Can I get an AMEN?!
Let's talk about the importance of sleep. Sleep is vital for sustaining life. If you go seven days without sleep, you die. That's how important sleep is!
Sleep gives us rest, but it does so much more than that. Sleep is considered an important part of a healthy lifestyle. It is important for our immune system, memory, concentration, mood, general health, and keeping down inflammation. (We have all heard about inflammation and its connection to autism.) I heard on KLOVE a while back (and I'm sure that's a credible source!) that our brains actually detox during sleep! Sleep basically keeps us functioning! Maybe sleeplessness is why adulting is hard...hmmm....
Sleep is also extremely important for development. I know that Finley didn't start talking until he had been sleeping through the night for some time. Growing brains need sleep in order to learn!
Sleep is often a problem for people with autism. That makes it a problem for us as parents. If they don't sleep, we don't sleep. This is why so many of us look like zombies and exist on a lot of grace and a constant flow of coffee. Why, yes! I do give my children all the credit for these dark under-eye circles!
Let's think about this for a minute: our kids are already struggling with so much. Health issues, sensory processing disorder, language and social skill deficits, motor difficulties,....then lack of sleep is thrown in the mix. I know how I feel after a hard night, but I have a typical neurological system and a Keurig 2.0. I cannot even fathom how our kids feel and function throughout the day.
Just like everything else, sleep is different for every single kid on the spectrum. Some have a hard time falling asleep. Some struggle to stay asleep. Some just don't require much sleep at all. If your child falls into that last category, kudos to you. You, my friend, deserve a nap, a medal, and a venti from Starbucks. Extra shot of espresso, of course.
Colin was famous for his 45-minute stretches of sleep. Yep. He woke every 45 minutes wanting milk.
Then, for the longest time, he slept in two-hour stretches. Again, he would wake up wanting milk. If you don't know what that is like, let me tell you: it is exhausting. (and expensive, going through so much almond milk!)
I tried all the tricks: bedtime routines, lavender oil, dark room, massage, noise machine, but nothing worked. He went to sleep well, but staying asleep was his problem. I don't know that there is a trick to fix that, but I would have tried it had I known of one!
He is almost four, and sleep is better. For now. That's the thing about autism. It comes and goes. Last night, he slept 11 straight hours. Cue: Hallelujah Chorus. He has mastered his bedtime routine, AND puts himself to sleep now without Mommy having to cuddle him to sleep. In the words of Donald Trump, this is HUGE! He still sleeps with me, but we do what we gotta do to rest, am I right? We tackle one thing at a time, my friends.
Fell asleep early on Daddy
So your neurotypical child sleeps? Wonderful! Oh, your four week old sleeps through the night? Perfect! Also, I hate you. Okay, okay, I don't really hate you, but I am jealous of you.
When you complain about your 3-month/6-month/9-month old not sleeping, I don't feel sorry for you. I do have empathy, because I know what pure and utter exhaustion feels like....but come talk to me when you're working on year five of no sleep. The irony is not lost on me here. You might be reading this with a 10-year old who doesn't sleep. You are probably thinking, "Ha! Come talk to me when you've earned your 10 year badge, sister!"
So here's to you, Momma. I wish you nothing but sleep and rest tonight! And if you ever see me out and about, looking a little ragged and droopy-eyed, feel free to hand me a coffee. Cream, no sugar. Please and thank you.