The monkey had never slept thru the night. I remember when he was two years old and a friend had a newborn baby. She was telling me how she struggled during the day with a couple of hours of sleep. And I realized we’ve been in this situation for two years. In our home, we were all sleep deprived. That’s when I realized we were different. He was suppose to have slept thru the night by now.
Fast forward to when he was five and a half. He still wouldn’t sleep thru the night. My husband and I would take turns, each night one of us would be sleep deprived at work. I kept thinking how does the monkey function? If we are this exhausted, how is he so full of energy?
Our pediatrician recommended prescription sleeping pills. I was dead set against it. He’s five! Why would we medicate him when he’s so little?
We tried sleepy teas, we’d try swimming him for hours on end hoping he’d crash at night, we’d try candles, scents, lavender, teas, herbs, no screen time past seven, warm baths. You name it, we tried it.
Last year, the summer before starting kindergarten, I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I was exhausted all the time. I was so worried about the monkey. How’s it possible that he doesn’t sleep but a couple of hours a night? How can he function? Sleeping is so important for little kids.
We had tried melatonin, which helped putting him to sleep. But it didn’t help him stay asleep. It’d help for about an hour and then he was fully awake. Ready to jump on the trampoline, at 2 in the morning, full of energy.
After much back and forth, my husband and I reluctantly agreed. He needed meds.
We had an appointment with our son’s psychiatrist. He had been talking to us on previous visits about the different sleep medications that our son could take. But we were simply not comfortable then. But on this visit, we were desperate, looking for help.
He prescribed us two meds. I remember that night, being so anxious and nervous. My husband and I kept questioning if we were doing the right thing.
I mean he’s five years old!
We had to hold him down to give him the meds. He just didn’t want to take them. And after forcing him to take them, we waited.
And that night he slept for eleven hours!
I kept waking up, to see if he was breathing. We had been sleep deprived for years that I didn’t understand what was going on. Was he even alive? I was so scared that we were hurting him. Yet he woke up so happy. He wasn’t grumpy and moody like he typically was. He was in such a great mood.
After the next few nights, still trying to find my peace in all of this, I eventually fell asleep thru the night too. I woke up, after a full night’s rest, feeling so great. I remember seeing everyone at work, and thinking, “Is this how they all feel every day after an entire night of sleeping?” This is amazing!
A year and a half later, the monkey sleeps for the most part of the night. He sleeps between 9.5 to 10 hours every night.
Every now and then, he will wake up in the middle of the night, and be up for hours. And those nights, my husband and I will take turns and will be sleep deprived during daytime hours. But those nights are few and far between. I’d say maybe once a month. And in those nights, we are reminded of the value of sleeping.
I know medicating kids is controversial. If I would have heard that parents medicate kids prior to my son being born, I’d be the first one to condemn them for being irresponsible parents. I was naive and didn’t understand what it meant having special needs children.
But now I have realized medicine has been a life saver to us.
We are better parents because we sleep now, to both of our kids. We are better people at work. And we are better partners to each other.
Every now and then my husband and I will second guess ourselves. We will convince ourselves to take him off meds. And when we do, we see how lack of sleep negatively affects my monkey. And we eventually resort back to meds.
Every child with autism is different. They are all unique in their own special way. And it is up to the parents or caregivers to figure out ways to help with their needs, an individual assessment.
I’m not saying medicating children is the answer for everyone. I understand how controversial this topic is. What I am saying, is that medicating my son was the best answer for my monkey.
Us parents, we all walk our own special path in hope for the same ending: for our children to be happy.