Thursday, 3 February 2011

Autism & Sleep

Beautiful & Strange

Just when you think you're getting your life back together something always happens to knock you off your perch- or so my Scottish granny never tired of saying...

When life is stressful, there's nothing worse than broken sleep. As soon as Lyla started school after the Xmas holidays, she stopped sleeping at night.

Just like that.

From sleeping through (with medical help), she suddenly stopped sleeping.

And I've started turning into a zombie.

Lyla has always had sleeping problems and two years ago she was diagnosed with Melatonin-deficiency.

Melatonin is the sleep-hormone which causes people to feel drowsy in the evening and fall asleep.

Melatonin-deficiency is very common amongst autistic, ADHD and also blind kids. The theory is that melatonin production is light-dependent. This explains why blind children don't make it. For children with certain types of autism or ADD/ ADHD, it appears that the brain doesn't process the light properly and so either doesn't make any Melatonin or doesn't make enough.

Melatonin supplementation, under medical supervision, can be highly successful, (indeed miraculous!)  and induces normal sleeping patterns.

This all sounded a bit barking to me when it was first diagnosed, but it's another instance of just how pervasive autism is- it really does affect every area of a person's functioning.

So, that's the science bit.

However, the drawback with the preparation that Lyla takes is that is wears off after three hours. So, she's started to wake up just as we're going to bed and running around the house, shouting, wanting to play and waking everyone up.

Having a hyperactive child shake you out of a deep sleep, when you're already exhausted brought back unwelcome memories of endless sleepless nights with newborn twins.

For the first few nights, we survived on adrenalin, but after a week, utterly shattered, we realised that this wasn't a one-off: we had to take action.

Lyla suffers from quite severe Sensory Processing Disorder and unless she performs vigourous exercise every day, she is restless, anxious and hyperactive.

Until now, we've scheduled this into our day, but since she broke her elbow in November, she's not been allowed to exercise until l the screws that were put in her elbow have healed up.

Now Lyla can keep going on no sleep whatsoever, but Mya can't and neither can we. So, we took the decision to resume Lyla's exercise programme.

I'm pleased to say that after  two hour-long running sessions, Lyla has started sleeping through again and I'm looking forward to life returning to (our version of!) normal.
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