For the last week, Janey has woken up every night around midnight or 1 am, and stayed up for a couple hours. It's incredibly tiring. Because I am eternally hopeful, I went internet searching for solutions to this problem. Big surprise---the ideas I found would not work with Janey. It makes me feel like some kind of defeatist who somehow relishes being able to complain. Growing up in Maine, that kind of attitude was not greatly admired, as so I think I worry too much about appearing that way. Believe me, I wish there were solutions for more of the issues with Janey. I'd love to have solutions. But the most helpful thing I found in my research was actually just reading that lots of other parents of autistic kids have the same problem, and are at the same loss as to what to do.
The problem with the autism-specific ideas that I found was that they were, as I often find, aimed at higher functioning kids than Janey. A big theme was just accepting the waking, and letting the child play on their own so you could still sleep. That would not work. Janey can't be unsupervised. Not for a minute. So if she is awake, we must be awake, one of us, anyway. Thankfully, I have a husband who shares nighttime duties with me (and probably does more than his share), or I would have long ago gone to the place that mothers go that just can't do it anymore (and I'd like to know where that place is, as I might just have to visit there some day). Another idea involved pictures, or diagrams, or a clock with a sun and a moon on it, to explain why we don't get up in the night. Yeah...that is not going to work. If I could explain things like that to Janey, she'd probably be at the level that she could be unsupervised in the night. A few places suggested medication. I am not adding any more medication to Janey's routine, and even if I did, they didn't sound hugely effective with night waking, more with getting to sleep in the first place, which isn't Janey's problem. She goes to sleep just fine---better than most kids. She goes to sleep TOO fine, often---too early and too deeply, and gets the sleep she needs to get over that edge, better to be bright and cheery and raring to go in the wee hours of the morning.
I think there is something in Janey's brain to do with sleep that is just different. When she wakes up, and it's dark, it doesn't seem to trigger in her that she should go back to sleep. She must see that it's dark, and that we don't seem as lively as we do in the daytime, but the way she acts is exactly the same as she acts during the day. She'll ask us to cook things, she'll ask for TV, she sometimes asks to go to the store, or to school. She'll put her shoes on. We sleepily tell her no to those things, that's nighttime, that we need to still sleep, and she might echo back what we say, but it makes no real impression. It doesn't seem to matter what we do or say. She'll go back to sleep when she's ready to go back to sleep---usually about 3 am. Then she sleeeps until 5 or 6, when she's up for the day. She almost never naps.
One place I read said their child does the waking up just in the winter. I think that might be partly true---I should try to figure that out. They said they think it's tied to exercise during the day, but it could also just be part of a seasonal cycle, as many things seem to be with Janey.
As I wrote yesterday, Janey is in a very cheerful pattern lately. The sleep is tough, but compared to the crying all day times, it's not terrible. I nap during the day if I have to, Tony goes to bed very early if he has to. We manage. But it's another thing I project into the future about. What will happen if Janey learns to wake without waking us up---if we are out cold and she wakes up and gets a notion to do something dangerous? We are light sleepers, by necessity, and she always wakes us up if she's up. But if she doesn't, someday, that's the really scary part. And I'm too sleepy today to deal with that thought.