Ask a parent of a child with additional needs: ‘Do they sleep well?’ and you’ll almost certainly get a rueful smile.
A hand that maybe points to the headful of grey hairs. A comment about an unhealthy caffeine intake.
For our children… they sleep differently.
When Alex was born, and we had no notion of what was to come, we noticed he slept a lot.
In those heady days before we barreled into life with a child with disabilities we were just grateful that our second child slept well, so that we, having just moved, were able to unpack boxes, put up shelves and start constructing our new life.
Looking back, and talking to other families, it’s clear that - had we been more on the ball - that was our sign that something wasn’t quite right.
In fairness to Alex, he kept sleeping well - but not excessively - right up until about 3, and we were so grateful for this. Because, however bad the day, what new unexpected news was delivered to our door, we knew that at 7 o’clock he’d go to bed and we could… stop. Just for a little.
Then, almost imperceptibly, it went wrong.
We noticed that it was every day, not just the odd night, that he would cry for 3 hours before he went to sleep, our evening ruined, our eldest daughter sleeping in our bed as she couldn’t hear him there.
Or, if he did go to sleep as normal he’d wake at 1, 2, 3 in the morning and scream for 2 hours for no obvious reason.
We found our house locked down as we went to bed early to prepare for the night to come or one of us would drive him round town so the other could sleep.
This was madness. And then it stopped again.
But the following year – in a very cyclical fashion - it came again and it was worse this time because we were both working and Alex was at school and there was no slack in the day for anyone to catch up on oh-so-needed sleep.
Without sleep… anyone with a new-born will tell you that your mind closes down, you can barely function and all the fun is sapped out of your life as you just try to put one foot in front of the other and not shout at anyone.
Our Health Visitor once again came my aid and referred us to our paediatrician urgently.
I love our paediatrician as she’s just so practical… and recognises need.
Alex was prescribed circadin, a low dose melatonin.
I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but I’m so thankful that it did for us.
He slept. We slept. And life… swung back to normal.
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