Sleep has been heavy on my mind. That tends to happen when you feel you are not receiving enough of it. I know I could sacrifice some personal time to get what I need, but I find that I’m not often strong enough to discipline myself in that way. So, the big question is: How long can a 41 year old woman of seven keep on ticking with minimal sleep? 🙂
Five years ago, when my oldest son turned 14, he was eager to participate in a program through our church called early morning Seminary. High school students aged 14 to 18 are offered a scripture study class, held before school starts, to start their day off with the Spirit as well as positive fellowship as well as learning Truth to equip them with the armor of God before entering Satan’s den. Okay, so I added the last part about Satan’s den, although it is said to combat the evil influences our youth so often face on a daily basis . . . which is in the school environment . . . so I call it as I see it.
So, as inspiration would have it, I was asked to be one of the teachers when he started five years ago. I taught for two years before being asked to move on to other responsibilities. We met at 5:55 a.m. at the church building, learned together for 50 minutes, so left at 6:45 a.m. where youth from at least three school districts made their way to their daily grind after being uplifted, hopefully. That began my early morning schedule, and I’m NOT a morning person. It was an activity that was a love-hate relationship because I received enormous spiritual/emotional blessings from learning from the scriptures on a daily basis in that manner, but the physical sacrifices were palpable.
My oldest was able to do well because he could come home to sleep. Schooled youth didn’t have that privilege, and neither did I, as the other children awoke at regular intervals and needed me. However, for that timeframe, I ended up working in regular naps in the afternoon in order to survive the physical aspect. Well, last year, I was appointed again to teach Seminary. This time, it would be in my home with my two children (my second and third now, Abbey and Eli) as well as another youth who lived nearby. We arranged the time according to the schooled youth’s schedule and was able to start at 6:40 a.m. and go until 7:30 a.m. where his school started at 8:00 a.m. This has worked much better for all of us. Abbey rarely goes back to bed, although Eli regularly does. This timeframe has made it so that I rarely need a nap. By the end of the week, though, periodically, if my sleep schedule has been significantly off, I grab a nap in the later afternoon.
Alright, so if it was just this, it might not be too bad. However, not only am I a night owl, but most of the family is as well. On top of that, autism dwells here. One of the common attributes of someone with autism is that they can often have inconsistent sleep rhythms. I have recently discovered that it may be because they do not produce a sufficient level of melatonin, which is a sleep regulator. Adam is my son who is significantly affected with autism. His sleep patterns haven’t always been horrible, but different nonetheless. However, around 11-12 years old, his sleep patterns shifted as puberty approached. At one time, I decided to let him sleep as his body dictated (his autism affects his logic/awareness insomuch that he wouldn’t choose to go to sleep for health reasons justified by his mental faculties). Anyway, he actually did have a pattern . . . 18 hours awake, 12 asleep. Since this adds up to a 30 hour day, naturally, he would cycle through being awake all night if allowed to let his body dictate his sleep patterns. So, I worked together with him to see what could work for everyone. I was not comfortable having him awake without someone being aware of his activities. For a while, I found having him go to sleep at 2:00 a.m. and awake at 12:00 noon could work. I was able to stay awake until 2:00 a.m. with him and then was able to sleep until about 8:00 a.m. It was during this timeframe that I was not teaching the early morning seminary class, and the two attending were able to drive themselves.
However, when I went back to teaching, I had to figure out this sleep pattern again. Plus, the timing eventually caught up with me from before. I finally decided to look into over the counter melatonin for Adam as well. Before, even when I got him to lay in bed at 2:00 a.m., it could take him up to two hours to fall asleep, which meant I wasn’t fully asleep until after that time. With the melatonin, he is asleep within 15 minutes! Now, I am able to get Adam to sleep around 12:30 a.m. and he gets up around 10:00-11:00 a.m. Sometimes I go to sleep, if I’m being self-disciplined, around 10:00 p.m. and set the alarm for 12:30 a.m., get Adam to sleep, go back to sleep, and wake up at 6:00 a.m. Oftentimes, it seems I just stay up until 12:30 a.m. and go to sleep when I can and get the mere five hours sleep.
Lastly, put on top of that my hubby is having to commute a minimum of one hour one way to work each day, and is not able to get home typically until 7:00 p.m., which is really different for our family, we like to get some family time as well as couple time. The other children vary in their sleep patterns as well. William and Joseph are put to bed around 8:00-9:30 a.m., whenever it works for whichever parent is doing the routine. Alex is pushing and pushing the envelope with his sleep schedule whereas he’s been known to be up until 1:00-2:00 a.m. Not good. I’m starting to wonder if he has the same sleep differences as Adam, as he also lives with autism. Eli and Abbey are actually the most “normal” of the family for self-initiated sleep schedules. Because they both attend early morning seminary, they usually go to bed at about 11:00 p.m. Sometimes, they go as early as 10:00 a.m. Eric also suffers with sleep pattern differences that are greater than your typical right-brained learner trait of being a night owl. He also may have some melatonin differences insomuch that he started to take it to help alleviate the one-two hour timeframe it takes for him to fall asleep, and that usually wasn’t until 2:00-3:00 a.m.
So, there you have it. Sleep patterns have such a huge impact on individual rhythms and family rhythms. When individuals have sleep differences and/or sleep issues, it can take its toll on the entire family. I find that when we have all worked together to figure out what can work for each person to minimize the impact on others, our family life is much more productive, inter-relative, and predictable. I’m just wondering if the best that I can work out is still going to be difficult for my poor body and mind . . .