Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Sleep Logs

I mentioned in my previous post about how I was going to suggest to some parents that they keep a sleep log for a few weeks. This is something I have used regularly down through the years. A log - of whatever the behaviour in question - can give you so much good information. You think you know what you've been seeing, but when you start writing it down, you realize you've been making assumptions that don't bear a whole lot of resemblance to reality. And this is why I use them so much. The parents quoted in the last post hadn't a clue what their child's patterns were, and contradicted each other at every turn. Generally, though, parents present a much more united front. They know what they've been doing, they're clear on what the problem behaviour is, and they know just what to do to solve it: Get Mary to keep the kid awake more during the day. Which Mary is quite prepared to do. If it's necessary. Generally, however, it isn't. So Mary smiles and says, "Well, what I usually do in this situation is suggest we keep a baseline for three weeks to make sure we're clear on what's happening. I write down his naps during the day, you write down his sleep patterns at home on evenings and weekends, and at the end of three weeks we meet again to evaluate the data." I present them with a neat chart, that will enable us all to be clear on when he sleeps, how long it takes to fall asleep, what preceded sleep, how many night wakings, what rituals/patterns are involved - the whole shebang. And you know what? In over ten years of doing this, only three of these occasions have ever even gotten as far as the second meeting. Why? Because the parents are almost always surprised by what they discover. The couple who swore to me that his bedtime is very consistent discover that their exceptions outnumber their "normal" bedtime. The couple who said she was "always" up till ten discover that happens only one or two nights in five, and is generally associated with company at dinner. Patterns emerge that aren't as bad as had been perceived. Correlations appear that reassure. And in the end, the majority come to me at the end of three weeks and say, "We've figured out what the problem was." Most often, the routines are not as consistent as the parents thought they were. Sure, they adjusted baby's bedtime once in a while, but generally their patterns are consistent. Because they thought of each occasion as "unusual", they hadn't realized that all those "one-offs" were in fact the norm - their child had no real pattern. So. I love sleep logs. At the end of three weeks, we generally discover that it had nothing to do with Mary's schedule at all. See me smiling graciously once more. Once in a while, there are those occasions where there really is an issue that requires some daytime changes, too. With all that lovely data in the log sheets, we have something tangible to work with. The log sheets also provide a baseline, against which the changes we make can be measured. I love them. So tangible, so concrete. Unlike so much of parenting!

9 Comments:

Blogger kimmyk said...

You're really good at what ya do Mary.

I had to do this when my son was little-and his sleep pattern was completely off. It really helped to sit and take inventory so ta speak.

2/07/2006 07:12:00 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

So where does Nigel stand? Did they keep the log? This was one area (maybe the only one) where I am damn proud of how my husband and I handled it from day one. Our kids were both great sleepers, and to look at my oldest's personality, you'd never guess that. It was the training!

2/07/2006 10:51:00 PM  
Blogger L. said...

I remember making one of these with our first infant, and our pediatrician was so impressed that our son could sleep 4 or 5 hours straight at night, and she said, "That`s really great for a baby this small! He`s perfectly normal!" But the problem was that he wouldn`t sleep after that -- he would literally take 15 minute catnaps after each feeding, and that was IT. He didn`t take a solid hour-long nap until he started walking.
He was truly The Baby From Hell.

(Shudder...)

2/07/2006 11:13:00 PM  
Blogger mo-wo said...

I am a rabid recorder. The only time I gave it up was when I posted my very first blog post.

I recommend recording baby's days AND nights so you can sort out not just the early patterns. We were told in prenatal to not get too bent about a schedule, but that you want to achieve some 'predictability'. I took this to heart and found that keeping the record was a bit like reading stock reports but -- in the same vein -- better than nothing. I used the same tool to handle introducing solids and weaning, too.

2/08/2006 12:12:00 AM  
Blogger Juggling Mother said...

I've used this technique for food too - both with adults who swear they "can't lose weight" whatever they do, and with parents who claim their child "won't eat anything"

In every case, if you write down everything that passes their lips over a 7 day period (a month is better), then you soon realise they are eating loads - and usually snacks, which is why they don't bother with meals.

2/08/2006 03:19:00 AM  
Blogger Mary P. said...

Kimmyk: "Taking inventory". What a good way of putting it! I think I'll use that for the next parent who is dubious about the idea.

Kristen: Nigel is doing just fine. While I was waiting for Christmas to be over, he settled into some patterns that made his parents happier, with no need for the sleep logs, after all! A week ago, I tol his mother that I swaddled him, told her how to do it, and she says it "works like a charm". So we seem to be all sorted out.

Nice when you can look at something your children do well and say, "I did that!" Since we do it all the time for the not-so-good behaviours, anyway, deserved or not!

L: That sounds pretty ghastly, all right. Each of my three kids was a slightly worse sleeper than the one before, and I joke that that's the reason I didn't go for baby number four. It's only half a joke!

Mo-wo: When I was caring for kids under a year old, I provided their parents a weekly log of their doings, including nap times, diaper "events", food and snacks, outings, mood, behaviour. They loved it. That sort of information is really helpful at getting the overall picture, the general trends.

And yes, when we do a sleep log, it's being filled out for the full 24 hours.

MrsA: I've used this technique on myself when it comes to food, and you're right - it's very helpful! I've used it with my kids for what we call "screen time", which is computer, video games, TV, game boys. It's a simple way of becoming aware of what we're doing, so as to see what, if any, adjustments can be made.

2/08/2006 08:38:00 AM  
Blogger Jenorama said...

Well, I wonder if I should start keeping sleep logs to see if there is a correlation between them and Tommy's behavior at school...

2/08/2006 07:01:00 PM  
Blogger snaars said...

I kept a sleep log for a little while. I highly recommend it, for the short-term. But, I got uncomfortable with it. I thought it might be kind of a, like, a fire hazard? And, I was afraid of getting a splinter in my face. And it took up a lot of room in the bed. It can be really useful though, definitely.

2/11/2006 06:11:00 PM  
Blogger Mary P. said...

Snaars: This comment has me thinikng you haven't been getting enough sleep lately...

2/11/2006 07:27:00 PM  

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