Sleep Issues, Again, and Maybe a Strategy

Charlie waiting to get a burrito a Mexican fast food 'joint' I definitely wasn't kidding when I posted about sleep issues yesterday. Charlie woke around 1am Thursday morning. He got dressed and went downstairs and asked to put on his socks.

I had met with Charlie's teacher and a school behaviorist Tuesday and (among other things) we'd talked about his recent early wakings. We talked about teaching Charlie to stay in bed till a certain time and about ways to help him relax before going to bed. Needless to say, I was glad we had talked about all this when I heard Charlie's voice Thursday morning. 

I told him, he could go for a walk at 5am, in a couple of hours. (At the meeting, we had agreed that it might work better for Charlie to know that there's a specific time for doing certain things, rather than saying, for instance, he could go out when the sun rises). I mentioned the name of the behaviorist at school and Charlie put down his socks and went to sit on the couch, and asked to hear some music on the computer. He listened for about 20 minutes and then asked—very much to my surprise—for "bedtime," and went back up the stairs. 

I had been sitting on the other side of the room and had picked up a book, actually a book for my class on Women in Antiquity. I had assigned a chapter on the legal status of women in ancient Rome, which mostly contains selections from the Roman jurists. Personally, I find this very interesting stuff as what Roman jurists have to say about marriage, divorce, dowries, patria potestas, and the like reveals much about what the everyday of women's lives in the ancient Roman world. But I'm not going to fool myself: Selections from the Institutes of Gaius or by Ulpian are not 'fun' reading, and are dryer than 3-day-old toasted rusks. 

In other words, they're the sort of thing that, when you read them, you almost can't help getting a bit sleeping, by fiat.

In other words, they're something to read if you have insomnia and you're trying anything to get yourself to go to sleep.

Certainly, reading the various consequences of adultery in the Roman empire at 1.45am on Thursday morning led to my eyes drooping and I was certainly glad to hear Charlie clomp back up the stairs.

Once back in bed, he tossed and turned (though he wasn't unhappy, from the sounds he was making and the words he said here and there) for at least an hour before sleeping. As I listened to Charlie, I thought back to what I used to do when I'd wake up in the middle of the night and couldn't go back to sleep (something that doesn't happen anymore unless I'm woken by Charlie). I'd always have a book around. After reading a couple of pages I'd feel my eyes getting tired and then I'd be able to go back to sleep. It didn't have to be something by the Roman jurists, even.

Charlie's not a reader so him reading or being read to wouldn't work, but it all got me to think about some things to try to help him go back to sleep. As I've often been very groggy during his early wakings, I've tended to choose the easiest thing to do, to keep him occupied, such as kiddy videos he asks for. Thursday morning, besides him having to do some typing to hear some Disney songs, I also turned on a little jazz on WKCR. Perhaps something a little more challenging might better help Charlie to go back to bed, and to sleep, I thought; perhaps these did.

Charlie didn't wake up until almost 8am. I had to catch a train and Jim got Charlie up using the timer. En route, there was one instance of loud crying from the backseat; Jim kept the radio on with Charles Mingus music and they got to school without incident. Indeed, the rest of Thursday was without incident, with Charlie going on a morning bowling field trip, an afternoon bike ride (during which he persevered through dogs straining at the leash towards him and honking cars), a fun trip to get a burrito (with more Charles Mingus; yesterday was a daylong broadcast of his music, as April 22nd was his birthday), a long evening walk (on which I gave Charlie some melatonin, earlier than I've been giving it to him) after which—as he had in the early, early hours of the day—Charlie asked to hear music.

The internet was a little balky and kept stopping in mid-song. (It's proving best for Charlie to listen to songs streaming from the 'net as he gets really fixated on CDs and DVDs [= shiny colored circles].) After a bit, Charlie asked for one of those kid videos and I said that we should probably take a break from then as they're about 30 times more over-stimulating and fixation-inducing than the CDs and DVDs, for one thing.

Charlie remained kneeling on the couch for a minute. Then he said:

"All done" and got up. And then, "bedtime."

Words I most certainly couldn't object to.

8 Responses to “Sleep Issues, Again, and Maybe a Strategy”
  1. jennyalice says:

    I can’t remember where you are with Zoloft? We noticed more consistent sleep patterns with Jack when we increased his dosage in an effort to combat what appeared to be a panic disorder of some sort.
    He can’t take Xanax because it has a side effect of ataxia, and we already have plenty of that.
    When Jack had (has) self-injurious behavior in the middle of the night we still use liquid Valium in low doses to help him relax quickly.
    Hope you can catch a nap.

  2. Adelaide says:

    Does Charlie enjoy ITunes?
    I am having a lot of fun with the radio mode of this.

  3. Niksmom says:

    Have you tried Pandora radio ( Charlie? You can set up “stations” based on musicians, song titles, etc. and get lots of similar music. Have never had it be “balky” as some of the streaming audio from radio stations seems to be.
    I hope you all get some good sleep this weekend! 🙂 We got 10+ hours last night (plus a 3hr nap yesterday!!) but I wouldn’t recommend the method we had to emply to get it…disastrous sleep study wiith lots of tears and trauma followed by NO SLEEP. 😉

  4. Jill says:

    You must be exhausted from sitting up with Charlie. Would he get into mischief if you stayed in bed and let him entertain himself?

  5. Louise says:

    I suggested this yesterday, but you might not have seen the comment. I have had a lot of success inducing drowsiness by using brain entrainment recordings that induce delta waves in the brain. Since delta is the “state of sleep” wave, it doesn’t take very long to nod off.
    Usually the binaural beat technology is embedded behind soothing music – Asian or New Age, sometimes jazz. There are also recordings with the beats behind pure white noise.
    If you’re not familiar with this technology:
    I used these recordings quite extensively after my stroke, listening to alpha and beta beats, to help recover my powers of concentration which had literally been blown out. Of course, that’s purely anecdotal evidence. Your mileage may vary.
    I can send you an mP3 if you are interested in trying them. It could be played on Charlie’s iPod.

  6. Jen says:

    I’d second the recommendation from Pandora- we’ve never had ‘balky’ issues with it.
    I hope that you all get some sleep tonight!
    Interesting stuff about the minute doses of melatonin…I haven’t found that our dose makes anyone tired or groggy, but it does seem to help them sleep through the night if there’s nothing else going on. It would be interesting to see what a minute dose might do.

  7. Regina says:

    Interesting. It would be great if you could get the clock reset. Yeah, I can see how a medication change would affect things. I was on zoloft for a short while and practically passed out at 9PM; my older daughter had a trial of adderall and that resulted in 3AM bouncing off the walls. We ended up stopping both of those. My younger daughter has never been on any prescriptions so I have no idea how that would affect her sleep.Melatonin didn’t have any huge effect except that she started wetting the bed when we added that so we decided to do without.
    A couple of years ago we had real late go-to-beds and wake ups in the middle of the night. It was a pain but my solution was fine, I can see that you’re not going to sleep and I do want you to have the association that a bed is for sleeping and not staring at the ceiling, but waking up in the middle of the night probably shouldn’t be the funnest thing ever, either. So no snack, no TV, no fun stuff. If the day’s started, let’s go do some skill work…because I figured either that that way there wasn’t any particular “payoff” for staying up, and that we might as well “do” something. I don’t recall how many nights it was except that the first night was long, the second less, and within 10 days I heard the rustling around and then it stopped. Probably the equivalent of facing an econ text. I was ready for that because I’m a middle-aged lady who needs sleep to function.
    Recently our daughter’s been taking herself to bed at a pretty reasonable time and staying there. I hope it lasts. I sure hope you guys get some sleep/sleep routine – I’ve been kind of in awe of your sheer stamina and wondering how long you would be able to make it, power walks and all, on cat-naps and coffee.

  8. autismvox says:

    @Adelaide, Yes, it is iTunes’s radio feature we’ve been using!
    @Regina, It feels a bit luxurious to have Charlie sleeping for some good hours these past two nights, wondering about a third!
    @Louise, Something about jazz definitely appeals to Charlie. Thanks regarding the mp3; Charlie’s not using his iPod to listen to music at the moment; radio seems to be his preferred (at the moment)!
    @Jen, I’ve tried Pandora a few times with Charlie also I’ve been surprised that Charlie seems to have taken to the radio; the station he seems to favor is a university one, with no (annoying, pesky, overly commercial) ads. Come to think of it, I can’t stand those ads myself!
    @Jennyalice, Charlie’s been on Zoloft for awhile (couple of years). It’s not a high dosage and sometimes I’ve wondered at what the effects are, coupled with the other things he takes; worth considering how it might be playing a role in his sleep. We’ve never used the liquid Valium, have been (so far) addressing SIBs with other meds. (So far.)
    @NIksmom, I’ve been thinking of Nik and you regarding sleep—hoping for a much more consistent schedule for Nik, soon. Very soon!

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