A year of sleeping dangerously

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When I was pregnant, sleep deprivation was my biggest baby fear. For the entire nine months of my pregnancy, people said things like, “Enjoy your sleep while you can get it!” and “Are you looking forward to the sleepless nights? HAR HAR HAR!” and “You’ll seeeeee…”

I knew I couldn’t control newborn sleep habits, but I decided that keeping track of the awfulness would help my sanity. So the day after Tavi was born, we started tracking his sleep using a tool called Trixie Tracker.

It became immediately clear that Tavi was born a decent sleeper, but we tracked his sleep for his entire first year anyway. I don’t know … it just helped me feel ok about it all. Now that Tavi is a year old and on a pretty regular circadian cycle, we’ve stopped tracking, and to celebrate I thought I’d share a graphic representation of what sleep looked like for my son’s first year.

And so now I give you:

A year of sleeping dangerously:
12 months of one infant’s sleep development

Each row represents 24 hours starting at midnight. Yellow = awake / Blue = sleep
Newborn sleep at the top.


On the whole, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be … although some of that was Tavi being an ok sleeper, and some of it may have been that when you’re deathly terrified of something and people keep telling you it’s going to be soooooooo awful, you’re in a good place to be pleasantly surprised.

Want even more details and sleep metrics? GO GEEK OUT! (update: the permissions on the link have been fixed!)

Comments on A year of sleeping dangerously

  1. It is very cool to see the progression into a pattern, from chaos. I too am finding the sleep thing less terrifying than people make it out to be. A friend of mine is pregnant and the first thing I told her is that it’s not as awful as everyone tries to scare you into thinking.

    • I would add a caveat: for some people it IS that bad. I have some friends with a seven-month-old who’s still waking up every two hours. Every baby is different, and there are always going to be outliers: the newborns that sleep through the night at one month, and the toddlers that still struggle with sound sleep at age two.

      One of the things I liked about Trixie Tracker is that it showed you where your child lined up to other kids in terms of average hours of sleep a night. I could see that Tavi was just slightly sleepier than average. You can see the chart here.

  2. Haha, OK, I was skimming this in an RSS reader and didn’t catch that the latest date is at the top and the earliest date is at the bottom, so I looked at the last few months and thought, “Wow, that baby IS a good sleeper!”

  3. I agree that its not as bad as everyone says it is. The first couple of nights suck, although that might have a lot to do with just being stuck in the hospital because we both slept a lot our first night home.

  4. it is interesting to see the pattern. all babies are different. i had five. each one was as different as the next when it came to sleep. one of my kids slept only 20 minutes to an hour (that was it total, no naps, nothing) per 24 hours for the first six months. another slept from 10 at night until 7 and never toke naps for first 7 months. another only slept from 4 am until 7 am per 24 hours for four months straight and only took two 20 minute naps a day. another one started taking naps and sleeping through the night at three months (my fifth). i would wake up with my twins and average of 15 to 20 times a night the first year! so it can happen. and most sleep deprivation occurs the first six weeks. it is the not being able to complete a full sleep cycle that drives us nuts and the constant interruptions that get to you. most people say they have never felt more tired in their lives! each experience is different for everyone because every baby is different. the best way to get rest and not feel so sleep deprived is NAPS (if you can)!

  5. We have been using Trixie Tracker since our little one was 6 weeks old too. I absolutely LOVE looking back through the months and making myself feel better about where he is now (sleeping-wise). I am not sure that I will be ready to give up tracking at a year… but we shall see.

    • It was sort of fun to release the tracking! It kept me sane in many ways through those first couple months (“What did I do today? Oh right … THAT.”) but it was crazy freeing to stop tracking. LOOK MA, NO HANDS!! 😀

  6. I wished for something like this when our baby was littler! We had the Itzbeen, which was great, but I really wished I’d had something like this … with memory! Well, we’re two weeks away from her first birthday & she’s finally back on a pretty regular schedule. 🙂

    • Don’t tell: but I’d secretly been waiting to use Trixie Tracker since I first stumbled on it in 2003. That’s how much of a stats dork I am. I was like “Ooh, I can’t WAIT to have a baby so I can use THIS!”

      • Oh, Ariel, and you didn’t tell us about it all that time?! I would have loved to use it for Zoey but now that she’s 7+ months old, it almost feels like a wasted exercise.

        “the newborns that sleep through the night at one month”

        That was pretty much Zoey. We started off co-sleeping and she would wake up constantly throughout the day and night. Then at about 8 weeks, my wife had to go in for minor surgery so I took care of her all day. I had to get some work done so for one of her naps, I put her in her crib (for the first time). She slept for hours and we never went back. Pretty much since that time, she’s slept almost solidly through just about every night, 10-12 hours.

        The only thing we struggle with now is the lack of consistency in her daytime naps. Sometimes, she operates like the top of your graph and sometimes the bottom. We’re not sure what we do, if anything, to make one outcome over another but as long as she’s happy and lively while she’s awake, I guess we’re not screwing her up too badly. 🙂

  7. How very cool!
    We were very lucky Phoenix has slept through since 6 weeks old… and sleeps 12 hours straight at a minimum at night, with 2 naps during the day at 1yr old. My partner as a child slept 2 hours at a time till the age of 2.
    I think of course it varies from child to child, and I hope we are as lucky with our 2nd. I think seeing it all from the beginning is very awesome though! 🙂

  8. Mine’s actually been WORSE than I would’ve imagined, but I know for a fact that he is a rather rare case. He’s 8 months old and I’m lucky if I get two 3 hour stretches and then up every 1-2 hours. And that’s with bedsharing.

    So, yeah, it’s good to remind people that MOST of the time it’s not so bad as people make it out to be. And even if you -do- suffer with a terrible sleeper, you find that you manage to function perfectly fine anyways. You go into a sort’ve ‘mommy mode’ and cope.

    But, it IS possible to have a terrible sleeper, so don’t go in thinking it’s going to be sunshine and roses and baby will be sleeping through the night by 3 months either.

    • Absolutely this. I have some good friends dealing with a rough sleeper like yours, and so I know it’s very, VERY real. It’s all about fair expectation setting. Again, I’m glad I went into it expecting the worst … because it made my relatively average experience seem like I was lucking out. That said, in my experience “HA HA, YOU’LL NEVER SLEEP AGAIN!” is the favorite thing people love to say to expectant parents, and it’s just not fair.

    • I’m with you; everyone I knew was talking about how great their cosleeping was going, that they were all sleeping through the night, at a year my son was still up 3 to 5 times a night — it used to make me so mad.

      So, better stated — in the beginning it was easier than I thought, but every month that marks not sleeping through night is filled with more people going o_O;.

      (We’re finally started to get full night’s sleep at 21 months, and by banishing him to his bed — apparently we’re all too restless for any of us to sleep well together.)

    • Mine is the same. You are so, so not alone. I get pretty sick of people saying “my kid sleeps great because we’re strict about bedtime” or “because we let him cry” or “because we didn’t let him cry.” No. Your kid sleeps great because your kid is a good sleeper. The end.

      • This is why my favorite sleep advice always comes from folks with multiple kids, who’ve had to use radically different methods for each child. Because what works for one kid, in one situation, won’t work for another in another, or even the same kid in a different situation. I love folks who have no one sleep philosophy, but are like “Kid 1 was all about cosleeping and cuddles. Kid 2 needed the structure of Ferber. Kid 3 slept through the night immediately, and Kid 4 … nothing worked.” Dogma doesn’t help anyone!

      • Word. Do you get people who tell you that “Oh, just do XX, and he’ll be sleeping in no time,” like maybe you hadn’t tried all that already?

        Drives me crazy. We learned that for my son, it’s reading to him before bed. If we don’t read to him before bed, he’s up on and off all night. We read to him, and he sleeps. Fuck if I know why, but it’s what we do.

  9. Neither of the links are working for me either… and I’d love to learn more! I’m six months along, and hearing a whole lot of “you’ll see…” from folks. Thanks for posting.

  10. Very sorry about the “no permission” screen! The issue was that public sharing was disabled because the TT site had expired. I’m going to remove that restriction so it doesn’t cause problems like this in the future.

    Thanks for the interest!
    Ben MacNeill
    Founder, Trixie Tracker

  11. my least favourite phrase is the awful “You’ll seeeeee…” drives me insane! (just got it the other day from my mom, but not about the sleep, about the insane amount of baby crap that some people seem to accumulate–she tried to turn me into a hoarder like her and my grandma, but i moved out on my own just in time to avoid the clutter bug)

  12. Wow. Charting like that takes dedication. Last night I downloaded some baby tracking/charting apps to my phone to play around with before my baby comes (due in Feb). I’m thinking charting will be useful when I’m home on maternity leave, especially when we’re first trying to get a rhythm going. But once I go back to work I’m not sure it will be that useful. Can anyone speak to how time consuming charting like this is and how useful it really is, aside from the super-cool graphs of course.

    • Trixie Tracker made it pretty easy. If it had been hard, I wouldn’ta done it. They have an iphone app, and it’s click when baby goes to sleep, click when baby wakes up. If you need to go back and add stuff, you can easily insert waking or sleeping periods into existing blocks of time.

      If you have a partner staying home with the baby, it can be cool to check from work and see how the day is going, sleep wise. I used to do that on my workdays when Dre was home with Tavi.

      • A nitpicky point – they actually don’t have an iphone app, they have a mobile optimized site. This difference is key for us since our bedroom gets horrible wifi reception in our house which means it’s unusable at night. I actually use a different, app-based timer for tracking at night and import the next day. It’s a pain in the neck, but we’re dealing with crazy sleep stuff so the graphing is key for us right now. Alas. It’s just SO useful. I definitely wish they actually DID have an iphone app!

        Other than that, it’s hardly time-consuming at all, except for remembering to actually do the clicking when you’re muzzily waking up in the middle of the night.

  13. this is so cool! We actually have a home made stats sheet similar because our daughter is special needs and one of the programs we were in had us keeping track of meals, diapers, sleep almost everything. Even liking stats the experience was a little exhausting because it made it feel like we had to keep track and not enjoy. Its fun to look back on now though

  14. I just want to say that Tavi’s sleep looks very pretty. Like a sunset on a lake. 🙂 This reminds me of when we had to keep track of our baby’s pooing and peeing when she was first born. Do you have a graphic representation of that too? 😉

    • You can track EVERYTHING with Trixie Tracker, but we gave up on tracking diapers and nursing after less than a month. For some reason, the sleep data felt more emotionally useful for me.

      • Wow. We only tracked the diaper business for 5 days. I mean really, my kid pooped more than 5 times a day. No need to track whether enough was going in seeing as so much came out! 😉 And yes, sleep tracking is much more useful – both practically and emotionally!

  15. I used to be so scared about this — and even though my son isn’t a great sleeper (he’s only starting to sleep through the night as of, like, 2 nights ago, at 21 months), it was nowhere near as bad as I had been led to believe.

    And the chart is awesome! Is the bottom when he was newborn? I would guess that, but am unsure.

  16. I used Trixie Tracker too. I started when my son was about four months old after a couple months of doing the same charts by hand (gasp). He had problems with reflux and slept only in spurts for a while, so I wasn’t sure how much sleep he was really getting. Trixie Tracker was a godsend. I loved being able to see how my son’s sleep habits compared with others his age. Awesome tool, especially for stat freaks. The scatterplots made me a little too happy. 😉

  17. This is really interesting. If we have another one, I might try it. For me, though, too much tracking just makes me neurotic. We have done everything imaginable to help my son sleep well and he is a good sleeper in many ways, particularly in that he falls asleep for bedtime and naptime on his own and now, since 11.5 months, sleeps through (with a very early wake-up, though!). What has driven me nuts is that his total amount of sleep per twenty four hours is always less than it should be according to all the charts and the averages for Tavi’s cohort, too. He sleeps about 12-13.5 hours per 24 hours at 16 months, probably averaging 12.5, and yet many children sleep 13 to 13.5. So, I incessantly worry that his brain won’t develop as well or whatever because he doesn’t quite sleep enough. And often in the morning it does seem like he’d have liked another 45 minutes or so, even though he is always wide awake and chipper. So, I think this is one downside to tracking. It can make one really obsess. Now that I (mostly) try to focus on his mood and energy and not the hours, I do feel better. Tracking nursing was also a double edged sword for me, particularly because my little guy has always been on the small side. So, I’m torn. Is the tracking good? Or not? Or both?!

    • Oh, I TOTALLY hear that. I have a neurotic streak a mile wide, and was actually worried that Trixie Tracker would be more like Trixie Trigger … but somehow it did’t play out that way.

      • It might have worked for you because your baby slept more than the average, so it was affirming! (That is meant to sound nice, not snarky. Hurray for good sleepers!) My little guy always comes up about one hour short of all the averages no matter what we do — so I get all worried and panicky about him. I’ve done loads and loads of informal mental tracking — nothing this formal — and it has almost always put me in a grumpy and anxious mood. If we have another one, I am definitely intrigued by the Tracker, though — and also nursing trackers — though that can also make one neurotic! It was interesting to see that your son seemed like mine in that he had multiple shorter naps before settling into the three and then two nap pattern. Thanks for posting this story!

  18. yay for this, my youngest is just 2 months old and unlike my first son (who i still swear is the best baby ever) has had is days and nights mixed up since birth and things aren’t getting better

    maybe this will help me out A LOT

  19. I’m in two minds whether i would have used this, or whether I would next time, maybe with a poorer sleeper than my munchkin, I was worried when she started sleeping 12 hours at 12 weeks cos I’d been led to believe babies that young actually couldn’t sleep through! It amused me to discover that she sleeps better alone too-as do I! Not even room sharing works for either of us, let alone co sleeping!
    I’m noting it down just in case though, not that number two is even expected for a couple of years, since everybody’s different. My 25yr old sister had still never slept through an entire night in her whole life!

  20. One thing to keep in mind when comparing your wee one to the averages, average means the middle about half of the babies will fall below it and be normal and healthy. If your baby is an hour or two over or under, but is bright and engaged then he/she is just fine 🙂

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