With the fall season approaching, many families are busy planning for outings — from Halloween festivities to pumpkin patches to Thanksgiving dinners. It can become overwhelming to figure out when your child is going to take a nap or go to bed when you have events and obligations. Should you keep them on a tight schedule or allow for some flexibility?
In this post, I will provide three tips to navigate sleep during the holiday times so you can focus on making memories that last, and not stress about how your child’s sleep may be impacted.
Before I get into the tips, I want to preface this by saying: If you prefer to hire a babysitter for the evening or have a family member watch your children, that’s okay! I know sometimes it’s easier to leave the kids at home.
However, that’s not always possible, so these tips are here to guide you!
Extend wake windows throughout the day.
Since most events occur during the evening hours, this tip is really targeted toward evening events. The easiest way to accommodate changes for the evening schedule is to extend your child’s wake windows during the day.
If they normally have 3 hour wake windows, try extending them to 3.5-4 hours. This will shift their schedule naturally, so that they have an extra 1-2 hours at the end of the day, allowing them to stay up later.
“But Katie…won’t they be overly tired?”
If your child has been swinging the same wake windows for a while, extending them half an hour to an hour won’t make that much of an impact. The thing about wake windows is this: they are ranges of time that your child can stay awake.
Most children will have a wake window range of 1 hour, which means they can go to sleep at the beginning or end of that range.
If your child has only recently switched to a new wake window range, maybe because they recently dropped a nap, then you may have to get creative in keeping them up a little longer. Take them outside to play. Get on the floor and play with them. Chase them around.
The more energy they can exert, the more they will be able to handle the longer wake windows throughout the day.
Offer an additional cat nap if they need to stay up later.
Depending on your child’s current schedule and their wake windows, it might not be possible to push back their bedtime 4-5 hours to make the late night holiday party at your cousin’s house. In that case, offer your child an additional cat nap around their normal bedtime.
If your child typically goes to bed at 7 p.m. but the party doesn’t start until 9 p.m., you can put them down for bed at 7 p.m. like normal. Then about 40 minutes later, you can wake them up. The extra sleep will help power them through the night while also honoring their wake windows.
Anytime your child stays up later than their normal bedtime, though, you are working against their circadian rhythm. This means that your child may have trouble falling asleep once it’s finally time for bed, or they may have a rough day the following day.
And that’s okay, so long as you’re prepared.
Keep things in perspective.
If you want to go trick-or-treating with your kids, but that means bedtime will be pushed back, don’t stress. It’s one night. Children are incredibly adaptable, and one night of a later bedtime won’t throw everything off.
I believe that sleep is so important, and it’s the foundation of our mental, physical, and spiritual health. However, I also value family, friendships, and memories.
I never want you to feel like you have to pass up memory-making opportunities so that you can tuck your kids into bed at the same time every night.
Should your child have a consistent schedule the majority of the time? Absolutely! Kids thrive with consistency, and ensuring their bodies are getting the sleep they need is one of the best things you can do for them.
But a night off here or there? It’s absolutely okay. Just get back to routine the next day.
I don’t want you to walk away thinking, “Great! I’m going to stay out late and my kids’ sleep will be fine!” Chances are high that your child’s sleep patterns may be thrown off a bit.
If you extend your child’s wake windows or keep them up later than normal, your child could end up waking early the next morning or waking up throughout the night.
This is a typical pattern that occurs when a child is tired. So what are you to do?
Offer them an additional nap the next day (if needed) or give them an earlier bedtime (think 30 minutes early). Within a few days, they will be back on their sleep schedule.
Enjoying family and fun times is an important aspect in kids’ lives. I’m all for you going out to corn mazes, spending time with grandparents, or going on a haybale ride.
But those events will likely throw your child’s sleep schedule off course for the day.
And that’s okay!
Knowing how to respond is key.
Plan for the evening out by gradually extending your child’s wake windows in between naps so that they aren’t staying awake too long at any one time.
Offer them an additional nap if you plan on staying out super late.
And remember that overnight and the next morning may be a little off. Offering an extra nap or earlier bedtime will help your child catch up on the missing zzzs.
Now go out and make some memories!
I’d love to hear about your fall family outings! Message me on Instagram!