Sleep. As a mother, it’s a precious commodity. Hell, even if you’re not a mother, you start to go a little crazy if you don’t sleep. It’s scientifically proven that sleep deprivation can lead to a whole host of health problems. So, what do you do when you have insomnia and, as is common when raising a child with autism, your child does too? For me, sleep deprivation is a constant issue. I can vouch for the negative impact sleep deprivation has on my ability to control my mood, but it also absolutely destroys my ability to think clearly.
It’s no secret that adults are supposed to get an average of 7-8 hours a day of sleep? On average, even when I try to go to bed early, I get about 6 hours of sleep. School-aged children, like my son Andrew, are supposed to get at least 10 hours of sleep. We put the kids to bed around 8 or 8:30 every night, but I know that one gets far more sleep than the other, and his decision-making and stress tolerance during the day is profoundly impacted by his insomnia.
Did you know that more than half of children with autism have sleep disorders? A new study has shown that melatonin about an hour before bedtime may help children with autism sleep better at night. Some only need 1 mg, while others need 3-6 mg of it. Unfortunately for us, melatonin does not help Andrew that much. Andrew’s lack of sleep affects not just him, but his sister Arwyn and both us his parents
A majority of the cause of these incidences are that the parents refused to seek appropriate help for their children and for themselves. What we must acknowledge is that parents of children with autism need just as much support as their autistic children do. And sometimes, they need someone who can help point them to the right resources for help with behavioral problems stemming from sensory overload and their child’s own lack of sleep. At the very least, as parents of children who need just little more than the typically developing child, we need to know we can pick up the phone and that someone will answer the call. I know first-hand how frustrating it is not to be able to sleep, so I get a little less angry about my Andrew’s constant awakenings than most people. It’s lonely waking up in the middle of the night and lying in bed willing yourself silently to sleep. It’s lonely, and frustrating, and just plain awful. Think about how sleep deprivation and insomnia must feel for our children, who are too young to make sense of what’s going on with their bodies. They get constantly told to go back to bed, yet they cannot sleep. Of course, they seek our comfort and want us to be awake with them. Wouldn’t you want someone with you if you were awake in the middle of the night and couldn’t sleep?
I don’t know the answers. We’ve tried everything to get Andrew to be able to sleep better. We’ve done the same for me. I remain, as always, a tired mother of two children. I’m a well-read person. I read tons of books about autism and ways to help Andrew. I take medications sometimes myself so that I can try to sleep. But in the end, Andrew and I are stuck in this loop of sleeplessness together. Who knows when I’ll experience what a true good night’s sleep will look like or whether Andrew will every consistently sleep through the night. I’m done being angry about it, this doesn’t solve a damn thing. It is not Andrew’s fault. I am trying to have more patience than most people when it comes to the constant awakenings. I’m just tired. And if anyone knows what will help us both sleep, I am open to suggestions because even using Lavender oil has proven slightly helpful, but mostly ineffective for he and I.
What I wouldn’t give for one night of completely restful sleep! And to spend more than a day or two of Andrew being able to sleep without coming out constantly and say, “No sleep,” or him just being so riled up like he’s on crack or something. Don’t judge for the verbiage. Literally night after night this is the pattern or the meltdown train pulls in Wongville with scream, self-inflicting behaviors and just tears. And no matter what I or my husband do to calm him, is ineffective. The worst part of all this is when Arwyn gets woken up and can’t go back to sleep. She is just simply too young yet to completely understand what is Andrew goes through. She does know he is different than here, but that is about it. That is another blog in due time. As I sign off, all I have to offer you is a huge yawn and the hope that one day, we will sleep again.