Yeah, that’s right, I’m the kind of gal that sleeps around. Every single night I jump from one bed to the next, laying down with multiple bed mates. In fact, I admit I am total sleep whore…I’m just severely underpaid. I’ll bet I couldn’t even tabulate the number of bed jumps or games of “musical beds” I play in my house every night…and day for that matter, because there is seldom any difference between the two in my house. Aside from my general psychosis, there is a reasonable explanation for why this happens: their names are Cameron and Harry. Yup, the reason I indulge in this particular “lifestyle” is that there are 2 autistic children living in our house, both on completely different sleep schedules. I start out in one bed, and end up in possibly 3, maybe even 4 different beds before it’s said and done….whether it’s a meltdown, a sensory seeking mission (such as a game of footsie or a 20 minute pillow pummeling), a sick / crying child or urine soaked sheets, it’s anybody’s guess where my chaos will take me in the course of a night.
Okay, so I will admit that it IS possible to get a decent night’s sleep as a parent, for example when your kids are sleeping at someone else’s house. Or maybe you are one of those savvy schedule adhering types that I so desperately long to be…but alas, I am an autism parent, which in my house currently knows no schedule. Most of you may know that autistic children require pretty regimented routines and tend to thrive on structure. During the school year, this is not always impossible to achieve, but introduce a change in that schedule of any sort, and everything changes. I’m in charge of workin’ the night shift, since hubby has the luxury of hard labor for low wages outside of the house during the day. Lucky bastard.
Our sleep schedules are absolutely insane right now… And as you can plainly see, delirium has already set in. Do you ever wake up and are so confused that you aren’t quite sure where you are, or what time it is…or hell, even what day, month or year it is for that matter?? This happens to me so often, it’s the norm. Of course I seldom, if ever, awaken on my own accord. Generally I have the rudest of awakenings (think fecal smearing,being urinated on, or blood curdling screams), but if by some miracle I should wake up because I am “finished” sleeping, I awaken in a sheer panic, because I was SLEEPING. Dear God…don’t I realize what can happen when I’m not conscious?!?!
Make no mistake, I love sleep, I respect sleep…I miss sleep. My sleep, however, has become a series of small naps distributed throughout the day. During the school year, when and if all of the kids make it to school (rare occurrence), I can actually sleep for 4 glorious, uninterrupted hours. And I’m talkin’ REAL sleep, like turn of the lights, the party is over because I finished all of the booze sleep. Most importantly, it’s the “turn off your brain” kind of sleep, which in my humble opinion, is critical to the well being of all living things. But then, introduce Summer, and we are transformed into zombies (non-brain eating variety).
Of course, we’ve tried many different efforts in our quest to solve the autism sleep schedule puzzle with our sons. We are not huge proponents of pharmaceuticals for our boys (now me on the other hand, unlimited refills please) mostly because they cannot tell us how it makes them feel, and long term studies on the use of such meds is still vastly unknown. Absolutely no judgement passing towards any parents who do use meds, because make no mistake, we are fortunate that our boys are non-aggressive and do little to no self harming. If that were to change, medication may become a necessity that we are fully prepared for. We’ve also used Melatonin, but it had absolutely no effect and since my boys do not swallow pills, it was difficult to administer by masking it in their food or drink. Heck, we’ve even tried caffeine, ya know, because 2 negatives make a positive (that’s not true when applied to real life, btw). Concerned friends and family have also offered their 2 cents, such as looking them in the eye and TELLING them to go to bed. Yes!! That’s exactly what we should do…now if only we could only get them to stop moving, making noises and to maintain eye contact for more than .02 seconds, we might be on to something here!! It’s not like we can just reason with them, because they comprehend no consequences. Threats of repercussions are a useless waste of breath. We’ve even had such helpful suggestions as, “Put a sliding door lock on the outside of their door, and just lock them in their room at night”. We kinda ruled that one out, on a count of it being cruel and unusual punishment for children who simply don’t understand, as well as being largely frowned upon by the police, the media, and our pals down at Social Services. Others seem to think if we just “shut the house down” and go to bed ourselves, the boys will follow suit. Yeah, tell you what, lock yourself in a room with an agitated monkey on your head and try to go to sleep. The bottom line is my boys cannot be left unattended, it’s just not safe – for them, or for us…or our furniture…or our carpeting…or our pets.
So as we continue our efforts for a coordinated sleep schedule, and a longingly await the arrival of the new school year, I will simply face the fact that the one bed mate I may never hook up with is Mr. Sandman. I hear he’s dreamy <sigh>.