Welcome to Day 10 of the 31 Days of Random Reflections on Raising and Homeschooling a Child with Special Needs. You can find the main page for this series here.
Despite my efforts to head to bed early, some nights in our home remind me of that commercial where the sleepless woman asks herself if the hokey-pokey really is what it’s all about.
That woman could be me.
And, if you’re smiling, she could be you, too.
Only, the thoughts aren’t so funny.
You know the thoughts I’m talking about. The ones that only creep up in the wee hours of the morning. The dark thoughts that seem to come up when nighttime settles and you’re awake with nothing but shadows.
The rerun movies of your day.
The questions you can never answer.
The worries you can never erase.
There was a time when listening to my sleepless child caused me so much stress I spent most of the night scratching at my eczema until it bled.
That doesn’t happen anymore.
What do I do?
I have some strategies to share to help you make it to the faintest hint of sunlight (when, magically, and inevitably, the crazies tend to run and hide immediately!)
Whether you’re up because you can’t sleep or because your child is keeping you awake all night, here’s a go-to list you can try.
Note: I’m not a medical doctor which is why I‘m not offering sleep remedies. Always check with a healthcare practitioner for solutions for you or for your child.
How to overcome the middle-of-the-night crazies:
- Get out of bed. Since you’re awake anyway, be sure your child is safe, and then get out of bed.
- Prepare a soothing tea. Take advantage of this time for some alone time. Yes, it’s a weird hour to do it, but you’re awake, and now out of bed, anyway. Have a little date with yourself – stress-free, and caffeine-free. By sipping on soothing tea, you automatically bring your stress level down several notches.
- Sit in a comfy chair, with a small night light, under a blanket. This is probably the only time of day you can enjoy some peace and quiet (and since you’re awake, out of bed, and holding a cup of warm tea already), take time to absorb the stillness.
- Do some breathing. To get your mind off things, focusing on the breath is so important. Put down your tea and just breathe deeply for several minutes.
- Pray. I am pretty sure God pulls up a chair and waits for my call several nights a week because He’s sure to hear from me – especially when my son is restless. By connecting with God, I automatically surrender my worries and questions and ask that answers be revealed to me in the coming days. Remember: there are tons of parents awake with you – nursing their babies, tending to a sick or sleepless child, and wondering if they’re the only ones awake tonight, too. Pray for this band of people, for we are not alone.
- Listen to a guided meditation. An MP3 player (or your phone) can be good company at this hour. Block out worries by downloading a short guided meditation to go inside.
- Read. If you never have a moment to sit and read, do it while you’re up anyway. I downloaded the Kindle app on my phone and can read anywhere in any light.
- Step outside. If the weather permits, and if your child is safe, sit on your front steps for a few minutes – pjs and all. Look at the moon. Count the stars. It’s amazing how a few minutes of fresh air can change your perspective. This is a favorite of mine during the summer night crazies.
These were ideas to help you get to your calm zone. The next list consists of things you can do with and for your sleepless child. I suggest you do some or all of the above before tackling the list below. Children feed off your frazzled energy, so put your oxygen mask on first.
Soothing your sleepless child:
- Smile. If smiling at your child at 3 am is the farthest thing from your mind, try it. It’s not your child’s fault if he cannot sleep. Being frustrated only makes things worse. A secret mid-night smile helps change both your moods.
- Let him know it’s ok. When my little one starts to fuss and toss and turn and want to cry, I test out what’s going on by saying, “It’s ok. You’re ok,” and see if he calms down. If he were in pain, I’d know it because he wouldn’t settle. My reassuring voice is all he needs sometimes to fall quickly back to sleep.
- Back massage. As your child lays down or sits up, rub his back. This simple massage not only soothes him, but you will feel the effects immediately as well.
- Sing or hum. In the wee hours of the morning, I find myself inventing tunes. I now have 3 go-to songs that I either softly sing or hum to my little guy. I sing what I’ve coined as our “healing song” and with just the first three notes, he calms right down. These songs are special because they’re reserved for those night-wakings only.
- Pray. My son loves the rhythmic sounds of prayers. I tend to stick to the same little prayers for him and he settles down.
Related articles on this blog:
- Finding Sleep in an Unpredictable Environment: Tips for Parents of Children with Special Needs
- The Power of Parental Rest