Word meme says: that’s just how it is for us right now, and this is how we need to be to cope with that. I could fight it still. Be angry. Not let it go.

The Zen of Sleep

Sleep is a dirty word here at times. Usually, there is not enough of it happening, or it is happening at odd times of the day. Both NinjaGirl (5yrs)
and I have our own sleep stuff going on – she often wakes at about 2am, I often can’t get to sleep until about….2am. They generally combine for some awesomely yawn-inspiring sleep deprivation.

When NinjaGirl wakes, it is usually about 2am, give or take 30 minutes. And she is up for the day. Being a very active sensory seeker – and of course, being 5 – she needs to have an adult up with her. That is usually me. It isn’t predictable. Nights I’ve been sure she would wake she’s slept through, and nights I’ve hoped she would sleep through she has been up by 2am and we’ve been watching Frozen while she leaps around dancing.

I have a love/hate relationship with that movie. What it means on a practical level is that there have been weeks where I’ve had maybe 12 hours of broken sleep over three days, and am no longer able to function as a human, let alone parent children/do housework. Which means my partner picks up where I’ve left off, and that we are a two-parents-at-home family. If this was only an occasional thing, perhaps it would be different, and we could call on family or friends to come give a hand. But it’s our normal, and there are times when getting only 3 nights of unbroken sleep a week is how it goes for *months*.

And while I really miss sleep (I really do miss you, sleep, you should come hang out at my house more!), the lack of sleep has been something that has given me the biggest opportunity for growth and change. You see, as well as being autistic, I also have depression. Pretty severely at times. And lack of sleep is something that exacerbates that depression and really compromises my ability to cope. So I used to really stress about my sleep, and how much I wasn’t getting. I fought this whole 2am dancefest thing with everything in me. I would be on the couch in tears watching NinjaGirl bounce around the loungeroom. I would rage inside my head about how much I hated this, that I just wanted some damn sleep, that I just couldn’t keep doing this. And I would get frustrated with NinjaGirl, at how *awake* she was, how she seemed to manage so easily on such disrupted sleep patterns (and she does – it boggles my mind lol), how she didn’t seem to care that everyone else was exhausted…

And then I let it all go. Really, I had to. I was wearing myself out with the rage. I was worrying my partner. I was worrying myself.

I remembered some breastfeeding advice I’d read when my son was a little baby and struggling (again) with the lack of sleep – to not watch the clock. Don’t count the feeds. Don’t have a clock beside the bed. Just wake up and do it, then go back to sleep. Clockwatching makes you more tired, and more frustrated. And I remembered taking that advice, and that it worked. So I decided to use it with NinjaGirl’s sleep. I stopped clock watching in the same way (I still keep an eye on roughly how much sleep I’m getting, because I definitely have a limit). I just get up and do it. And if by some miracle we end up going back to sleep, I celebrate, and snooze away.

Of course, it isn’t all rainbows and unicorn farts. Sometimes, those weeks when she and I have been up four nights already and it is only Thursday, it really sucks. I get tired and grumpy. But I’m just tired and grumpy, not internally raging at the cruelty of the universe. Because it isn’t
like that. It isn’t something that is intended to be cruel. Letting go of the rage and frustration has opened up space for NinjaGirl and I to just hang out together, snuggled on the lounge watching that damn movie while I sing all the damn songs about damn snowmen and summer and….

Yeah. Love/hate that movie.

So what do I do when NinjaGirl is awake? Internet. Write. Crochet,if I’m not too tired. Make lists. Plan. Snuggle. Laugh. Play singing games. Admire her groovin’ movin’. General hanging out.

And as soon as it hits about 6 am, I tag team with her dad, and get a nap.

Because that’s just how it is for us right now, and this is how we need to be to cope with that. I could fight it still. Be angry. Not let it go. But it doesn’t serve me. It doesn’t help me cope with a situation out of my control. It just increases my frustration, and that leaks out to everyone around me. Especially NinjaGirl. And that is no thing to do to a child. So I found my zen. I can just let this be what it needs to be, and let myself learn and grow from it instead. Which is much kinder to everyone.

1 reply
  1. Lise Almenningen
    Lise Almenningen says:

    That is where I had to go as well. For some reason it has become a religious belief that autistic people depend on routines and will crash and burn if we do not get them. Not knowing about my own autism has been a kind of blessing in that regards. I learned the hard way to let go of any routine – even with two autistic children (who had very different routines) – I might feel attached to. Sleep came in time. I think my youngest was 14 by the time we could relax through the night almost every night. Either a person has to let go of everything and start living without strict schedules or we will crash and burn.


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