I’m Only Sleeping
You know, there just might be a Beatles song title to fit any blog post…which is a challenge I willingly set for myself.
Last week when I asked for questions, a friend wondered about what really happens at bed time. Sleep is constantly in our thoughts in this house. I’m a big fan of it. I never feel like I get enough of it, and always want more. Even when I was pregnant with Pudding I didn’t get much of it. I was kind of prepared for those early days of round-the-clock breastfeeding. At a few weeks old, she suddenly started sleeping through the night – a full twelve hours. It was fantastic. We congratulated ourselves on our little sleeper.
So when, at 5 months old, she started waking up all the time, and seemed inconsolable, we thought it was an aberration. It must have been teething. She must have been in pain. I knew nothing of sensory issues back then. I did know about routines though, so we adhered to a strict routine, one that we continue to this day: dinner, bath, story, bed. And at 7 we would have her asleep, then wait for the inevitable screams. We got fed up of this by the time she was 10 months, and we stopped going in every time she woke, and within a few nights she was back to sleeping through the night. Right around this time we discovered her allergy to dairy, but we didn’t make the connection between that and sleep. Again, we patted ourselves on the back for the return of our little sleeper.
She was never thrilled about taking naps, and at around 18 months, when I became pregnant with Cubby, she just gave them up altogether. I craved sleep, tried everything I could think of, but they were gone and haven’t returned. She was back on dairy, and because I hadn’t seen the hives and eczema this time around, we thought she was fine on it. At least she still slept through the night, though the nights got shorter and shorter.
Around this time, what we would later call autism symptoms began to emerge, but we didn’t notice them at the time. I’d tell myself she just needed more sleep, and that may still be true. She definitely functions better on more sleep, like all of us. Wearing all that energy out of her helps too, so we bought a mini-trampoline for the winter, and we go to the playground or swimming the rest of the time. Spectrummy Daddy always does some physical play with her before bedtime to wear out the last shreds of hyperactivity.
After her brother was born and we returned to the US, sleep got bad and stayed bad for several months. The first day we took her off wheat, she slept through the night again. Slowly though, we’ve gone back to night-wakening, fear of going to sleep alone, and the ever-present early-rising. Are there even more allergies we don’t yet know about? (Please, no!)
We’ve tried various night lights, no lights, a weighted blanket, a bed tent, a white noise machine, different texture sheets, changing the room temperature- everything we can think of. I have no clue if it is the allergies, sensory issues, anxiety, or just a willful preschooler determined to have her way. Sleep disturbance may just be another symptom of autism that we just have to deal with. It may be something we can never alter, just like I’m never going to be perky at 5 in the morning.
She is a smart kid. I’m hoping one day she’ll be able to tell us what she needs to sleep soundly. Or she’ll figure out that when mummy gets too Sleepy, it makes her Grumpy, and getting enough sleep makes her Happy. Maybe I’ll have a word with Bashful about it.