Braden didn’t sleep at all last night. And this is not a one-off. Braden has had sleep issues since he was very young, which is common in individuals with autism. According to Autism Speaks, an organization who has spent millions of dollars on various type of autism research, “Over half of children with autism – and possibly as many as four in five – have one or more chronic sleep problems.” (2019) The research shows the less a child sleeps, the more of an impact it has on cognitive development, behavior, and mood. Here is an interesting article if you’d like to dig deeper into sleep and autism.
Interestingly enough, while scrolling through Facebook today, I came upon this memory. Nothing cuter than a sleeping child, right?
When Braden was young, he basically never slept. We would put him to bed at night, and he’d run around his room, opening and closing his door while laughing hysterically. Much of the time he would wreak havoc by tearing apart his bed or pillows. We have had to replace many a mattress due to his nighttime antics. Mike and I alternated nights so at least one of us could have a decent night’s sleep. One of us had to stay awake to ensure he didn’t run out of the house or put himself in any sort of danger.
At around the age of 8, the doctor suggested we try a medication to help with anxiety, which is often a cause of sleep disturbances. A side effect of this particular medicine is that it also causes drowsiness so that a child can fall asleep. It worked. Braden was able to fall asleep and sometimes sleep through an entire night. This particular medicine has helped him for years, but it didn’t (and doesn’t) always work. Some nights his body seemed to blow right through it. And then he’d be up all night long…are you humming along to Lionel Richie’s song yet? I am…blame it on my lack of sleep.
I may have actually written about this topic before, but I can’t remember…and therein lies another issue.
Because Braden doesn’t sleep, we don’t sleep. Now that he is older, we don’t need to worry so much about Braden putting himself in danger during the night. We’ve locked his bedroom windows (so no jumping!), and he’s no longer at risk for running out out the door (we think). However, when he’s awake, he’s loud. He whistles, laughs, and opens and closes his door hundreds of times a night. He also has OCD, so much of the opening and closing of the door stems from his need to do so. And, he still wreaks havoc. Today I woke up to him saying, “Uh oh, it’s broken.” I walked in to find all of his work pants in the laundry basket. He had torn the button off of each and every pair. Since he has ripped up all of his work shirts AND now ruined all of his pants, perhaps this behavior is telling us something about his work ethic…but I digress. This post is about sleep…or a lack thereof.
We have all read the studies on the importance of sleep and how it affects brain functioning. I believe I am a poster child for the negatives of not getting enough. When I traveled to Hong Kong two weeks ago, I misplaced my cell phone twice, and when I traveled to Hanoi last weekend, I forgot my phone at a kiosk at the airport. I had to run from my gate up two flights of stairs and back to the kiosk before my plane departed just to get it (luckily they kept it for me). When I was telling a friend about this adventure, she laughed, and said, “I wonder how you kept your children alive!” I told her I wondered the same.
Honestly, my memory is an embarrassment. There are days when I will be telling a story, and boom, it’s gone. I have to stop and tell the person I’m sharing with that I had no idea what I was talking about. Other days I’ll be speaking, and I can’t remember the word I’m supposed to use, so I talk around it until I arrive at an approximation of the word I was trying to recall. People are always polite, but I know they must wonder how I even make it to work each day.
I don’t always like to share that Braden kept me awake all night as I don’t want people to feel sorry for me, but there are times where my mind is just so far gone, I have to tell them.
Lack of sleep…I know I’m not the only one who suffers from it. In fact, many of my friends who are my age suffer from insomnia, so they get it.
I do worry that the continued lack of sleep that has been with me for over 21 years now (since Madi was a baby, and then Braden was born) has somehow deadened my neural pathways. Once upon a time I had a large vocabulary. Now…not so much. I tend to use the KISS method when speaking. Keep It Simple Stupid. And by stupid, I’m referring to myself.
Well, I’m now consuming my 4th cup of coffee, and my handsome son is crashed out on the couch. I don’t have the heart to start whistling and slamming doors, so I shall close for now and take advantage of his snoring by catching up on Netflix.
If I’ve written about this topic before, my apologies. At least you get to see pictures of a cute kid sleeping. Here’s one now.
Wide awake: Why children with autism struggle with sleep. (2015, October 09). Retrieved March 10, 2019, from https://www.spectrumnews.org/features/deep-dive/wide-awake-why-children-with-autism-struggle-with-sleep/