Did you choose D? If so, Congratulations! You weren’t seduced by the siren song of A, B and C — all of which were designed to fool you into thinking that there’s hope and a hidden order when it comes to a toddler’s sleep habits. (This is the answer to the Trixie Update Sleep Challenge. Go see how you would have guessed.)
I was shocked when I first rendered this chart. It didn’t look anything like I expected, which is why I decided to turn it into a challenge. I was surprised because Jenn and I both thought Trixie was on a pretty good schedule. I imagined that one year of data would show clear improvement as the erratic chaos of a 4-month-old gave way to the regular overnight sleep habits of a 16-month-old. Instead, this chart shows that even though she’s sleeping through the night, her actual overnight sleep-time and nap schedule during the day isn’t stable. There’s been a small shift in the amount of awake-time per day, which is supposed to happen as your child grows, but the signal is buried in a lot of noise.
Basically, this chart shows that no matter how hard we try, it’s difficult to get Trixie on a regular, predictable schedule. We have routines — dinner, bath, reading, lights out. We put her to bed at the same time almost every night (even though she doesn’t always fall asleep at the time.) But we just can’t control what time she wakes up in the morning. And when she inexplicably wakes up at 5:30am it throws off her schedule for the rest of the day. For example, do you try to keep a cranky Trixie awake until her regular nap time? Or do you just let her go to sleep once she lays down on the floor at 9am and starts sucking her thumb? It’s a tough call. And all these little variations add up to create massive sleep cycle swings over the course of several days.
Does this chart mean that it’s hopeless to get your toddler on a good schedule? No. There are small trends over the past year, and some of the more severe spikes do correspond to specific provoking events (like a road trip or being sick). But it basically means that there’s not a clean evolution.
If you didn’t choose the right answer to the challenge, take heart. About 75% of us expected to find a more predictable, ordered chart. Or maybe about 75% of us are just hoping to get a little more sleep.