catch your departure! So, they almost fight falling asleep or can’t stay asleep, until their little bodies take over and cave out of total exhaustion.

This hypervigilant state is not restful for your child. When your baby falls into a deep REM sleep, they relax, restore and repair the body, to get everything set for another day of great adventure. It also gives the body time to clear the brain of everything they have learned that day to make room for all the new things to process tomorrow. If your child is in a constant state of light sleep, the body isn’t getting enough time recover and restore. In small doses, such as exciting events like Christmas Eve, this isn’t a big problem. But if your child is trying to catch Santa daily, you are all going to be exhausted and burned out before long.

If this sounds familiar, maybe the best gift you can give yourself and your child this year is SLEEP. Teaching your baby how to go from awake to asleep can be a challenge. It’s not a skill that comes very naturally for a lot of people. A little support and guidance can go a long way. You and your child will thank you for it, I promise ☺

 

Sweet dreams,

Ashley

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