I've been there. I have. Doing anything & everything to get your little one down for a nap, tiptoeing around the house, hoping and praying the slightest noise wont wake them. Hopeful that you can make a start on something AND complete it. Trying to get them to sleep so that the evenings can perhaps be a bit more bearable for the whole family. You finally get them to sleep after using any means possible (hooray!) only to find that your efforts were in vain and after 30 minutes have passed they are awake again. Don't panic! There are a few things you can try which can help to improve sleep during the day.
Daytime naps can sometimes be a bit more difficult to troubleshoot as the levels of melatonin (the hormone that makes us fall asleep) are lower during the day.
Don't skip naps
Having a short nap is better than having no nap at all particularly if your child is sleep deprived. These naps can help to fill the sleep bank and help to make the rest of the day go a lot smoother. An overtired child will become restless, inconsolable and may be more difficult to settle in the evening. Think about where your child would sleep the best and allow them to have their daytime naps there even if it's somewhere you don't particularly like.
Optimal awake times/awake intervals
Awake intervals and nap timings can greatly impact sleep whereby if not enough time has passed between naps, your child may not be tired enough to fall asleep. On the other side of the coin, too much time between naps or between a nap and bedtime can create overtiredness and then the child may become inconsolable and difficult to settle. This can often cause confusion for parents as the two scenarios present similar behaviours where they will have difficulty with settling.
Nap timings for newborns may be unpredictable every day and as they get older this will become easier to work out. However in the meantime, you can familiarise yourself with their awake interval timings to optimise their sleep needs.
Infants need to be able to tolerate sounds during the day whilst they are asleep. As difficult as it is, particularly with the first baby, try not to minimise household noise during the day. It can be very difficult to have to make attempts to keep the noise down for a child who can only sleep in complete silence, particularly if there are older siblings. Do not talk in hushed voices and perhaps try leaving the radio or television on.
Children are able to pick up on the emotional availability of their parent(s)/carer(s) and so it is necessary to put away any feelings of frustration which can help towards creating a calm environment making it easier for baby to settle. A child who is distressed will struggle to fall asleep in the first place as they are unable to cope well with such situations. As difficult as it sometimes can be, try to stay calm.
Sleep to wake
Children transition through sleep with sleep cycles and each is about 40/45 minutes before a new one begins. Try hovering near your child before they are expected to wake to try to coax them back into another sleep cycle perhaps using the method you did to get them to sleep in the first place. If that won't work you can always try shushing, patting, holding.
The same way in which we need to relax before we go to sleep at night, the same can be said for children. They should be given opportunities to wind down, perhaps a quiet game, a story, a massage, anything to transition them to naptime. The pre nap routine can also help to do this. Calmness is essential to assist babies to be able to fall asleep in the first place.
This should be a shortened version of the bedtime routine and should not be skipped. It allows children to understand what is coming next and something which with time they will associate with going to sleep. It should be age appropriate, not too long or with too many elements to it for the younger ones. It simply needs to convey the message that it is almost sleep time. For example during the day you could have some quiet play time, using the toilet, a story if there's time, a drink and the unique sleepy phase.
Every child shows unique signs of tiredness and there are both early and late signs of this. It is important to recognise the early signs in order to give your child opportunities for sleep before the late signs start. Some children show one or two early signs before becoming quickly overtired and others are able to go for longer periods of time. The more overtired a child is the more difficult they can sometimes be to settle so make sure you don't miss the window.
The place in which your child has their nap should be peaceful and not too stimulating without too much clutter. The room/area should be at an ideal temperature so that they are able to feel comfortable.
Words of affirmation: Just because you have an infant doesn't mean you can't feel the joys of sleep again!