Monday, September 24, 2007

sunday night sleep syndrome

As I type I'm listening to son #1 toss and turn in his bed. We had a great weekend for sleeping, with both boys sleeping later than usual on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Then, don't you know, here it is a school night and there's trouble again.

This is a common problem around here, as I'm sure you're starting to understand. Sometimes I think it's getting better. Last summer - a year ago - we went through a phase where, when my son would wake up in the middle of the night, his first instinct was to get out of bed and run down the hall to see what we were doing. I'd escort him back to bed, cover him back up, whisper a few words of encouragement, try to get him back to sleep. He'd be back in about 15 minutes later and the cycle would repeat itself for the entire length of time that he was awake, usually about 2 hours. Eventually I'd stop talking to him and just silently take him back to bed each time. After the second visit or so I'd be pretty much wide awake, unable to go back to sleep for the rest of the night. This would happen repeatedly throughout the week.

Now he doesn't wake up as often, and when he does he stays in bed and talks to himself. But even though he doesn't come in anymore, I wake up because I hear him. I try not to go in unless his talking gets too loud and there is danger that he'll wake up his little brother. It drives me CRAZY with worry that he is up, usually for hours, in the middle of the night. Right now he has about 1.5 hours before he needs to get up, have breakfast, catch the bus to school, and function for an entire day. Later tonight after dinner he has speech therapy. But he's been awake since about 3:30. Sigh. You know as well as I that nothing works quite right when you're feeling tired. And if you're a little person with a sensory system that makes the world sometimes seem like it's not a very friendly place, I'm sure the challenge to get through a day with a poor night's rest is ten times harder.

We've been working on different strategies to combat this problem with our pediatrician and the other professionals in my son's life for the past year and a half. My son went from being a champion! sleeper to troubled sleeper, all in the in the blink of an eye. According to one doctor, he should be growing out of this problem soon. Let's hope so.

But anyway, the thing about sleeping well on the weekends and then not so great on a week night. That problem's been following me around for years, long before kids. In college my friends and I called it Sunday Night Sleep Syndrome. As in, you have all these things swimming around in your head as you crawl into bed, preventing you from getting to sleep. Instead of shutting down you think about who to call, where to go, what to do - a general review of the entire week coming up.

I don't think it's a coincidence that my son is awake tonight and that his wakeful fits don't happen on the weekends. As I was turning out his light last night he said something about going back to kindergarten tomorrow (today), very softly into his pillow. So clearly he's thinking about his week, too. Even a little 5 year-old boy is thinking about the week ahead.


Nunnie's Attic said...

Poor little guy! And poor Mama! I know that in this house, I can't get anyone up in the morning. I have to get up at 4:30 every morning save for Sunday to get my husband and 2 sons up. It's terrible. But, having them up in the middle of the night I think might be worse.


paige said...

oh meg i wish i had some advice for your sweet fella.
we have an issue going on right now with one of my girls that takes multidisciplinary care/intervention & sometimes feels overwhelming.
i personally have had trouble sleeping for a year now & i know how hard it is to function the next day--to be productive , much less cheerful. so my heart goes out to ya'll.
sorry i can only encourage & not send sound advice.

tulipmom said...

What a timely post today, Meg!

I so understand what you're going through. I've been up since 3:45 this morning when S.B. came into our room completely wired and unable to go back to sleep despite repeated efforts. I have no idea how he's going to function in school today. Actually that's not true; I have a pretty good idea and it doesn't look too good.

At one point in the middle of the night he actually verbalized how he was thinking about so many different things and couldn't stop thinking. He asked me what I do when I feel that way and we talked about some ideas. None of them seemed to quiet his mind, though.

misskp said...

oh! I have been where you are....a sleep troubled boy until he was 7! He's now 9 and still occasionally has restless nights. He has a very, very structured sleep pattern. No matter what time to bed (sometimes, with sleepover friends, 12:00 or so) he wakes at 6:24am SHARP. He will NOT nap (didn't, even as a baby, much)no matter how tired. I have found several things that work for him, and a couple of them are really far out there.! But if they work...hey, I'm all for it!

Mom, sending you huggggggs. I know how hard it is for YOU to function when the little ones don't rest, too. My best thoughts for you!

Rosemary said...

I totally get that. I used to have that problem. Too much to think about to sleep. I think he will outgrow it as well.
Hang in there. Try to take a nap.

Bethany Hissong said...

I wonder if this happens more with boys because my son has always been harder to get to sleep than my daughter. Does your son like Kindergarten? Or is it stressful for him? Not all children are ready for that kind of schedule. I work with parents who homeschool through our state's cyber charter school and some children just aren't ready at age five to take on the demands of that type of environment. Or they are not getting enough exercise and have some restlessness at my son. We used to take him outside no matter what the weather because he slept better at night if he ran around in fresh air!

Meg said...

Hi Bethany,

Thanks for your note. We have tried a lot of things, and we always get in the exercise...but the problem seems to persist regardless.

My little boy loves kindergarten, thankfully. I just think his body gets out of whack when he wakes up in the middle of the night. I have been told that this is very common with children on the autism spectrum...that they have trouble regulating their bodies and often wake up/can't get back to sleep. with all things...this too shall pass!

velvet brick said...

Oh my Meg! I know how awful I feel when I can't sleep. As a teacher, I often lay awake on Sunday nights... thinking, planning, worrying, rehashing the week that was and the week that is about to be. And on so many levels! Parents, co-workers, students, standards, meetings, new rules and regulations, lesson plans, classes to take, etc... I can't even help myself when I get into these fits! I hope your little guy does grow out of this very soon! Here's wishing that a little fairy sprinkles some sleep dust over your home soon! If one comes by my place, I'll send her your way! Sleep tight!

navybluegirl said...

I absolutely hate this...when you can't accomplish what you are thinking about. Poor little guy and poor you.

Libby said...

How stressful for the both of you. I'll be sending wishes to you both for some extra sweet dreams this week. :)

Amateur Artisan said...

Your boys may be too young for this idea. It worked for us; we began using this technique when our boys were in grade school.

To combat the "I can't sleep!/I'm not tired!" syndrome without keeping the entire family awake, we installed a reading light on each of their headboards.

They had to go to bed by a certain time, and they had to stay in bed (no playing in the room, no wandering about the house, no visiting your brother.)

They could read in bed for as long as they wanted.

Only they knew if they were sleepy enough for sleep (and as you have pointed out, even as adults, sleep often escapes us even when we want it.)

We'd never fuss with them if we walked past the room and the light was visible under the door, as long as the room was quiet.

Our boys read countless books as a result.

There was the occasional bleary morning when we perhaps read a little too long. We handled that by saying, "Hey, this is the other side of staying up half the night reading a book!"

Then again, as adults, we all know how that goes, too. :)

Abuse of this situation, i.e. up playing in the room instead of in bed reading, resulted in an immediate "lights out!" for the night.

The main reason this worked for our kids, I think, is the same reason it works for me: if sleep doesn't come right away, it provides an alternative that occupies the mind while allowing the body to rest and relax.

Eventually, given the opportunity, the body will take over and the book will be put away for the night.

One isn't left lying in the dark, obsessing about not sleeping, and then obsessing about the upcoming day.

I'm not sure how or if this idea can be amended to fit a small person of kindergarten age and/or a small person who is managing their autism symptoms. Perhaps some variant of it can work for you and your family.

Ashley said...

i think sometimes children who are very, very intelligent have a hard time settling their little minds when it's that time, when the rest of the world is programmed to sleep... not that less intellectual children don't also suffer from this problem, but that's just my very unprofessional opinion. when i was a teacher (which wasn't that long, but i do have a degree in child development)this seemed to be a recurring theme with specific children. it really must be difficult for you, i can tell. i don't have the same problem, but my son does wake up at odd hours talking to himself and i wake up too, thinking, thinking, thinking. i will pray that this gets better for you and him...right now! blessings!

hqm said...

Oh, Goodness! I hope a good night sleep is on the horizon for you both!