Yesterday my doctor looked me in the eyes and said, “You have to work on your hygiene!” No, I’m not my talking about my personal hygiene. My appointment was with a sleep specialist who talked about the importance of good sleep hygiene. I have struggled with sleeping for many years. As the parent of a child with a special need, there were countless nights we cared for David throughout the night. Near the end of David’s life I went months with what felt like no sleep. I finally swallowed my pride and accepted a prescription for Ambien. I was told that it is not addictive. They lied.
Last night was the first night I tried to put into practice some of the steps the doctor suggested. I removed my clock radio, turned the air conditioning up so the room was cold, set my alarm for 6:00 AM, stopped drinking water before 8 PM, turned off my computer and iPad and iPhone two hours before 11 when I was scheduled to go to bed, made sure the room was pitch black, and for the first time in years did not take my 5mgs of Ambien. It was one of the worst nights of sleep I can remember in a long time. There were a few benefits. Throughout the night I prayed for my son and daughter in law who have three under the ages of 4 and experience sleep deprivation on a regular basis. I meditated on Psalm 8:4 that says, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety. ” And I read a book and caught up on my bible reading. I finally went to sleep. Tonight I am sure I am going to face the same thing. I am going to tweak the program a little. I think cold turkey was the wrong decision.
Unfortunately, there are many families that can’t “tweak the program a little” so they can get more sleep. Their child needs to be rolled several times a night to prevent sores from forming. Their son wanders the halls of their home all night singing, crying, or knocking on their door. The cries of their nonverbal daughter blasts through the monitor next to their pillow telling them she is afraid or cold and unable to cover herself. Sleep deprivation is a reality for many, if not most, families caring for children with special needs or struggling with a life threatening disease.
I wished I had an Easy Peasy solution for how to get more sleep. If it were only as simple as counting pretend sheep, covering your body in lavender, or drinking a glass of warm milk while listening to light jazz on an all night radio program, but it is not. So I have an idea! I know there are many families who read this post that are raising children with special needs who have wrestled with getting sleep for years. Let’s gather some of the lessons you have learned and share them with parents who are struggling. How have you dealt with sleep deprivation? What tips have you learned and put into practice that have helped you as a family? What resources have you read that gave you some effective tools? Are there any safe alternative approaches to improve your sleep that you have found helpful? Let’s gather all of these ideas and create a resource we can share with other families just like ours. Can you imagine the beauty of a mom or dad taking one of these ideas and using it to help them battle the effects of sleep deprivation? Let’s do it!
PS: Knowing that I am going to have some extra time on my hands over the next few nights feel free to hit reply and share your first name and I will pray for your sleep. If there is anything specific you would like me to pray for let me know. It would be my pleasure! If you want to share it anonymously, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sleep Well!