I could be wrong, but it seems to me that individuals with special needs, especially those with autism or who have had brain injuries seem to have more trouble falling and staying asleep than others!
In any event, lack of sleep has been an ongoing and troubling issue in our family.
Our sleep issues began almost 16 years ago, when my daughter, Bethany was diagnosed with a brain tumor and was rushed to the hospital for surgery.
She was hooked up to all kinds of frightening life saving machines and monitors and was not allowed to nurse for the very first time in her life!
I couldn't sleep because I was terrified she might die and it was killing me that I had to repeatedly refuse her attempts to nurse.
There was absolutely nothing I could do to help or comfort my very precious and very sick baby.
The first suggestion was to give her Melatonin about an hour before bedtime. I have to admit that it did help her fall asleep at a decent hour, but it didn't help her stay asleep all night. Plus, it also made her very grouchy the next day. We gave up on it!
The second suggestion was to give her Benadryl. Unfortunately, this medication did the opposite of making her sleep. It made her hyper and aggressive! We only tried that once!
I'm sure we tried another medication or two, but I don't remember what they were called and they didn't work well enough to keep her on them, either.
And anyway, I felt like she was already on too many medications, what with taking three just to try to control her seizure disorder, so we decided to stop trying medications to get her to sleep.
Because of her unpredictable seizure disorder and her lack of understanding the concept of danger she needed and still needs total supervision while awake!
One day, during a desperate online search for better, more natural sleep inducing methods, I came across the term, sleep hygiene.
It sounded very professional and very promising!
Basically, sleep hygiene is a bunch of practices that if followed routinely, should assist in helping anyone get a better night's sleep!
We were letting her watch movies and play on her iPad in bed and allowing her to take cat naps during the day!
I'll be the first to admit that both of those habits were hard to break, but once broken, Bethany did start sleeping better and thus so did I!
Below are a few tips recommended by the sleep hygiene experts that you can try to help your special loved one get a better night's sleep:
> Eliminate caffeine from their diet.
> Don't allow snacks, especially sweets after dinner.
> Be sure your child gets plenty of vigorous exercise each day, but not just before bedtime.
> Be sure your child has adequate exposure to the daylight hours.
> Establish a calming bedtime routine.
> Make the bedroom a pleasant and calming place.
> Do not use bedrooms as time out or punishment spaces.
> Wake your child up and put him to bed at the same time everyday.
> Don't allow screen time in bed.
> And the hardest one for me to follow: don't allow daytime naps!
I won't claim that following the above procedure has been the perfect solution to all our sleep problems, because Bethany also battles against the seizure medication side effect of insomnia and the seizure clusters she experiences wreak havoc on her sleep routine.
But, I can attest to the fact that following these simple sleep hygiene rules when we can, has improved Bethany's ability to sleep and therefore mine, also!
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