Simon doesn’t sleep well. Simon has never slept well. The poor child may never sleep well. Our attempts to help him sleep better have resulted in him sleeping on the floor. He sleeps under ten blankets, including his weighted one. He sleeps on top of three pillows. There is cardboard blocking his entire window, leaving him the pitch black when his lights are off, his door is closed, and a towel is adjusted in front of the crack under his door. A personally mixed selection of white noise plays from an app on old, nearly dead iPhone while the lullaby versions of Smiths songs play on repeat all night. Since his first year we’ve read and followed the most scientific and plausible sleep book we could find, regulating his sleep times, getting him to bed abnormally, for modern society at least, early, following a bedtime routine.
And still, about 1/3 to 1/2 of his nights, Simon does not sleep well. We get a tiny face, inches from our own, at 2 am, requesting a pull up change. We leave our own door open, so when the lights pop on at 3:30, we can shuffle the reading boy back into bed. We get books thrown at us at 4:30 when the reading boy is more tired, more cranky, and less willing. And all three of us wake up the next morning irritable and pouty.
I’ve seen in postings far and wide that kids with autism and other neurological, sensory disorders respond well to melatonin, it’s largely without side effects, and is easy to use. Most said it helped with sleep onset, not night waking, and Simon has no trouble with sleep onset. We decided it couldn’t hurt to try, and bought a little bottle of sleep liquid. After a few days of slowly increasing his dosage to be sure we gave him the smallest amount possible, it worked! He nodded off to sleep easier and faster and stayed asleep all night. It even helped mellow out the bedtime battle, leaving him more willing to brush his teeth and get tucked in. After a few days he started asking for his sleepy time drops. He had no daytime grogginess, no physical reactions, and told us it helped him sleep. And for about a month, we all slept happily and praised the drops.
And then, the violence increased. Drastically. Our four year old who had been getting control of his anger, was able to hit the couch instead of us, or yell instead of kick, or even dive under blankets and take deep breaths to calm down, started screaming, flailing, punching, headbutting, kicking, spitting, and throwing every day. It lasted longer, had more intensity, and happened more often. Simon was an uncontrollable monster. We tried sticking more rigidly to a schedule, employing all our calm and all our strategies to help the poor guy calm down. It didn’t work.
With protests from Simon, we stopped the melatonin. Within a week, he was calmer, nicer, and more in control. He asked for the drops several times, but he still fell asleep okay, and his behavior was drastically better. And his sleep? Interrupted again, waking in the wee hours and staying awake until an hour or two before my alarm. It was certainly worth a try, but not worth the side effects. And so we move on, keeping our strategies in place, hoping for the best, and curbing our crabbiness at 6 am.