Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Science of Sleep


At our little guy’s day care the staff keeps a log book.

Inside its pages they chronicle the daily input and output of Master  Blackwell. What time he ate, when his diaper was changed, the diaper’s "status" and how much he’s slept are all penciled in.

Aside from this information, the staff at the day care are so detail oriented that they add notes about what toys the little guy liked playing with and if he smiled and laughed frequently.

Mrs. Blackwell and I are grateful to have all of these facts and it’s a great luxury to pick up the boy and know just about everything we could want to know. Combined, these daily updates serve as a fine record of the little leaps and bounds that make up his march through infancy.

That said, there’s typically one category that has changed very little: sleep.
"My tired eyes led me to believe this was a
ring of vegetable puffs."

We don’t need to glance to this particular part of the page simply because the story is always the same. Sure, it might be written every day and there might be new words used to describe it but really, they could start using a photocopier.

That’s because the boy doesn’t sleep. 

There have been days in which he’s managed to get 50 minutes or about that. But most days there is either no sleep, or 15 minutes here and 25 minutes there.

Now, I’ll preface all that follows by saying that the day care folks are fantastic and they make every effort to ensure he sleeps. He has the same opportunity as every other kid in the room to nap, maybe more. Those kids choose to nap. My son chooses to not.

While picking up my son's log book I noticed the open books of the other kids sitting next to his. To a fault, each of these kids sleep. 80 minutes here. 75 minutes there. 85 minutes again. 

We’re told that while the other kids are sleeping junior is well behaved, quiet, reserved and in general a non-disruptive presence. That’s good. 

If he was a threat to wake all the other kids up during nap time, I can’t imagine the staff allowing him back in the building.

So, with a few 15 to 25 minute exceptions, he doesn’t have afternoon naps at Day Care.

All of this said, I'm not sure what this means, if anything.

Would it be nice if he took two 90-minute naps every day? Absolutely. We are all repeatedly reminded of how important sleep is, doubly so for babies. So fragile and malleable, babies need the perfect set of conditions in which to grow strong and thrive. We are building the foundation of a life here and, after food, sleep is the most important physical imperative.  

Failure of an adult to sleep enough means you fall asleep at your desk. But the failure of a baby to sleep enough? Well, you might as well hide the kid from daylight and fit them for a dunce cap or a prison jump suit because there's just no hope. 

"Little Jimmy didn't get enough sleep? Well that explains why he used petrified Play-Doh to make a shiv." 

In my neverending quest to run contrary to popular opinion (or merely grow comfortable with the things I can't change, whichever you prefer) I am going ahead and calling BS on this age-old axiom.

Pictured: sleep-deprived baby, age ten. 
All told, our boy gets a solid 12-13 hours of sleep per day, including one 90 minute nap and one long sleep. Conventional recommendations vary but most hover around two 90-minute naps and one 11 hour stretch for a kid his age — he's ten months old now by the way. So, we're one hour and one nap below the recommended total.

What will the cumulative effect of this be on Junior? 

Will he stink at Math? Given that I'm his dad, he probably already does. Will he be given to bouts of flightiness? "Paging Mrs. Blackwell. I repeat, paging Mrs. Blackwell." Will he be one of those easily-frustrated folks with the attention span of a housefly? 

What were we just talking about?

What we've got going for us is that the boy goes to sleep every night at about the same time and wakes up at about the same time too. Occasionally he needs a middle-of-the-night feeding but most of the time, he's a straight shot from night till morning. 

So, maybe he's not into sleeping. He's no conformist, he's an innovator. His innovation? The consistent baby.

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