Every night it is a bit of a mystery as we go to bed. Will we sleep through the night? Or will we be awoken by E or M? Will it be 2 a.m. or 4 a.m? Will they both actually sleep until 5 or 6 oclock, which is considered sleeping IN in our house!
I try to remember what is was like to go to bed and expect to get a goods night rest. I can't honestly recall those days, and maybe that is for the best. I now go to bed as early as possible, so that I might catch a solid 6 hours. I am not alone in this plight. This is an almost universal challenge for those of us raising children on the autism spectrum. Night time awakenings are so common, that I would have trouble finding more than a few families that do not have sleep issues with their children with autism.
The million dollar question is why? Why do our kids have such trouble getting a full nights sleep? What I have read most consistently is that it has to do with their brain chemistry. Their brains ability, or lack thereof, to produce and regulate the hormones we need to have normal sleep and wake cycles.
Many of us supplement, supplement, supplement. We supplement with melatonin, which does help both of my children. We also supplement with a vast array of vitamins and minerals, said to aid the body and help stimulate more restful periods of sleep. And we sometimes turn to drugs as a last resort. Antidepressants are commonly used with patients suffering from insomnia. Antidepressants help our brains produce and regulate seratonin, which is often said to be lacking in people with autism.
Personally, I would love to see far more research dedicated to finding what natural methods are best in aiding those with autism get the rest they need. Drugs are sometimes necessary, but many parents prefer the natural route if at all possible. I am facing another tough decision with M. She is not getting the rest she needs, and the melatonin is no longer working. She is missing some days of school, and the negative impact is increasing as the months go by. I will have to make a decision soon as to whether we do a trial of an antidepressant. It has helped E in a major way, and he now sleeps through the night more often than not.
So the question remains, "To sleep or not to sleep?" Will have to get back to you on the answers I find for M. Today she has been up since 3 a.m. and is still going strong. Coffee please!!!