If you’ve read this blog for a while, you’re probably aware of my many years of chronic sleep deprivation. In fact, many of you can probably relate, and I’m sorry about that. For anyone out there who doesn’t have first hand experience raising autistic kids, let me just say that sleep can often be a major struggle. Autism parenting is 24/7/365 and there aren’t many breaks. In truth, some people never get breaks at all and will be doing this day in and day out for the duration of their lives.
Autistic kids can often struggle with sleep for various reasons I’m not going to get into right now. The point I’m going for is that when our kids don’t sleep, we don’t sleep.
I think one of the biggest complaints I hear from parents has to do with sleep. I can totally relate to those challenges and I wanted to try and give you at least a glimpse of hope because it can, and often does get better.
Back when my kids were younger, sleep was something that was extremely elusive. Autistic kids, especially autistic kids with ADHD can have a really hard time slowing down their brains and bodies at night. As I mentioned above and as many parents of autistic kids will relate to, if our kids aren’t sleeping, we aren’t sleeping.
I couldn’t sleep if my kids were still awake because I wasn’t comfortable with them wandering the house at night, and potentially letting themselves out of the house. I never really had serious wandering concerns but it was always a risk and I couldn’t let my guard down, especially at night.
Over the years, that lack of sleep took its toll on me. I struggled with depression, fatigue, and developed horrible sleep hygiene. My sleep schedule was so completely out of whack and it eventually impacted my physical as well as emotional health.
When I became a single parent, I forced myself to hit the reset button and purge myself of any bad habits that could be making sleep more elusive then it might otherwise be. Between simple changes like putting my phone down an hour before I close my eyes, adding melatonin, using a weighted blanket, to finding a mattress that really met my needs, I found more and more success in the sleep category.
There’s helpful tips from the Cleveland Clinic about improving sleep hygiene. It’s worth a look. I also liked this article from the Mayo Clinic as well. Take a few minutes and look into your sleep hygiene. It’s amazing how bad habits can limit our ability to sleep. When you’re a special needs parent, sleep is hard enough. Making sure you’re doing everything you can to maximize the benefits for the sleep you do get, is really important.
Over the years, my kids began to sleep better and without as much struggle. There was almost always an elaborate routine that needed to be completed before they could fall asleep but even that was progress. Eventually, it got to the point where they were able to fall asleep without me having to spend an hour or more trying to help them.
Now, they usually sleep pretty well. My teens struggle with sleep on occasion but I think it’s pretty typical for their ages. The problem I have now is getting them out of bed in the morning. It’s trading one problem for another but I’d much rather struggle in the morning than at night.
Between my kids sleeping better and the changes I’ve made for myself, I sleep significantly better now. My smart watch tracks my sleep, breathing, movements etc. It provides me a sleep score every morning. When things were at their worst, my sleep score was in the 30’s or 40’s. Fast forward to present day and my sleep score is regularly in the 70’s and 80’s.
Does that mean anything? I don’t know but it’s the same measurements over the years and the trend is positive. I also feel better in the morning, at least most of the time.
I don’t know why I felt the need to write this but the idea has been rolling around in my head for awhile now and I wanted to get it down so I could hopefully stop thinking about it. ☺ 😂