Thursday, June 3, 2010

A Prayer for Sleep

I've been lucky when it comes to my kids and sleep. Sure, we had the typical rough few months with both of my newborns, but at four months old, we took a hard line. We sleep trained. We let them cry it out. We stuck to early bed times and a good nap schedule. And it worked. My kids learned to self-soothe and fall asleep on their own. Sure, we had (and still have) the occasion rough night for teething or stuffy noses, but most nights they slept twelve hours a night. My kids were good sleepers.

I tried not to brag about it at mom's groups meetings and playdates. While others were talking about their sleep issues, I tried to keep quiet about how good I had it. I would offer suggestions as to what we did, trying to sympathize but also feeling like there must be something they were doing wrong - something we somehow did better. Well, ladies, it's payback time.

The sleep monster has struck our house, and good. It started about 6 months ago. Moe, my 3 year old with ASD, started waking up in the middle of the night. We'd hear him playing, often giggling. He'd stay up for an hour or maybe two, and would eventually fall back asleep. I was a little concerned because it made it harder for him to wake up in time for his 8 am therapy sessions, but by the time I consulted with our OT on some strategies to help him get back to sleep, he had grown out of it.

Then, about a month or so ago, Moe started to have some trouble falling asleep. The behavior was similar. He'd giggle and shriek in his crib. He was clearly over-stimulated and it started taking longer and longer for him to fall asleep, sometimes up to three or four hours. Again, this made for difficult mornings. We consulted with our OT, made sure we had a 30 minute wind down bedtime routine, tried the calming techniques. Nothing worked, and after consulting with our doctor, started him on melatonin before bed. It works like a charm at helping him fall asleep.

Relief! Problem sovled! Right? Right?? Wrong. Now we have a new problem. Moe is once again waking up in the middle of the night and having trouble falling asleep. On three separate occasions - enough to qualify as a trend in my book - he has been up for over five hours. Yes, dear readers, my once-was-a-great-sleeper child is waking up at midnight and not falling asleep until five in the morning. I feel like I have a newborn again. I'm so tired I can barely remember my name.

Everything is worse when we are tired. Moe's behaviors increase and speech decreases. My patience and ability to look at things with any measure of perspective goes out the window. I crave chocolate chip cookies. It gets harder for me to hide the bags under my eyes. It isn't pretty. Oh, cruel and vengeful gods of sleep, I beseech you. I am at your mercy. Please, let this pass.

Jen is thankful for a full night's sleep last night (Kaynahorah puh puh puh, knock on wood). She writes about the joys and challenges of raising a toddler on the autism spectrum at her personal blog, Anybody Want a Peanut? Follow her on twitter @wantapeanut.


  1. I, too, suffer the sleep woes. Just when all seems right with sleep world again it changes again. As it did for me and my little one last night where he was up almost the entire night after two hours of sleep. He was happy, full of energy and we did the hour of downtime before bedtime routine. Yes, a full hour. I have two little ones on the spectrum and it normally takes an hour of downtime routine plus a possible hour of them in their room before they finally fall asleep. I love it when they sleep twelve hours. For the past week I've also missed it incredably. I'm off to refill my sixth...or is it seventh...cup of coffee.

  2. My son was diagnosed at the age of 3. By that time, we were BEGGING any and all doctors/service providers to help with his sleep issues. No one did/could. Over time, the issues resolved themselves. And then my daughter started having sleep problems. (She's not on the spectrum but has her own issues.) We've tried just about everything with her, but if she's awake enough to know she's awake, her anxiety kicks in, and she takes hours or comfort to fall back off. Sigh...

    Of note: My son is now almost 13 and can easily sleep 'round the clock. I think it's one of the few blessings of the teenage years. But, oh, I don't wish puberty on anyone!

  3. My son was diagnosed at age 2 with ASD. No one though told us that the sleep problems went along with that. He is nearly 5 now and it is the neurologist after ruling out seizures that has suggested medication. Our son is 5 and we just now after asking doctor after doctor why our son awoke screaming at night... night after night not once or twice but several times a night and my trying everything to soothe him. We were both so deprived of sleep. I hated to think of medication as the only answer. We did use a weighted blanket which helps some but not enough. Not enough. Is medication truly the only answer??


add your voice to the conversation!
(spam will be cheerfully and swiftly deleted)