Sunday, May 10, 2009

To sleep perchance to dream...

During Dr. Ken's first visit I had identified 3 behaviors that Jess displayed which needed to be addressed. One of these was sleep. For the past year Jess had been waking up at all hours. I would go into her room and rock her singing her favorite songs softly. Bless Melissa who slept soundly in the next room, she had become so accustomed to Jess' cries.

Fond Memory - I remember going into Jess' room when I was 9 months pregnant with Melissa and trying to sit her on my lap to rock. Jess would sit facing me with her body over my swollen stomach and her head resting on my chest. This one night, Melissa started kicking from the inside and Jess sat up, looked down at my stomach as much to say "What was that?" before getting comfortable again.

Dr. Ken wanted to set up a schedule right away. He felt that we could get Jess to go to sleep after only 1 rocking period at bedtime. This sounded incredible. He asked me what time I would like to put Jess to bed, 7:30pm? I thought 8:00pm would be great. So he suggested that I take Jess to bed at 8pm, rock her for 15 minutes, give her hugs and kisses, say good night and walk out of the room. I would not go back in until morning. I was to be prepared for cries and I didn't know how long they would go for but he assured me that within a week I would see them decrease. That night I looked over her room to make absolutely sure that nothing was left that would cause her any harm. I did as I was told, after all I was desperate! I had to give it a try but I was so scared.

I followed the schedule as suggested and prayed. When the 15 minutes were over, I put her to bed giving her lots of hugs and kisses and then I said 'good night'. I walked out with fingers crossed. Terry was still with me and the 2 of us went downstairs. We actually went down to the lower family room. It wasn't long before we heard her objecting cries. We heard her bang on the door. We listened and timed her. After 45 minutes her cries had stilled. I waited another 15 minutes and then went in to check on her. I found her lying on the floor beside her bed asleep. Gently I placed her in her bed and tucked her in. I was crying. She would awaken a few more times during the night but I did not go in. Within 30 to 40 minutes she would be asleep once more and every time I would wait then check on her always finding her asleep although she would be on her bed. I covered her again and would go back to bed until the next time. It was extremely difficult but I had to give it a shot.

On the second night, after her rocking, she only took 30 minutes to go to sleep. She only woke up twice during the night. On the third night it was 20 minutes before she slept still waking up twice in the night. On the fourth night she didn't cry. She didn't cry. I waited half an hour before I checked as I couldn't actually believe what I was not hearing! But when I went into the bedroom, there she was laying where I had said good night to her with her covers still on! She never cried at bedtime again! She still woke up once or twice in the night but only for a matter of 15-20 minutes and she would fall back asleep. Sometimes I would find her on the floor just inside the door and I would put her back in bed but most of the time she had made her way back to her bed and I would just need to cover her.

Sleep problems are common among children but especially those with developmental challenges. Some typical children will overcome sleep issues through the family bed, 'ferberizing', an active bedtime routine or a downtime bedtime routine. God bless them but for the rest who just have difficulty for whatever reasons whose parents are pulling out their hair, a more intensive approach may be necessary. I encourage any parent whose physical and mental health are suffering due to sleep problems of their child to get help.

Jessica still has nights that are difficult but they are few and far between due to a consistent approach by her care givers.

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