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Monday, November 26, 2018

The Mystery of the No Sleep Nights

My mother is a huge fan of mystery series books, like the Nancy Drew or the Judy Bolton ones.  The title pays homage to that, and to the fact sometimes life with Janey can feel like a long series of mysteries.  One of the biggest ones is why sometimes Janey simply skips a full night of sleep.

Overall, sleep is not one of the biggest issues we usually face with Janey, at least not compared to a lot of kids with autism. (knocking on wood here, of course!)  She goes to bed fairly early, usually somewhere around 7 or 7:30, and gets up early, about 6.  While she's asleep, she barely moves, and we can usually be as loud as we want to around our small house without waking her.

However, once in a while, probably 10 times in her life, Janey has just plain skipped a night of sleep.  When this happens, she doesn't sleep at all.  Not one wink.  And almost always, the next day she isn't particularly sleepy.  It's like for that one night, she just didn't need to sleep.

I don't have seven clues, but I have a few!
This happened most recently Thanksgiving night.  Janey was not in a good mood for Thanksgiving.  November is often one of her tougher months, and she'd had a fairly rough week.  There was a lot of screaming that day, so we were looking forward to a night's break.  But she just never went to sleep.  Tony stayed up with her until about midnight, then I took over.  The funny thing was that she was much more cheerful during her normal sleeping hours than she was the day before or the day after.  Although she wasn't sleeping, it was like she was in a different mode than regular daytime.  She was up until 5 pm on Black Friday, then went to sleep and slept all night.

What do we do all night on a no sleep night?  Mainly watch videos.  I could insist that we turn off the TV, but I know that would do no good.  Believe me, I've tried, and believe me also, once you get a ways into a no sleeping night, you do whatever you have to do to get through the night.  When Janey is watching videos, I stay right near her on the couch and struggle to keep my eyes open, and change videos when she needs me to.  Sometimes she asks for a ride or a shower, but in a mild way.  She seems to know what she can do in the middle of the night and what she can't do.

There isn't much of a pattern to these no sleep nights.  Sometimes they happen when she's in a good mood, sometimes bad.  Sometimes she seems manic, sometimes there is no sign at all she won't sleep.  Sometimes we realize she's had chocolate after noontime, which disrupts her sleep badly.  Sometimes she has eaten nothing out of the ordinary.

As I often do lately when trying to figure Janey out, I think of what any teenage girl of 14 would be doing.  Although I think my sleep at that age was pretty regular, of course sometimes I stayed up late.  This was usually when spending the night at a friend's house.  I know there were lots of nights that I was up until 3 or 4 am laughing hysterically with friends, probably discussing who had a crush on who for hours on end.  Maybe an occasional late night or no sleep night is just something Janey needs, to break up the routine a bit.

Another theory I have is that the no sleep happens when Janey's brain is working on processing something new.  Lately, we've noticed her talking is on an upswing.  We've been hearing some longer, more complete sentences---for example, instead of saying "Go to the store!"  she might say something like "I want to go for a car ride to the store" or "I want to get salami at the store"  This isn't all the time; it's still pretty rare, but it's nice to hear.  She has also been reversing pronouns a bit less.  One night she wanted a shower, and I said "I'll give you a shower in a minute" and she said "You give me a shower in a minute"  which surprised me quite a bit.  Maybe when her brain is making new connections, it's hard to sleep.

When the nights happen rarely, as they do, we can manage it, especially now that Tony is retired.  But if they ever started happening on a regular basis, like more than once a week or even once a month, it would be very hard to take.  Janey needs to be watched at all times.  I think about parents who have kids with much more severe sleep issues than Janey, and my heart goes out to them.  It's a case where I have to hold myself back from saying what I myself don't like to hear---"I don't know how you do it"---because I do know how you do it.  You do what you have to do.  You scrape by.  You drink a lot of coffee and take naps when you have a moment's respite.  You live with a sleep deficit.  But I know it's not easy.  As I write this at 8 pm, Janey is fast asleep, and I hope everyone reading this gets a good night's sleep---if not tonight, some night soon!

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