The Midnight Hour

I miss sleep.


Melatonin will be your best friend.


I understand that not all children with autism are the same. But I also have been around the block enough to know that one of the main aspects of autism is sleep disturbances. I could probably write an entire novel on this one subject, but I will just share a few stories as this is the one area where it is often a laugh-or-cry situation. I have become an expert at functioning on very little sleep and can still be quite productive. And oh, I hate the taste of coffee, so no quick fix for me.


Ashton spent most of the early days sleeping in bed with us. We initially tried the crib beside the bed but that was a no-go from day one. We ended up settling on a small seat like a rocker that could sit in our bed between me and my wife. This way Amy could just drape her hand into the crib when he cried so he knew she was there. 


Then, as all parents were instructed, we tried to sleep-train Ashton. We moved the crib into the next room to ours and spent numerous nights listening to him wail. Then I also got to listen to my wife wail beside me as she thought this was inhumane and that she was a terrible person. 


I believe this is probably normal for all parents at this stage (or I hope it is because I know I repeatedly said that). This ended the night that Ashton decided he was going to chew his way out. We were listening to him cry through the monitor and camera, and Amy looked closely and jumped up and ran. He had what looked like blood all around his mouth. When we got into the room, we found that he had beavered most of the paint and wood off the top guard of his crib and the paint chips were what looked like blood. Lo and behold, the crib was no longer relevant moving forward.


Next attempt was a mattress on the floor. It worked well once he fell asleep until he rolled over and hit the carpet. What you learn quickly is that children with autism, once awake, stay awake. I have seen Ashton stay awake, and I mean running, laughing, screaming, and fully awake from midnight until bedtime the next night. Me not so much. 


I truly understand this when we went on a three-month stretch where he was up at 2 am for days on end. It got to the point where he knew I walked on the treadmill first thing in the morning, so my ritual was a 2 am cardio session as he played in the basement. I still shudder when I remember those sleepless days.


Next, came Trystan. He is currently thirty pounds lighter than Ashton but the same height. So, in layman’s terms, he is scrawny and can climb. The crib was short-lived for him as well. Instead of chewing it, he used it as a springboard to the floor or even better the dresser. You would get tucked in for bed and look over at the camera and he would already be out of the crib. I won’t go over sleep training Trystan as all I remember is Amy spending weeks on end slowly moving further and further out the door until one night she got back to our bed before I fell asleep.


This lasted until the night he took the dresser for a ride. Middle of the night, dresser flat on the floor, clothes everywhere, and Trystan laughing uncontrollably in the dark. This is why we have no furniture other than their beds in their rooms now. Their beds are built and constructed by my father and I, so that they cannot roll onto the floor and wake themselves up anymore. Best thing I have ever built for my children.


One more thing I have to mention on the topic of sleep – do not wait to use melatonin. 


In terms of the massive number of medications our children are on, this is the only natural resource that is not considered a medicine. The first night we gave it to our son, it worked. I could have cried, I was so happy. No kicking the side of the bed, no kicking the door, no screaming and crying until he fell asleep. Fifteen minutes after we gave it to him, he looked drunk. He stumbled over to the couch, grabbed a pillow, and was out cold. I carried him up to bed and he did not even blink an eye.


Our one mistake was dosage. When we went to the pharmacy, they only had the 5 mg bottles, so we assumed this was the only dosage available. This is why that first dose hit him like a brick wall. When we told our pediatrician how she had saved our lives, she was surprised it had worked as well as it did. Then we found out the starting dose was between 1 and 3, oops. Being that it was a natural supplement even she laughed it off and since then we have never wavered on the dose. Even when we had to start sleeping meds to supplement it, we have never wavered.


Don’t get me wrong, we still only average between six and seven hours of sleep per night. But when you have gone months on end of less than five, you take what you can get. 


PS – the midnight hour is a great time for morning cardio.