Sleep Cartography

This horrible, random mess is a visual representation of the past 45 days of Trixie’s sleep cycle. As in the Sleep Log, yellow depicts awake periods and blue sleep. The format has been vertically compressed with higher contrast colors to emphasize any patterns (or lack thereof) creating a map of her sleep habits.

A Visual Representation of a Human Infants Sleep Cycle

It’s obvious at a glance that there’s no strong pattern for the majority of this time period. To be fair, small clusters of order do exist representing minor successes, such as the middle left between the hours of about 1:00 am and 5:00 am, but they are simply overwhelmed by the surrounding chaos.

The lines marking 6:00 am and 9:00 pm represent the Blue Zone — the ideal overnight sleep period. In a perfect world, Trixie would be asleep by 9 and let us sleep until at LEAST 6:00 am. As you can see, this zone is regularly violated with impunity. We don’t fare much better outside the Blue Zone either; her morning and afternoon nap periods are maddeningly irregular. The most annoying habit, which she is slowly growing out of, is the 38 minute cat nap. These are the tiny blue dashes interspersed throughout the map. To her credit, she has been taking consistently longer naps over the past 2 weeks, and those tiny dashes appear less frequently.

But even when taking longer naps, there is still no predictable pattern. She should be taking 2-3 multi-hour naps a day, preferably at about the same time, and sleeping through the night. The goal is to slowly move her toward some kind of schedule. This doesn’t seem like too much to ask for, but we’re not seeing much progress. The pattern for the latest week doesn’t seem any less random than the pattern for the earliest one.

So what does the ideal sleep map look like? It actually wouldn’t look much like a map at all. The intricate, irregular geographies would give way to boring, but beautiful, vertical stripes stretching deep into the night.

An Ideal Sleep Map

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7 Responses to Sleep Cartography

  1. hannah says:

    Do you find it validating or discouraging to see the scary random mess on the big chart? I would find it validating – yes, Virginia, it really is that bad. And then you can feel like a badass for enduring it. You can win at parental battle story-telling – a common passtime among the breeding crowd.

  2. patricia says:

    I’ve checked out your recent version of the sleep chart and I think Trixie is now doing wonderfully! She is indeed converging towards your conceptual model of ideal sleep as you posted on Jan 8th. I applied the same sleep-training to my now-16-month-old with great success.

    I enjoy your site immensely…you’ve well documented what many parents have often wondered.

  3. Charlie says:

    The blue lines are converging, at this rate she will be sleeping for days or weeks at a time before you know it.

  4. hannah says:

    Yes, I too have been very excited to see Trixie’s improving sleep cycle. She had two banner days there, followed by a bit of a relapse. I have no idea what you’re currently doing in terms of “sleep training” but will offer my unsolicited advice, as you are surely used to by now, even if you despise it. Check out the couple of days where she took two long naps and then try to make her take her naps then and only then – no naps earlier than that, lest she do one of those loathesome B.S. 38 minute numbers. I know this is what I did to my own traumatized daughter that eventually worked, and of course, if it worked for me, it will have to work for you, since all babies are exactly the same. But, really, it might be worth a try if you haven’t already done so. I really do feel your pain, Ben, as a stay at home parent of an erratic napper, in spite of my sarcastic comments, and sincere, if nosey advice. I really did feel like I’d jinxed you after she had her two ideal days and then slipped. Two steps forward, one back = progress nevertheless.

  5. benmac says:

    To All (in order)

    Hannah: It’s always about the glory. If there wasn’t a big mess, there wouldn’t be anything to write about.

    Patricia: I’m glad to hear of a victory in the sleep wars, and also that you enjoy the site. Please come back often and spread the word. thanks-

    Charlie: The ultimate goal is to get her to stay asleep until she’s toilet-trained.

    Hannah: I’m going to address Trixie’s sleep training more fully in an entry (hopefully soon), but it’s nothing that mysterious or complicated. We are roughly trying to do what you suggest. The unfortunate thing is that sometimes Trixie still only takes a short nap after we’ve artificially kept her up past her desired naptime. The net result being an extra cranky baby for an extra hour or so leading up to the nap, and then no pay-off. I need to run a cost-benefit analysis on how often that strategy works and whether it’s worth it.

  6. ddf says:

    edward tufte would be proud.

  7. Melissa says:

    hahahahaha I love it!