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When Sleep Is Elusive

Alethea Mshar
Special needs mom and Blogger
04/19/19  12:47 PM PST

My first child, who is developmentally typical, slept eight hours at a stretch by the time she was a month old. Having achieved sleep guru status, I declared myself “Supermom,” and assumed that I could solve the problems of every parent and every child for whom sleep didn’t occur so readily.

Fast-forward twenty years and my nearly 13-year-old doesn’t sleep through the night.

Admittedly, there might be a bit of karma involved in that, but I think there are worse infractions in the parenting world than the mother of a one-month-old thinking she had the age old issue of sleep solved. I certainly doubt I deserve this seemingly lifelong sentence.

Yet, here we are. Two sleep studies with two different sleep doctors, a handful of psychiatrists, ABA and every supplement on the market later, and we still have a child who doesn’t sleep through the night.

I take it with a grain of salt when parents who are more successful in the sleep arena than I am offer suggestions, but in the back of my mind I wonder if they really think I haven’t tried every option known to humankind. I briefly consider showing them my Internet search history, but think better of it, knowing that my three AM searches tend to be a bit eclectic.

At the end of the day, though, (pardon the pun) we have back-burnered the idea that our sleep situation will be resolved, and instead expend our limited energy on coping with it. For my husband and I, that looks like taking turns, choosing to go to bed early (last night we were both in bed before eight PM), and trying to catch up when we can.

Our son has a combination of contributing factors including Down syndrome, autism, anxiety and bunch of medical diagnoses. Figuring out which factor is at play at the moment and getting that under control without triggering a different factor is a delicate game to say the least. Every now and then for a day, maybe a week or two and, I think, once even for a few months, all the factors align and sleep happens. It’s bliss. There are few things sweeter than uninterrupted sleep when it has been elusive year after year. When it happens we tiptoe around it, more than a bit superstitious that even mentioning our good fortune will unravel it. Though the unraveling always occurs, no matter how stealthily we proceed.

If someone had told me, all those years ago, that I would be here now with over a decade of mostly restless nights under my belt, I would have cringed, sworn it would never happen, or declared them absurd. And really, it is absurd, but here we are. And for the record, I don’t know how we do it, other than coffee and a sense of humor, and yes, I’ve tried whatever it is you’re thinking of (probably at least 27 times). But thanks for asking!

inclusion on the playground

Alethea Mshar is a Special Needs Mom and Blogger.

Read her blog, Ben’s Writing, Running Mom

Follow her on Facebook


1 Comment

  1. Staci
    Posted April 25, 2019 at 3:00 pm PDT

    My daughter is diagnosed with CP and intellectual delays was a good sleeper until she hit 14. Now it’s in bed by 8pm and she literally sings loudly non-stop until 1 am. I would love to get to the point of lots of coffee and humor like you…but I’m not. I cry a lot, because I haven’t gotten REM sleep in almost a year and it’s impacting my health. What has been an oasis for me on these many sleepless nights is my favorite podcast Sleep With Me. I listen to all night episodes of creatively boring stories that actually relax me enough to fall asleep, until the fifth round of Adele brings me groggily back to reality.

    If you haven’t tried podcasts 27 times, consider Sleep With Me. It is a godsend for thousands around the world.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

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