Archives for February 2013

Good Sleep: Everybody Wins

graphic reading "Little Joy Map"

I was reading the Weissbluth book about sleep and in the very beginning he mentioned that by sleeping more, he was actually a better father. He said he was warmer and friendlier.

And that stood out to me. You see, Mr. Bird on the Street took a very demanding job a few years back. And then he re-upped his military commitment as a reservist because we needed the delightfully cheap health insurance they offer. This meant he had to to start running so he could pass all those delightful physical fitness tests. And so, in the last couple of years, he hasn’t slept very much. We also had all those babies, which aren’t really good for sleep either.

And I love my husband–I do. But he wasn’t nearly as friendly as he used to be, and he never wanted to do anything around the house. I didn’t help things at all because being home with all four of your children so your spouse can go work out? Cue the jealousy!!! I mean, I knew it was for the whole family’s health insurance, but that didn’t make taking care of four kids any easier, and a lot of times I would ask him to go after everyone was in bed. As you can imagine, that made him stay up even later.

dog sitting on a porch

Our Brave Protector

So I made one tiny change. I vowed to make everybody’s sleep important–mine, his, and the kids. If he fell asleep on the couch, I’d encourage him to go to bed. If he said he was tired during the weekend, I’d suggest a nap. I let him sneak off to the gym an hour before Charlie’s bedtime. I also kept reminding him how important sleep is.

Guess what? It made things awesome. When I started valuing his sleep, he started valuing mine. He thanks me OFTEN for being so “considerate.” I think I’m exactly the way I used to be except for that one tiny change.

Moral of the Story: We need to prioritize everybody’s sleep because it’s good for all of us.

If the Tin Foil Hat Fits

So it’s been about two weeks that I’ve had August on a completely gluten-free diet. These weeks have been mostly glorious. Not perfect, but very, very good. I’m seeing less and less of the spinny stuff–in fact, I didn’t see one flap or spin. Even more important, I think, is that he is making progress. Before, he was kind of stuck. Stuck on the same toys, the same actions, etc. Now, he’s moving forward. He’s picking up new things, moving old things around in new ways, and is just generally comfortable with new. Other things I’ve noticed that are random: he looks when you point and say “look.” He’s making eye contact with his brothers and playing with them. It’s not organized play or anything, but he likes running around with them or pretending that the baby is going to “get” him, which he isn’t because the baby can only crawl backwards at this point.

Removing gluten has suddenly made him understand English. You call him to come eat and he comes, you ask him if he wants a bottle (yes, the twins are still total bottle addicts), and he smiles. He can still be a space cadet, but you can usually see what has him distracted. Today I was trying to teach him how to give kisses, and he started shouting “muh! muh! muh!”

These are all good things, right? I think a lot of people would be satisfied and call it a day.

I’m not most people, though. I can’t leave well-enough alone. Some days are still better than others. There are days when the dark circles re-appear under his eyes. I KNOW that there are other foods that bother him.

Someone on my FB page recommended the GAPS diet for kids with neurological issues. I bought the book, read it, and it made a lot of sense to me. So now I’m trying to get August closer and closer to that diet, which is extremely restrictive–basically, you can have meats, eggs, vegetables, and fruits. No grains. Some cheeses, but not all. The kicker, though, is that you have to make a LOT of your food from scratch because even tiny additives are believed to be problematic.

So here I am: making my own yogurt, my own grain-free-bread, nutrigrain bars with no grains, preserves, etc. It’s a lot of work. Crazy amounts of work. I do think it’s having an effect, though. I messed up and let August have sweet potatoes, which are not allowed–guess what? He didn’t do as well. A quick tweak and he was back to fabulous.

I’ve gotten really suspicious of food and the food industry. I spend way too much time reading labels and researching my purchases. Basically, I’m only of those crazy nutrition people that I used to make fun of.

Good times.

This was my attempt to capture what life is like at my house--Charlie is bogarting the TV, Louis is on the move, and August and Rex are calm and collected.

This was my attempt to capture what life is like at my house–Charlie is bogarting the TV, Louis is on the move, and August and Rex are calm and collected.

Getting Special Needs Kids to Sleep (and a reminder)

Today’s post is brought to you by National Go Red for Women Day. They didn’t pay me or anything, but I think it’s important enough to post about it. Today’s the day! In case you haven’t heard of it, Go Red Day is designed to remind us all that heart disease is the number one killer of women–it actually effects more women then all forms of cancer combined. One in three women has cardiovascular disease. Probably most importantly there are a ton of easy things you can do to lower your risks: exercise regularly, quit smoking (if you do), eat healthy, and visit your doctor once a year. I know it’s hard as a mom to remember to put yourself first, but seriously, take care of your heart–you need it to do all the things you do.

graphic reading "Little Joy Map"

So, about sleep. Janet asked me about sleep with regards to her special needs child and I didn’t have as much information as I wanted, so I figured it was a blog post in the making. I did some research and also thought about my own kids, and today I’m giving you seven good suggestions for special needs kids and sleep.

  1. Melatonin may be an issue. Research shows that kids on the spectrum have issues with melatonin production–they produce it at the wrong times and then don’t produce it at night the way they are supposed to. Scientists don’t know why. Talk to your doctor about it, but a melatonin supplement (I’ve heard great things about the time-release formulas) may help your child fall asleep at the appropriate times.
  2. Other medication aren’t nearly so helpful. All children are different of course! But Charlie’s sleep deteriorated for about a year and we were relying more and more on medication to help him sleep or go back to sleep. For a variety of reasons, we ended up quitting cold turkey (except his seizure meds). We had some rough going, but now he falls asleep on time and mostly sleeps through the night. When he does wake it’s usually more of an hour early thing than a screaming at 3 AM thing. Most of the books I read about sleep said pretty much the same thing. Food for thought at any rate.
  3. Try a weighted blanket. These can help kids feel more settled. I know I love it when we get to bust out the heavy quilts, so it’s easy to imagine that children find this soothing.
  4. Look for sensory stumbling blocks. Kids with sensory issues may be unable to sleep because they are bothered by an unwanted texture. Remove tags from pajamas, buy extra-comfy sheets, and purchase pajamas a size up reduce cling.
  5. Get rigid in your routine. The most common cause of failure to fall asleep is an unstable before-bed routine. If your child struggles with this, make sure the routine is rock solid.
  6. Dim lights in the house thirty minutes before bed. This can help remind the body to start producing melatonin, which makes us sleepy. This is especially important for kids on the Autism spectrum because their bodies may have difficulty releasing melatonin at appropriate times.
  7. If you have a child with tight muscles, make sure to eliminate any spaces between them and the bed. For example, if you child has tight hamstrings that make it hard for them to straighten their legs completely, roll a towel to put underneath their knees. This will help keep them comfortable through the night. You might also try a small pillow between their knees if they like to lie on their side. They do make special mattress for kiddos with spasticity issues, but they are crazy-expensive and I hate to even imagine what an insurance company would say.

That’s what I learned this week. What about you? Do you have any tips or tricks for getting special kids off to sleep?

These two guys picked up a ear/nose/eye infection. Poor babies.

These two guys picked up a ear/nose/eye infection. Poor babies.

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