Oh, the joy when your child has a restful nap! It changes your whole day. A good nap is fantastic when you’re able to have one and especially when your child has one! They are restorative and therapeutic mentally and physically. Plus, your child needs naps to keep themselves healthy and thriving.
But nap struggles are the worst. These nap time battles seem to be compounded when you first start sleep training. Why does your child get the hang of bedtime sleep quickly, but daytime sleep is a whole other story? During the day, your child seems to have a harder time falling asleep or they wake up after their first sleep cycle (around the 45-minute mark).
Nap struggles result in a grouchy, fussy child all morning or afternoon until they go down for another nap. Plus, you’re stuck soothing and settling your child instead of getting the usual things done during the 1–3 hour naptime.
I think you’ll agree that putting your child in their crib, tiptoeing out of the room, then taking two steps and hearing them stir and cry, sucks.
So, let’s look at some of the reasons why naptimes are a struggle.
Sunlight or any blue, short-wavelength light, like those from a phone or TV screen, stimulates cortisol production. Cortisol is the hormone that our bodies produce to keep us alert. The opposite effect that we want at naptime.
Quick tip #1! Limit screen time for at least an hour before naptime to minimize blue light.
It’s not always feasible to keep your child away from light sources especially daylight. However, try to schedule your outings shortly after waking up. During the first few days of sleep training, try to be diligent about limiting any stimulating light at least 45 minutes to 1 hour before naptime.
Quick tip #2! Invest in blackout blinds. Keeping your baby or toddler’s bedroom dark is a huge help in ensuring long, high-quality naps.
Lack of melatonin
Melatonin is the counter to cortisol. It’s the hormone that helps settle your child and to gets your child ready for sleep. Unfortunately, melatonin production doesn’t fully kick in until nighttime for most people, including babies and toddlers.
That means that the body’s natural pressure to sleep isn’t as strong during the daytime as it is at night. This is one of the biggest hindrances to your child’s ability to fall asleep quickly at naptime. This pressure is also known as “sleep pressure”.
Without melatonin, you need to find another way to build up the sleep pressure. Which brings us back to the earlier tip – get your baby outdoors shortly after they wake up. Besides stimulating cortisol production, it also pumps up melatonin in the evening, which helps your child get the sleep they need at night. Sleep begets sleep! So more sleep at night means more sleep during the day.
Physical activity is another pressure builder. Get moving, especially during the early part of awake time.
However, just like screen time, start winding the activity down before naptime. If your toddler feels like their missing out, they will resist going to sleep at nap time. Who’d want to miss out on a great game of hide-and-seek or Paw Patrol?
As naptime draws nears, use at least 15 minutes to wind down. Stick to soothing activities like singing, stories, cuddles, or whatever they enjoy doing that’s low energy. This will help prevent sparking a tantrum by taking away something they’re super engaged in.
Do you have one of those “Do Not Ring The Doorbell – Baby Sleeping!” signs?
Doorbells, dogs barking, and back-up signals are loud jarring noises that wakes your child shortly after they’ve fallen asleep. Even worse, you child has also released some of that sleep pressure we worked so hard to build while they were awake, and that’s going to make it even harder for them to get back to sleep.
The best way to cover these loud noises is with more environmental noise such as a white noise machine. They provide noise cover from sudden, unexpected noises, which are the ones that tend to wake your baby up.
Make sure to check the volume level. White noise machines can get louder than recommended. Babies shouldn’t be exposed to noise over 60 dB for extended periods of time.
Independent Sleep Skills
Hopefully, these tips will reduce your naptime battles. However, nothing compares to teaching your child to fall asleep independently. This will have your child sleep through the night and day.
If you’re not sure how to start teaching independent sleep skills and you’re still relying on feeding and rocking to sleep, then that’s what we need to tackle first. Check out our sleep coaching packages or schedule your free call. We’d love to help make naptimes fantastic again.