Every parent struggles with getting her newborn to sleep through the night. But a sleep diary, a daily log that tracks a child’s behavior, can make a big difference. “Sleep diaries allow parents to clearly identify factors that could be contributing to restless nights so they can help their child establish a regular sleep cycle,” says Janet Krone Kennedy, Ph.D., author of The Good Sleeper ($12, amazon.com). To create and use a sleep diary for your child, follow these tips:
1. Think about what you want to accomplish. Detailed sleep diaries are helpful when trying to set a schedule, identify the source of a problem, or track progress with sleep training.
2. Consider different formats. Options include spreadsheets, apps, or filling one out longhand—you can decide which one works best for you! Here, you’ll find a basic format from The Good Sleeper to get you started.
3. Record each time the baby wakes up and falls asleep. Other details like what time the sleep routine started, if there was any fussing, and how you responded when he woke (feeding, soothing) should also be included.
4. Examine the data. After recording at least five days of information, take a look at what you’ve collected and see if you can identify any patterns (for example, the first nap of the day is always easy and long, but other naps are harder). Based on what you find, consider adjusting your routines to see how the changes affect your baby’s sleep patterns. “The first big revelation with a sleep diary is usually the effect of the bedtime on night waking and early waking,” Kennedy says. Parents learn a lot about their child’s schedule in general, what timing and routines work best, and how they can make small adjustments that have a big impact.