Autism

Late Nights, Early Mornings

A late night, followed by an early morning. It’s a recipe for disaster.

I simply cannot function correctly if I don’t get at least 6 hours sleep, which means I have to be tucked up in bed before 1am if I’m wanting to be a human the next day. Long gone are the days when I could stay up all night studying, or stumble out of some classy establishment at 3am, roll in to bed at 4 and be up for work feeling fresh as a daisy at 7. Oh no, those days are behind me for sure. I need my sleep to function.

It’s a bit unfortunate then, that I have a child who doesn’t value sleep quite as highly. Ok, all children are total freaks when it comes to going to bed. As soon as the word ‘bedtime’ is mentioned children across the world give out a groan. “But mum, do we have to? can we not have 10 more minutes…” I don’t get it, to be honest. What’s not to love about bedtime? Curling up in your nice warm duvet, letting your head sink in to the pillows – how anyone can moan about that is beyond me.

Both of my children complain about going to bed. The difference between them is that once Caitlin is settled down in bed, she will fall asleep quite quickly. Neil, on the other hand, will not. Cannot not in fact.

Because of Neil’s ASD, he finds it very hard to settle at night. So I may joke about it, and say he doesn’t value his sleep, but in reality it’s not his fault.

It’s always been a problem for him. Even as a baby we really struggled to settle him to sleep at night. Obviously then we didn’t know the reason, I just thought that’s what babies did. I tried everything I could to establish some kind of night time routine that worked to no avail. Things only got worse as he got got older.

It is very common for children with ASD to have a sleeping problem. It can be caused by a number of things. It could be a sensory issue, with the child being unable to switch off their senses in bed, or a problem with the hormone melatonin which helps us sleep being released in the wrong quantity. It could also be down to anxiety.

We have not pinpointed the exact reasons that Neil has trouble sleeping. I would imagine it is a mixture of things, particularly his anxiety.

Neil is afraid of the dark, and very much afraid of being in a room on his own, which means lying down in a dark empty room is going to be quite difficult for him. We use night lights in his bedroom, but that doesn’t help with the whole being alone thing.

He has also mentioned that ‘he can’t turn off his brain’ in bed, and I think he spends a lot of time thinking about anything and everything in bed, which can lead him to get quite anxious and upset.

On a good night, we would be lucky to get him to sleep before midnight. On the bad nights he can still be awake at 2 or 3am. Some nights he just lies in his bed making noises to himself and banging the walls or banging his bed frame. Other night he will be up and down, or shouting for me every ten minutes.

I try to be as patient as I can. I understand he can’t help it, but as I am walking up the stairs for the 20th time I do sometimes have to take a deep breath and count to ten.

His sleeping has been worse in the weeks since starting back at school school in September. He is falling asleep a lot later, and waking up more during the night. On Sunday night he was still awake at almost 4am! As you can imagine, he was not functioning properly on Monday morning, crying in to his cereal, so I made the decision to keep him off school for the day. He really doesn’t like school, and it’s maxing him even more anxious at night.

All of this late night, early morning business hasn’t been doing me any favours. Some days I’m so tired that I can barely pull myself out of bed in the morning. With coffee and sheer determination I can usually get through the day without my head hitting my desk with a bang, but by the time 8pm comes I can barely keep my eyes open. But of course, I have to keep my eyes open, because I have to be their for my boy when he feels anxious again.

As much as I joke and complain about being tired, I will stay awake all night if I have to, if it means I can help.

That’s one of the reason I’ve been so quiet on the blog, because I’m just too tired to write in the evenings like I used to. Hopefully once he’s settled back in to school things will calm down a bit, but until then…. make mine an extra strong coffee!

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17 Comments

  • Reply Rachel Neal September 23, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Although you know he can't help it, i think it is OK to get frustrated. You need your time hun and i can totally understand why you walk down stairs and have to take a deep breath. I really hope he settles down once he is back into school routine. xx

  • Reply Zoë Forde September 23, 2015 at 10:54 am

    I've been wrecked lately from working two jobs and then with the stress I can have trouble GETTING to sleep at night. Definitely a case of late nights and early mornings for me too, so I can relate to your pain. Hope things get better soon x

  • Reply Catherine Lux September 23, 2015 at 12:34 pm

    It's definitely ok to get frustrated. You still need your sleep. I'm a terrible sleeper and get so grumpy when I'm tired, even though I don't mean to be. Hope things get easier for you!

    C x | Lux Life

  • Reply Niamh G September 23, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    This is a lot that you have to deal with, Lauren. And the fact that you haven't fallen apart from the stress of so little sleep is really amazing. You're obviously doing a fantastic job. Do you have anyone to call on to give you a break so you can have a nap some days?

  • Reply Michelle Murray September 23, 2015 at 1:53 pm

    Everyone needs sleep and if you don't get as much as you need or want then you will become tired and frustrated, thats normal. I really do hope that things get a little easier for you. I know what I am like if I don't get 8hours sleep.

  • Reply LeeLee Loves September 23, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    We spend our childhood moaning we have to sleep and grow up wishing we could do nothing but, it makes no sense but it will never change! I'm not looking forward to bed time battles of course I don't anticipate anything on the level you have to deal with I just hope eventually you can get the sleep you need too! Xx

  • Reply Janine Dolan September 23, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    This is an interesting read. My eldest has sensory issues but he does sleep great. Sometimes I have to get up at night because his blanket fell off but other than that's he's fine.

  • Reply Tori Gabriel September 23, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Oh bless you. Being tired sucks. It's also hard not to feel frustration. I always say "this parenting gig is so much easier if you can just get enough sleep".

  • Reply Kerry Dyer September 23, 2015 at 7:12 pm

    I need my sleep to function too.. luckily Sienna is a good sleeper although I'm scared the next one won't be!

  • Reply Zena's Suitcase September 23, 2015 at 7:18 pm

    Wow, that's got to be pretty hard on both of you. I hope it settles into a manageable pattern for you both soon. In the meantime I'll pass bucketfuls of coffee

  • Reply Jane Duckworth September 23, 2015 at 8:06 pm

    Without any proper sleep I'm like a bear with a sore head so I totally sympathise with you – it's not funny at all. However, try and keep things in perspective and laugh it when you can – laughter is a great tonic after all!

  • Reply rbecw September 23, 2015 at 8:28 pm

    I also have a child with sensory issues so feel your pain. It's so hard to deal with the fact that sleep does not come naturally to them. My boy is 7 and doesn't know when he's tired because he doesn't understand the signs. He's currently taking melatonin to help him relax before bed. I hope things start to pick up for you soon. Sleep deprivation is torture!

  • Reply Stephanie Robinson September 24, 2015 at 9:58 am

    Hope he settles into sleeping and sleeping earlier again soon, it must be tough on you all. I'm not sure I could function on so little sleep so hats off to all mums out there!

  • Reply TheL'sMum September 24, 2015 at 10:48 am

    I definitely have to agree with you I also need sleep to function. Some days if we have had many get ups in the night and then an early start I just don't get much done during the day. It sounds like the whole bedtime thing is taking its toll on you and I hope he settles into a regular sleep pattern soon. My little boy use to be terrible at going to sleep, thankfully after a strict bedtime curfue i have managed to creat a good bedtime routine that has him in bed at a decent time. Me and the hubby were never getting a break. Hope it resolves itself soon 🙂

  • Reply Aly September 24, 2015 at 10:54 am

    Have you read The Sensory Seeker? Joy writes some really great stuff that might be of use to you.I hope it all settles back down for so you can get some proper sleep again.

  • Reply Zeit my Geist September 24, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Oh bless him. I didn't realise that ADHD sufferers also have to deal with rotten sleep. You must all be exhausted. Stay strong, and keep drinking that coffee! xx

  • Reply sandra harty September 24, 2015 at 8:22 pm

    oh god the poor thing having problems with being able to settle and having no control over it, and of course poor you too, I hope things get a bit easier at some stage and ye can work on some methods to help Neil settle a bit better

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