Lately I have developed a new sleep pattern, which involves me being up around 1-2 am for a couple of hours, before I retire back to bed. So I am getting my required 5-6 hours sleep, but there is a gap in between two distinct periods of sleep. This morning for example, I find myself wide awake at 1 am after a deep sleep of 2.5 hours. I do not lie in bed trying to get back to sleep, but I come downstairs and occupy myself : I have a cake baking in the oven as I am writing this blog, and I will head back to bed soon and catch up on the rest of my sleep. But I find a couple of things about this new odd sleeping pattern:

  • It upsets people if they receive an email from me at 2 or 3 am, as they expect me to be asleep at that time and they do not realise that I will go back to sleep. They picture me as an insomniac, which I am not,  as I have no trouble falling into a deep sleep as soon as my head hits my pillow around 10.30 pm. People think that I am awake because I am blogging and emailing in the wee small hours , but I am awake already and I am simply being productive before I go back to sleep.
  • In the past, it was Joshua who would wake me up at 3 am on a regular basis;  I have had 18 years of disturbed sleep, so I have adjusted to function and cope on relatively few hours sleep. But now it is myself waking up, as he has never slept better – he is typically in bed for 9 pm and will stay there, most nights, until 7 or 8 am. In those long nights kept awake by a lively Joshua, I got sympathy for my broken nights, but these days as it is self-inflicted, I am told to turn off devices and go back to sleep.
  • Even though I can manage on 5-6 hours sleep a night, I get a wave of unbelievable tiredness between 3 and 4 pm. At that time, at weekends or on holiday, I would grab a short siesta and feel refreshed;  but when I am at work, it is something to survive,  as if I can stay awake by walking around, making a hot drink or taking in some fresh air, I can overcome it and come out the other side . Once passed 4 pm, I recover, whether I have slept or not.
  • Our weekday bedtime has always been between 11 and 11.30, but now that I am awake early, I struggle to stay awake later than 10.30 and given the opportunity, I will get tucked up in my bed at 10 pm. The other night Joshua came downstairs at 9.45 and so I took him back up to bed and snuggled in with him to encourage him back to sleep. Of course, I never made it downstairs again until 2 am, when I felt fully refreshed and raring to go. The later bedtime gave me a couple of hours in the evening with my husband, without Joshua around, whereas now, we are all going to bed almost together , and waking up, at a similar time.

We all need to find the sleep pattern that works for ourselves, so just because I am not sleeping for 8 straight hours every night, please do not judge or try to fix me.

Rhythm of the Night

I wrote on Sunday morning, when the clocks changed, that the simple act of moving clocks forward by an hour, would play havoc with several SEN children’s established sleep patterns. For the second morning running now, Joshua has been wide awake and ready to play at 2 am ,so those words are coming back to haunt me. It makes no sense as he has only lost one hour, so the obvious impact would be to be tucked up in bed an hour earlier and potentially be waking at 6 am rather than 7 am, but that is simply not the case.

Last night Joshua was not up for long at 2 am, I managed to contain him upstairs, and snuggled him back to sleep in his own bed. Then the only problem was that I was wide awake and came downstairs until 5 am. But this morning, he came into my bed and when I wriggled out, he followed me downstairs. So he has had some Weetabix with banana, watched some of his Show in den under a blanket. He just grabbed my hand and pulled me back upstairs, so we will see if he settles down again, until it is time to get up. The trouble was yesterday, that he was not ready to get dressed at 8 and so I left him sleeping as long as I dare, so he fell out of bed, got dressed with his eyes fairly closed, then slid into his taxi to school. I don’t know how sleepy he has been at school either day, as for some reason, his home/school diary has not made it home.

We have been spoilt for months now with undisturbed nights, such that, if I have been awake in the wee small hours, it has been my own doing, and Joshua has not been to blame. After years of sleeplessness, I will probably never re-gain a normal sleep pattern. I find that I can function well on 5-6 hours sleep a night, but less than that and I struggle to get through the afternoon. Yesterday at work, around 3.30 pm, I found myself struggling and so I had to stand up and do some filing to keep myself upright and alert. I find that if I can manage to stay awake until 4 pm, I can cope and keep going, but I need to ride that wave of exhaustion that hits mid afternoon.

It looks from the baby monitor that is focussed on Joshua’s bed, that he has managed to  settle back to sleep, so I will follow him and get back in my bed , to see if I can do the same. I need to be alert this afternoon, as I am going through to school to watch the annual Easter Bonnet Parade. The pupils who have creative parents make an easter bonnet and then show it off on a makeshift catwalk in the school hall. I have never had any bonnet making skills and as Joshua will not tolerate hats, so we have joined in on a half-hearted basis – one year I stuck some daffodils on his helmet and was pleased with the result . I was not going to attend, except I have had a letter home, which tells me that they will be playing their latest school video and performing a dance too, to a circus theme and the music of The Greatest Showman. Having only recently seen the film, I am keen to see the school version and I have my tissues at the ready. There will be no danger of me cat-napping there!

Sleep tight!

The Joys of Spring

Tonight we put our clocks forward by an hour to British Summer Time and the impact is dramatic. Suddenly, we gain lighter nights when you feel able to do something in the evening after work and our lives are flooded in daylight after the gloom of winter. It will now not get dark until after 7pm and that will gradually stretch until 9pm as the summer approaches. I might even be more inclined to get my bicycle out again and start cycling to work. It will certainly start to feel as though winter is behind us and summer is just around the corner and often with that, comes a new burst of energy.

But it is not all good news as the light nights can have a bad impact on many children with special needs, as they do not associate bedtime with it still being light. So there might be more struggles over sleep for many families. Of course adjusting to being an hour later does not really impact on our children who’s lives are not ruled by clocks. When he was younger, Joshua would always wake around 3am, sometimes for good and sometimes just for an hour or so, but we were too familiar with this time of day. Sleep issues are massive for our families and disturbed nights are the norm, so most of SEN parents are sleep deprived either due to their children struggling to get to sleep, stay asleep ,waking up early or all three of course. Parents of ‘normal’ babies and toddlers will complain about their lack of sleep often until their child goes to school, but just try managing that until your child is 16/17 or beyond!

I used to think that Joshua was a bad sleeper, with his reluctance to stay in bed and his 3am shenanigans, but I had no idea when I was well off: after his brain surgery, for at least a year, Joshua developed a crippling sleep patter. After a seizure, he would stay awake for the following 48 hours continuously. He would look like death, so pale yet with black rings under his staring eyes , but although he was physically exhausted, the brain activity in his head would simply not enable him to close his eyes and sleep .He would need supervising all night long as he was restless as he could not settle anywhere. This wakefulness was nothing to do with daylight, it was all internally created and it will have been one of the hardest periods of parenting him ever. He would finally be able to sleep after 48 hours and then he would be shattered, so would sleep intensely to try to catch up. A week later, the cycle would begin again. None of this was healthy for either of us and it was certainly not conducive to being a working mum. But we survived and we never now take a good nights sleep for granted.

So now that Joshua is typically asleep around 9pm and often sleeps until 7am, we are very lucky, finally. I am out of practice when, like this week, he was up out of bed at 2am for an hour and again at 4am. It is usually however my own brain, rather than Joshua’s, that is waking me up in the early hours these days. I guess after so many years of disrupted sleep, I struggle to sleep through now. So long as I can grab 5-6 hours sleep, albeit broken up in the middle often, I can function during the day, although I will always enjoy a siesta if the opportunity arises.

So spring forward this weekend, and feel full of the joys of Spring.

A Quick Reminder

I had a long day working away yesterday , leaving home at 6.15am and catching a train to Scotland and not home until 10.30pm, by which time thanks to Yorkshire Grandma and my husband, Joshua was tucked up in his bed. However I expected to sneak out in the morning, leaving him fast asleep, but we had one of the worst nights that we have had for a long time, so I saw too much of him the night before my trip. He appeared at my bedside at 2am as he needed changing. I hoped to do that quietly, without either of us really properly waking up – I have, over the years,  mastered changing in the dark for this very reason. However, Joshua had other ideas as he marched off downstairs, ready to play! I gave him some Weetabix with hot milk, hoping that would fill and settle him. But Joshua was wide awake and so I agreed to let him watch the Show in his den, under a blanket, hoping that watching the TV screen would make him sleepy.

It was very like old times, we were both up for two hours in the end and I persuaded him back to bed at 4am and we both gained another hour’s sleep, but he was back at my bedside an hour later. So when Yorkshire Grandma crept in at 6am, trying to shush the dogs from barking , I told her that it did not matter, that we were all well and truly up anyway. Joshua was super excited to see her, shouting loudly ‘I like you’ and giving her hugs as he had not seen her all of half term. I knew as I left the house to catch my train,  that he was now definitely not going to be inclined to go back to sleep and I left them to their happy reunion.

This broken sleep, being awake and downstairs at 3am, was very familiar to me as we have spent most of his childhood seeing that time of day. Last night was a great reminder of how far he has come lately: more often than not, Joshua is asleep around 9pm and sleeps through until 7am, which is a perfect sleep pattern for school nights. It made me appreciate how far we have come and my only wish was that he had chosen a different night to re-visit the past. As ever, I was fine in the morning and I could not shut my eyes on the train, as I had planned. But certainly on my route home again, my head felt a little fuzzy and on one occasion, I woke myself up with a loud snore. When I finally got in, relieved to find that Joshua was in bed, I had a quick cup of tea then was in my bed, asleep, within 20 minutes of arrival home.

Caught Napping

I am out of practice, just to keep me on my toes, while Dad is away overnight, Joshua thought he would like to get up at 3.30. He would not get back into bed, so we both came downstairs and he had his Weetabix a bit early. Once he had finished his three Weetabix, he headed back upstairs and into his bedroom. So  I thought that he was simply hungry – though Heaven only knows how, the amount he ate last night. I went back to my bed and expected us both to get some more winks, but no at 4.30 he was back out of bed and on the landing, and judging by the books on his bedroom floor, no winks had been gained in there at all. So we are both up, have had a 5am bath, done some baking and put a load of washing on.

3am always used to be a crunch time for Joshua when he was younger, so I am not unfamliar with this time of day, just that I have not made its acquaintance more recently, luckily. If I set an alarm, we could have a power nap before we need to get dressed, just to top ourselves up, as it wasn’t even an especially early night either. In othe old days, Johshua  would have made up for lost time on a giant beanbag in the corner of the classroom, but these days he is too busy and nosey to nap at school – he might miss something!

I tend to find that I will be OK this morning, but by 2/3pm, the tiredness will start to hit me. I start to feel dizzy and a bit nauseus and if I can just have a short nap, I find that I am able to carry on until bedtime. I will try to doze in my lunch hour, as I am in the office today and siestas are, regrettably, not encouraged in our culture. The siesta is a luxury reserved for weekends and holidays.

As I look across from my laptop now, my cheeky son is snuggling down on the settee, under a throw, all set for a snooze, and I think that I might join him……