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My FitBit tells me my sleep cycles are erratic. To help me become more restful, the app keeps giving me little tips. I’ve learned I should cut caffeine, stop exercising before bed, and set a consistent schedule.
But no matter how many of these tips I implement, I never actually get more sleep, because I have a son with a sleep disorder. My oldest son, Owen, has Angelman Syndrome. Along with epilepsy, global developmental delays, and Pica, my son’s syndrome also results in a severe sleep disorder.
Now that Owen turned eleven, I can honestly say I haven’t slept well for over a decade! Over the years, I’ve learned some important truths that I’m sure other moms of children with sleeping disorders can vouch for.
Sleeping Meds = Complication
In desperation when he was three, I finally asked my son’s pediatrician if we could start him on medication to help him sleep. At my breaking point emotionally and physically, I was ready for an easy out. I assumed I could just give Owen a little pill before he went to sleep, and solve all the sleep issues.
I was wrong!
Sleep meds are complicated, especially for children. We’ve tried several over the years. Some made him hyper. Others interfered with his seizure medication. And some work for just a couple of hours before he woke.
The older he gets, the more drugs he’s eligible to try. But, I no longer expect a pill to make a magical change in his sleeping schedule.
Behavior and Sleep Are Intertwined
When Owen’s having a particularly challenging time sleeping, his seizures always worsen. So does his behavior. There’s such a strong correlation between sleep and behavior!
But, it’s not only Owen’s behavior I worry about. His noises at night impact my other kids too. Even if they don’t wake completely up, they’re hearing him subconsciously. And I can tell the next morning because everyone wakes up grumpy instead of refreshed.
One child with a sleep disorder really does affect the whole house.
Sleep Experts Don’t Know Everything!
Many sleep experts claim to have the key you need to unlock perfect sleep forever and ever.
Except, they don’t. Sleep is complicated, especially when you’re dealing with a genuine sleep disorder.
No amount of crying it out, creating predictable routines, or diffusing lavender essential oil is going to make my kid sleep through the night. I’ve tried, thank you very much! And while those things can help, they don’t always work.
Of course if you think I’m wrong, I’ve got an eleven-year-old you can borrow for a couple of nights! I’ll gladly admit the error of my ways if you get him to sleep consistently!
Sleep is a Blessing, not a Promise
I used to get mad at God for not making Owen sleep. I’d cry out, wondering why I couldn’t get the sleep I felt like I deserved.
But in my sleep deprived state, God helped me to see things differently. A good night of sleep is a blessing, but not a guarantee. However, God does promise to give us strength for each day.
And I cling to that truth each time I’m up most of the night with Owen. Sometimes I don’t know how I’ll make it through the next day with only a couple of hours of sleep. But I trust God to give me the strength I need. And He always does!
He’s also brought along help in other ways. I’m thankful for my support network who occasionally take Owen so I can sleep. Thank you, thank you!
So if you’re also searching for truths in the middle of the night while you’re up with a sleepless child, know you aren’t alone. I’m right there with you, praying that we’ll both get a little extra sleep!