As there are many parents who walk around sleep deprived from everyday situations, being a parent of a special need’s child, sleep deprivation takes it to another level. Before I continue, every child is different and the methods that work for us may not work for your child. I know I’m setting myself up for comments or suggestions that may not be helpful and/or hurtful, but it’s okay, I understand this blog is open to it all.
About a year ago, during winter break, I had finally decided I was done with walking around like a zombie, being cranky and having no control over my evenings. I decided spur of the moment, I was going to do my best to fix the sleep situation with my son. I had no expectations or idea what I was going to do exactly but I went for it. Let me give you some background on my son’s sleep habits up until that point.
After Michael’s diagnosis, it seemed as though his sleep issues started instantly. We had the boys sharing a room but when it became apparent that Michael was interrupting his brother sleep, we separated them. I wasn’t happy about this at all. First, I really wanted them to stay together and second, I was giving up a guest bedroom. But I realize that having a guest bedroom isn’t that practical or important. All of us having a good night’s sleep…priceless.
Once we moved Michael to his new room, it was a challenge to get him to stay in bed. He would fall asleep with the help of melatonin, but he would be up during the middle of the night for hours. Because my husband drives almost two hours away for work, it wasn’t a good idea for him to get up with him. So, I would stay up with him for the entire time he was awake. This could be at least 2-4 hours. It was killing me. I work from home, but I wasn’t functioning. It was getting bad. One night, I tried redirecting him to bed and stayed there with him. I, of course, fell asleep and so did he. When we realized this, I thought we’d found the solution. For him to go back to sleep, my husband and I would have to take turns sleeping with him. The problem? Neither one of us were really getting any rest and we weren’t comfortable with this temporary solution. We knew we had to find another way of getting him to sleep.
Currently, in addition to the melatonin, Michael was also on a low dosage of prescribed medication. Making the decision to give him medications was a difficult decision for us. After speaking with his developmental pediatrician, we thought carefully about the pros and cons of medication, but we knew for him to function and learn better, he needed a good night’s rest. Currently, we are now using two different prescribed medications.
Last year during the winter break, I decided I was going to attempt to change what we were doing with Michael. We were not going to spend one more restless night sleeping with our son. I was going to try to get him to stay in his bed alone and stay asleep through the night as well. So, when it was time for him to go to bed, I told him to go to his room and go to sleep. It didn’t work but I repeated this over and over. He fought me the entire time, but I just redirected him to his room and bed. This lasted more than two hours. I knew that since I had started this, there was no turning back, so I was in it to the end. He cried, had tantrums, tried to pull me into his bed with him but I continued to tell him no and redirect him back to his bed on his own. It wasn’t easy, but I knew I had to do this for everyone in the house was having a difficult time sleeping at night. He was finally starting to get tired and his tantrums were easing up, the crying had slowed down. He gave me a good fight and eventually he fell asleep. The challenge was that if he should wake during the night, I would have to continue redirecting him. And yes, he did wake up and I did the same thing, redirecting him back to his room and bed. Again, this was repeated several times until he stayed in bed.
For the next few nights, I continued to do this and to my surprise it was working. Initially, he was still getting up during the night, but we tweaked his medication times and he is now for the most part sleeping through the night.
We have struggled with sleep deprivation for so long, I figured we would never get a good night’s sleep again. I am so happy I took a chance last year in trying to figure out what to do. It worked, and I am happy to say, that very rarely does Michael get up during the night anymore. More importantly, when it’s time for bed, I tell him to go to his room and go to sleep and he does. It’s such a great feeling when you achieve even the smallest accomplishments.
If you are currently struggling with your special need’s child and sleep issues, I understand and know how you feel. Even if it’s not a sleep issue, there are so many other issues we must deal with and it can be exhausting. I hope this can maybe help anyone who feels a little overwhelmed and feeling defeated. We still have many of those days too, but I know when I can find someone who understands and shares their achievements, small or large, I know there is hope and that’s all we can do.