This middle of the night post is brought to you by Janey having woken up at 3:30am.
I have to be fair---most of the time, Janey sleeps fairly well. I'd say 6 nights out of 7, she goes to bed at around 8pm, sleeps through the night and wakes up at 6am, when the rest of us do. We are not a late night family, and that schedule works well for all of us. However, the 7th night is pretty tough. I know there's a lot of autistic kids, and non-autistic kids too, with bigger sleep problems, but being awake in the middle of the night doesn't do much for your sense of perspective that way.
When Janey has a rough night, it follows the same pattern almost every time. I can barely remember a time she had trouble getting to sleep. The 8pm or a bit earlier bedtime is almost completely consistent (knock on wood). But on the rough nights, she wakes up around 2 or 3am. She is wide awake, and she wants the day to start. There is absolutely no keeping her down. She seems to feel it's morning, and the rest of us are slackers. She wants to start the morning routine---have some breakfast custom made for her, watch her TV shows, maybe go outside, sing or scream loudly---all that fun.
This is another area where this is no parenting guidebook that works. If a child is eight, all advice centers around reasoning with them. You are supposed to be able to firmly say "It's night now. Go to sleep." and then if they don't, telling them they have to at least stay in their room and leave you alone so you can sleep. That is not possible with Janey. She can't be left alone---ever ever ever. If she's awake, we have to be awake. The fact we want to sleep has no impact on her. She doesn't do things to make us happy. She's not going to think "Gee, it just isn't fair I should keep my parents awake all night" She isn't influenced by our disapproval, or even our anger. She is like a one year old, but with one big difference---you can't put her in a crib.
So what do we do? For a while, we still try to keep her down. We try to keep her in bed. We point out it's dark out, and it's still sleeping time. Ha. That's a good one. She continuously gets up, flips on the lights (that's always fun when you're dozing off), checks if the fridge is bungee-corded shut or not, checks the doors to see if she might be able to pay her uncle upstairs a little night visit, tries to get the TV set up for her shows...and of course we are up by then. And we resort to TV. We put on one of her favorite shows, and get on the couch and try to rest while she watches it. We can't go to sleep, because she can't be unsupervised, but we can rest a little. And hopefully, she gets into the show. More often, she decides after a little while she wants a different show, or some strawberry milk, or "snuggle on Mama's bed" (which would seem hopeful, but it never results in sleeping)
The funny thing is that this night wakefulness never bothers her the next day. People say "oh, I bet she'll nap!" but she doesn't. She never seems the slightest bit tired from being up at night. We are, of course. While she's at school, after a night like tonight, I often nap. Lovely, wonderful naps. I love them, but I hate them, because they use up the limited time I have to myself.
And so, here we are. Janey is watching Kipper. I am fending off her requests for strawberry milk, and fending off the overwhelming urge to sleep. Luckily, it's getting closer to 5, when I often get up anyway. And so we go on.