Monday, April 7, 2008
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep
I have failed miserably at one of the responsibilities of parenting – teaching my children good sleeping habits. It certainly hasn’t been for lack of trying though. I have done most if not all of the things that parenting ‘experts’ recommend. My children have always had specific bedtime schedules, and because of my well-honed OCD tendencies, we almost never veer from those schedules. My house is quiet and calm in the evening. Sugar is limited or not available at all. No video games are allowed and no disturbing television shows are on. The house is not too hot or too cold. Everyone is bathed and clean, and extra attention is given to calming routines such as using lavender lotion following a bath. Books and quiet activities are encouraged after dinner, and everyone is well fed. So why won’t my children sleep through the night?
If this were only a problem with Ashley I could attribute it to her deafblindness – the whole getting days and nights mixed up thing. But it involves all my children. My oldest son, Chip, didn’t sleep through the night as an infant until he was 15 months old. He wouldn’t go to sleep up until he was 8 years old unless I was in the room with him. I know, I know – many strategies exist for breaking that habit. I tried them. He would just always come into my room later in the night and sleep on the floor beside my bed. I wouldn’t know he was there until I tripped over him the next morning. Fortunately, as a teenager he has outgrown that, and his sleeping routine is his own.
I can justify Corey and Jessica having difficulties sleeping based on the trauma of their pasts. Jessica was 9 years old when she joined my family. Perhaps the abuse of her first 9 years has had a profound effect on her ability to feel safe during the night. The same goes for Corey. He spent many years living on the streets, and didn’t join my family until he was 12 years old. More than likely the horrors of his past keep him awake at night. But after many years in my family, shouldn’t sleep come a little more easily for both of them?
Ashley’s wakefulness could indeed be due to her deafblindness – or maybe she is having seizures during the night – or maybe it is just some other quirk of her interesting medical profile. Even with her, though, I would have thought all my attempts to improve her sleeping habits might have had at least some sort of positive effect.
Worse than the sleeping habits of my children are my own. I am exhausted almost all the time. So why then when I do get a few hours when all my children are asleep I still sometimes stay awake? I know what I am doing wrong – I lie in bed and worry – worry about the upcoming IEP meeting – worry about everyone’s health – worry about yet another insurance fight – worry about money – etc. etc. etc. It seems the worry is bigger than the exhaustion, and the sheep jumping over the fence in my brain are getting tired of being counted.
What can I do? I need strategies for setting aside all those thoughts that take over my mind in the middle of the night. I need techniques for getting myself to sleep even if I am awakened by one of my children. They go back to sleep – why can’t I?