You’re not alone if your children are always so excited for Santa’s annual visit that they struggle to sleep the night before. And now a leading sleep therapist believes she has found the key to coaxing them into bed before the big day – but it goes against tradition.
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, a British author who trained at King’s College London, claims serving up the highly anticipated turkey meal late on Christmas Eve would ‘induce sleepiness’. Parents should ‘throw tradition out the window’ and roast the turkey a day early if they don’t want to resort to threats of Santa not visiting, she states.
Her comments follow recent research by Leeds University which discovered a third of British children are already exhausted. They found 36 per cent of children aged between six and 11 getting less than seven hours sleep a night – significantly lower than the NHS-recommended 10 hours.
Dr Nerina Ramlakhan, an award-winning British author, claims serving up the big meal on Christmas Eve would ‘induce sleepiness’ Dr Ramlakhan, working in conjunction with Silentnight, said: ‘Turkey contains high levels of the tryptophan, an amino acid which promotes serotonin production.
‘Eating turkey helps to stabilise blood sugar and when it’s eaten late in the afternoon or early evening it can induce sleepiness.
‘Throw tradition out the window and roast your turkey up for a delicious Christmas Eve supper.’
She added: ‘Children are going to be over excited and inevitably full of sugar in the run up to the big day.
THE TOP FIVE SLEEP INDUCING SNACKS
- 1. Walnuts and cashews (high in Tryptophan)
- 2. Cherries (high in melatonin)
- 3. Apricots and raisins (high in vitamin B6 to enhance the production of melatonin)
- 4. Seeds (high in potassium and magnesium to relax muscles)
- 5. Oranges (high in potassium)
‘Trying to stick to their usual routine and get them to wind down is probably not going to work.
‘A nice helping of turkey will counteract the sugar rush, and lead to deeper more restorative sleep.’
Dr Ramlakhan said this means ‘you and your little ones will wake feeling refreshed and full of energy on Christmas morning’. And Dr Ramlakhan’s claim comes just a day after an experienced endocrinologist warned of the dangers of having large portions for Christmas dinner.
Dr Marvin Lipman, clinical professor emeritus at New York Medical College, was behind the warning, published on Consumer Reports. He pointed to a study of almost 2,000 heart-attack patients that found overeating can quadruple one’s chance of having a heart attack on the same day.
Not keen on a turkey dinner the night before? Here are five more tips by Dr Ramlakhan
1. Beware the ‘S’ word
As beloved a character as Santa is, many children are actually frightened by the thought of the man in the red suit coming down the chimney and into their bedrooms.
If your little one is apprehensive, leaving stockings and other treats out of the bedroom and letting kids know that Santa will put all the presents in the living room could help.
Knowing there won’t be anyone coming into their personal sleep space will make children more relaxed and hopefully less stressed about going to bed.
2. Hide the festive chocolate
Children need a good balance of the hormones serotonin and melatonin in their system to be able to drift off to sleep, and eating the right food is crucial for boosting these hormones.
December can feel like a whirlwind of party food and festive chocolate but it’s important to make sure your little one eats foods that are high in serotonin. Good examples are chicken, cheese, tuna, eggs, nuts and milk.
3. Wear them out
There’s nothing like a big winter walk to tire children out over the holidays. If you’re serious about getting some sleep on Christmas Eve, plan as much physical activity for your children as you can during the day.
Not only will the fresh air wear them out, but having time away from screen will stop them being wired and unable to sleep in the evening.
4. Create a calm sleep environment
Bedrooms need to be sleep-friendly and this means a calm environment free from distractions.
Keep the Christmas decorations, advent calendars and other reminders of the big day out of your little one’s room, they are unlikely to forget it’s Christmas Eve but making their sleep space as relaxing as possible can make a big difference.
5. Stick to their normal routine
If you’re a stickler for bath, book, bed then don’t let the routine go out the window just because it’s Christmas Eve. Keeping to their regular bedtime and letting them wind down with a hot bath and a bedtime story should help with lulling them off to sleep.