Chris McFadden of The Daddy Sleep Consultant is Ireland & the UK's first male sleep consultant. We caught up with the Donegal man to get some top tips for getting the kids to sleep well over the Christmas break.

What is the perfect Christmas Eve wind-down schedule?
If your kids are anything like my boys, tiring them out during the day is a sure way to make sleep come easier. Getting out and about in the day on Christmas Eve, especially in the fresh air if weather allows, gives their little bodies a chance to tire out.

There are often Christmas walking trails in the local area; if not, a simple walk around your neighbourhood spotting Christmas decorations is a great activity for younger children. You could even make your own Christmas bingo cards, ticking off when you find a star, make your own Christmas reef, etc. The key is to provide plenty of stimulation and activity so that they are tired at bedtime.

Lots of parents assume that less sleep for babies and young toddlers on Christmas Eve might help with bedtime but my advice is not to reduce nap. If your little one is under the age of two, daytime sleep is essential for a restful night as an overtired baby or toddler at bedtime can lead to more disturbed night.

Another tip is to avoid Christmas movies before bed. We love Christmas films in our house, but they are often high in stimulation so just try and keep them as a pre-dinner activity so the time before bed can be a time to wind down.

If it's anything like my house, there is going to a bucket load of chocolate available, and without wanting to sound like Scrooge, just try and keep sugar to a minimum post-dinner to keep excitement and hyperactivity levels as normalised as possible.

Finally, stick to your normal bedtime routine as maintaining consistency with bedtime allows you to incorporate some of the fun Christmas traditions with limited disruption. For example, if you read a book before bed, read a Christmas book; we will be reading It was the Night before Christmas to our boys. If you sing a song, try a carol, but keep the flow of the night the same.

There are going to be additional activities to do before bed like leaving out milk for Santa, food for the reindeers or hanging stockings, so to ensure that older toddlers and children know what’s coming next do a countdown to bedtime e.g. "it’s 30 minutes until we go up for your bath", "it’s 10 minutes until lights out". This gives little ones plenty of notice which reduces anxiety and transitions into bedtime.

Any tips for keeping a sleep schedule over the Christmas holidays?
Between all the extra snacks, Christmas activities and visiting family and friends, it’s no wonder routine can easily go out of the window. But there are some simple things you can do to keep yourself on track:

For babies and toddlers, try and travel at scheduled nap times. Getting a nap, even if it’s shorter or longer than normal, at around the same time each day is a great way to give you the best chance of maintaining the same bedtime.

For all ages, try and keep to the same bedtime and routine. Take familiar books and bedding with you and carry out the same steps you would at home if possible. Following the same routine as at home, even in someone else’s house, will mean that your little one will know what’s expected of them at bedtime.

If you’re staying someone unfamiliar over the holidays, try and take used bedding with you. A blanket or growbag that smells of home can be so reassuring to littles ones in the night which makes them feel safe and secure.

If you are visiting family and friends, remember that babies under the age of one need to be in a safe sleep space which comprises of an uncluttered, enclosed space with no loose bedding and a firm mattress.

Most importantly have fun over the Christmas holidays! It’s such a fabulous time of year and you don’t want to miss things by being so rigid. For the last couple of days of the school holidays I recommend trying to slow things down and get back into a bit of a routine so it’s not a shock to their system on the first day back!

In your experience, what sleep issues have families struggled with over COVID?
One big thing that’s been hard for some families is getting enough stimulation for little ones in the day. So many classes and clubs were cancelled, and an active body and mind is so interlinked with sleep.

Also, parents’ own mental health. Sleep deprivation is hard. Being able to share stories and tips with other parents is so powerful and lots of new parents missed out on the experience of getting out into the community or meeting friends. It was isolating.

Also, there is nothing more refreshing than a change of scenery but with limited options to socialise and get out, it wasn’t as easy for parents to shake off a tough day or night with their little ones.