Sleep, A Distant Memory

Sleep. A distant memory for most parents. Remember the days of sleeping in on the weekends? Or sleeping through the night with no interruptions? Even taking a nap on a whim was bliss. Ahh, the good old days.

Oh sleep, how I miss you. These days I’m lucky if I can get a full 5 or 6 hours of uninterrupted slumber.

My nights typically look something like this:

7:45 – 8:00pm:  The usual bedtime routine. Bath. Brush teeth. Story time. Tuck my boy into bed

8:30 – 9:00pm:  He finally falls asleep

9:00 – 10:30pm:  I enjoy my alone time. I’ll try to catch up on a favourite TV show or read a book, only to fall asleep in the process.

1:20am:  I awaken to the sound of my son shouting “Mommy!” It’s amazing how in tune I am to my sons erratic sleep patterns.

I quietly say “shhhhh” … and silence. Oh good, he’s asleep. Wrong! I hear a booming “MOMMY!” Now he’s really unhappy.

I walk to his room in a zombie-like state and pat him on the back without saying a word. He’ll usually say something like “lie down beside me” so I do. Perhaps I’m breaking a cardinal rule here but I’m usually desperate at this point. I’ll do anything to get him to fall asleep.

1:30am:  He’s still awake and his constant tossing and turning is irritating me. He also likes to dig his feet into me, not sure why, but it’s something he’s been doing for years, probably a stim and it drives me bonkers. “Are you hungry?” I ask. He replies with a loud “no”, “Are you thirsty?” Again “no”. I’m exhausted. I get up and manage to sleepwalk back to my room, usually crashing into a wall or door in the process.

1:35am: I hear Max jumping on his bed, squealing and laughing. I’m not amused. Why does he do this?

2:25am:  He’s still awake and jumping, tossing and turning, sleep is nowhere on the horizon. I groan.

3:30am:  He calls for me again, “MOMMY!” I shuffle back to his room and plop myself beside him. “Max, please go back to sleep”. No dice and I’m on the verge of tears.

4:30 – 5:00am:  He’s finally fallen asleep.

5:30 – 5:45am:  I finally fall asleep.

7:00am:  My dreaded alarm goes off, it’s loud and piercing. I’m woozy.

Unfortunately, this scenario happens more often than not.  Is it his autism? Is this typical four- year-old behaviour?  Is it a little bit of both?  His developmental paediatrician says his sleep issues are likely attributed to his autism.  I suspect that certain foods contribute, but I don’t know for sure.

I recently read that children with autism have poorer sleep quality than do other children.  They both sleep less overall and are prone to frequent night wakening.  Sigh.  WHHHYYYYY????

I’ve taken many drastic and desperate measures to get my child to sleep through the night.  Melatonin, black-out shades, eliminating screen-time such as his beloved iPad, cutting out all sugar and certain ‘trigger’ foods, to sticking to a very strict and predictable bedtime routine.  Nothing seems to work. I wish I had a solution to this problem, but sadly, I don’t.

Next time your child has kept you up the night, just know you’re not alone. Always remember one thing: coffee is your friend.