Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Autism and sleep: The miracle of light through a curtain

Autism child and a bright light through a curtain

I slowly blinked my eyes. That can't be right, can it? As I came to, I realised that I was blinking because there was light shining through the crack in the curtains. Surely that's not possible? Did I sleep through the night?

As I became a bit more aware of my body, I felt the warmth through several pairs of cotton pyjamas surrounding me in the bed.  I was not alone....and as I listened out, I could hear the thump, thump noise that was our eldest son starting his ADHD jumping style ritual in the living room.  I usually leave a gap in the curtains so there is a bit of light coming into the room from the street lamps.  It makes it a bit easier to see in the middle of the night when I get up for David. But as I look over, David's melatonin is still sat on the window ledge, so it must be true, I've slept through the night.

I think there is a magic switch somewhere that activated when I had kids. On the way out, our first child pushed a button that activated my ability to wake up to slightest noise in the night. Initially, it was that gripping fear of cot death, choking on...well... anything or developing an instant fever.  We had a night away last week but I still woke up twice in the night.  The issues may have changed but nearly eight years after having my first child I'm still woken almost every night by the desire and need to keep my kids safe. 

Sleep issues are common in people with autism and kids especially. Anthony always had difficulty going to sleep but it was really only after his brother was also diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) that we realised their sleep difficulties were not the same as other kids. Both boys need a good bedtime routine to help they settle.  As Anthony got older we were able to explain to him about staying upstairs after lights out and when it was time to get out of bed in the morning. David is no where near that. We started him on melatonin last year and although with a good routine it made some difference to him being able to settle better, he still wakes every night. After eight years, believe me, we have tried everything to help him sleep.  I've just sort of accepted that I get up and am disturbed every night.

Except last night.

I've been granted a miracle.  I slept all night. I slowly realised that both David and Jane were nestled into me in the bed. At some point in the night David must have woken up and sneaked into our bedroom. Then he must have creeped into the bed and fallen straight to sleep, probably because yesterday was first day back at school and he was truly exhausted - he nearly fell asleep in the car on the way home. Probably around 6.00am Jane had joined us too. Although it's always been confusing for Jane because although the kids bed routines are the same, during the night her needs aren't the same.  It's different for her brothers, she has finally learned to wait until a more sensible hour before coming through to our room.

So I'm lying in my own bed, slightly contorted as l'd shuffled in the night around the bodies that have come in to lay next to me. As I turn slightly I see the beautiful sight of our son, David, fast asleep.  His right arm is extended so its touching my hip. I carefully twist my body to get a better view of my beautiful boy.  We haven't visited a proper hairdresser for years and it shows most when he's mushed his hair in bed.  Large swatches of his soft fawn hair are sticking out in every direction and his face is relaxed and peaceful. 

As I snuggle into him to grab just a few more minutes in the bed, I think to myself that I don't blame him for coming into us each night.  It is very comforting being surrounded by those you love.  I may have had a miracle night's sleep, but I realise that I am indeed fortunate to wake up everyday to the three beautiful miracles laying around me, and jumping around downstairs.

The boys get up everyday and work through a world that's scary, confusing and that continuously tries to suggest they don't fit in.  Yet they get up and get on and make small steps no one else sees and then struggle themselves to sleep at night before doing it all again.  And my daughter works everyday to be part of their existence.  The light they shine on my world is far brighter than the one coming through the curtains, autism and all.

Links
Our blog - Our Melatonin Mission - autism and sleep issues
Our blog - Understanding autistic siblings - it's starting with sleep








24 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Very well written post, enjoyed it enormously. Most mums have had the experience of broken nights and can sympathise to some extent but most can't imagine what it is like over a long time scale. I think my children were pretty average sleepers but I have a good friend who's son had ADHD and I think she had little sleep for the first ten years of his life. (He's now at University studying Theoretical Physics). Things do change, but as you say, kids really do make the world brighter. #abitofeverything

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    1. Thanks. All new Mum's are exhausted, turns out the end was never insight for us with that part of the boys development. Just as well they are adorable (sometimes at least ;-))

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  3. Such a beautiful and well written post and one I can relate to. My middle son has ASD, he is almost 13 now and we still battle with sleep issues from early waking, waking in the night, and night terrors. Those quiet moments make it all worth it though don't they. #BloggerClubUK

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  4. Beautifully written I must agree, it brilliantly paints how you felt that morning. I can sympathise with the constant broken sleep as my daughter has learning disabilities and I try and accept that broken sleep is the way it will be for a good few years - but it can be hard! But you have reminded me of the fact our children are little miracles and moments like the one you described are what makes family xx

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    1. Thanks, continuous broken sleep in hard and different to that whole initial baby sleep deprivation isn't it.

      Lovely comments, thanks for reading.

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  5. It's amazing what a full night's sleep can do. It's so hard. You're doing great!

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  6. I love the title of this post - because sleeping through the night with no interruptions does feel like a magical miracle.

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  7. Aww what a beautifully written post. I'm so glad you got a full nights sleep. I'm lucky that my autistic son manages to sleep through the night but he likes to get up at the crack of dawn every morning. Hopefully you get more nights like this one :)
    #BrillBlogPosts

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    1. Thanks. We were glad when our eldest was safe in the mornings. That's what was making the thump thump noise! Otherwise we'd be up very early too. Thanks for commenting.

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  8. Wow, after eight years that must have felt amazing! I can probaby count 'whole nights' on one hand from the last 18 months, but you, my dear, deserve a medal xxx I love the sentiment behind this - we'd happily do it all over again for them wouldn't we?
    Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub

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    1. Yes we would. Long term love is guaranteed, it's that woken again in the middle of the night love I tend to struggle with more 😜

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  9. Such a beautiful post, I can only imagine what 8 years of waking in the night can be like. How lovely to have made it through and then have snuggles with the ones dearest to us. Thank you for joining us at #BloggerClubUK hope to see you again this week x

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  10. We did have a pretty bad night the following night but it was probably worth the happy snuggling.

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  11. I have to echo other comments on saying how beautifully written this piece is. Such beautiful sentiment in that last paragraph particularly that I had tears in my eyes. I really enjoyed reading this!

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  12. Beautiful piece.
    I'm lucky enough at the moment (fingers crossed, touch wood) to have had relatively good sleep for about a month now, and it makes such a difference. Finding the right methods and balance that works for you and your child is so important. Although I don't think I could ever give up the mid-night cuddles :-)
    #SpectrumSunday

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    1. If only it was mostly cuddles in the midnight, it's iften jumping around at the moment. Makes these moments even more special! Thanks for commenting.

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  13. Ann such a beautiful post! And woohoo for that full nights sleep! I hope you've managed a couple more since :) Thank you for linking up to #spectrumsunday I hope you join me again this week xx

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  14. Hi Anne, that must have been an amazing feeling to wake up to a naturally light sky with the children snuggled in close. I've heard people say that children with autism often have difficulty at night, but my son has always slept too much, we've been told it could myopathy that makes him sleep so much or it could be that the world tires him out. It's not much help when I'm a bad sleeper myself.

    I hope that you have more and more peaceful nights and that before you know it a broken nights sleep is a thing of the past!

    xx

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    1. Get a few every now and again. Each one is bliss! Thanks for stopping by.

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