So I mentioned yesterday that Pudding had gone back to sleeping badly. Not just Pudding, but the whole family. Cubby was also waking several times in the night. One or both of the children would end up in my bed each and every night. Spectrummy Daddy got kicked out to whichever vacant bed he could find. I would endure a night of tossing and turning, kicking and having my hair pulled. After several nights of this, it wasn’t just Pudding’s behavior that had gone downhill. My tolerance levels were at an all time low, which was the very reason I needed that time out.
Following yet another success with positive reinforcement, I decided that would be our only hope for fixing this problem. That is easier said than done, however, as Pudding’s rewards have to be immediate and desirable to work. I couldn’t think of any motivator that would send her immediately to sleep. We’d worked through various sensory strategies to no avail. She likes her bed in a certain way to sleep (lots of weight for proprioceptive input), and we played around with sound and light but it didn’t seem to make a difference. Melatonin helped her to go to sleep, but she was still waking up several times in the night, and resisting going back to sleep when she did.
Behavioral theory dictates that there is always a reason for an action. In the absence of all other evidence, I concluded that the reason the kids were waking was because they wanted to sleep in our bed. I was reinforcing by allowing it to happen. We put a gate up, and before long Cubby awoke and screamed in protest. Seconds later Pudding was out of bed, crying and pushing at the gate. We live in a townhouse and we don’t have the most understanding of neighbors, so crying (screaming) it out is not an option we could go for in the early hours of the morning. I took Cubby, and Daddy took Pudding. Instead of bringing him to our bed though, I took him back to his own. It was warm in his room. The heating doesn’t work in his room, so we have a portable heater and I turned it right down. What is just right for him when he gets out of the bath is obviously too much in the night. Still, there was no way he was going to sleep while he still heard his sister, so Daddy and I traded off.
The temperature in her room was just right. I sat on the chair beside her bed, but soon she asked me to get into bed to cuddle. I abandoned any plans to return to my bed for the night, and climbed in. Yes, I was still reinforcing a behavior that I wanted to change, but I don’t make my best decisions while half-asleep. She pulled up the covers and snuggled in next to me. The two of us woke up a few more times in the night, and now I knew why. The temperature in the room was not so comfortable underneath the two duvets and weighted blanket that she needs to sleep under. I was hot and thirsty, and the first thing I did in the morning was drop the thermostat by 5 degrees.
The last couple of nights? They’ve slept better. We’ve slept better. We’ve gone the until 5.30 with no little people in our bed. For all I thought I’d considered every sensory aspect, I’d let this one go unnoticed until I’d actually slept in her room. Pudding has never told me when she is too hot or cold. Even when she has a fever, she hasn’t expressed that in words. Food can be too hot, the weather can be too hot or cold, but never has she described her physical state. Until she can actually interpret these sensations and communicate them to us, she relies upon us to puzzle them out for her.
Thanks(!) to the recent cold weather, Pudding and I have been doing lots of puzzles together. She and I do them in very different ways. I find the corners and the edges, then work my way around methodically. She picks up pieces, looks at them closely and visualizes which go together, making the picture immediately, then working out to the edges. There both valid ways to do a puzzle, but her way is about getting into the picture, and figuring it out immediately. My ordered, patient way means I sometimes the miss the obvious while looking for an edge piece. Sometimes her way is better, I need to get up close to a problem to have any hope of understanding it.
I’d love to say that our sleep problems are resolved, but while writing this, Pudding got out of bed to tell me she couldn’t sleep. In detective mode, I returned to her room. The noise from next door was the culprit this time, but she didn’t want her sound machine on. Oh well, even this won’t be an issue once we move. Eventually the neighbors became quiet. She went to sleep by herself and didn’t wake up until after 6. The sensory/behavior puzzle will probably always perplex me, but looking at things from a different perspective (the Pudding way) can help clear things up. And for the puzzle I just can’t figure out? I’ll sleep on it, given half a chance.