Nighttime Fears and How To Combat Them- Our Family’s Journey And What Has Worked

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Michael is having a very hard time in the late afternoon or evening, even worse than usual at this time of year. November and December have always been hard months for him as they are for many children and adults whose mood and stress levels are affected by the shorter days and the darkness. It’s only been in the last two years that Michael has been able to really explain to me his fear of nighttime and of falling asleep then staying asleep. I find myself wondering if he does not have some version of SAD (Seasonal Affective  Disorder). Of course the added complication of difficulty getting to or staying asleep at night is the fact that mornings are hard. He can’t get up easily and it is a battle to get him out the door on time. What are parents to do?

Michael has bee using Melatonin to help with falling asleep which was his original issue. Now that is usually not the biggest issue. It is the night waking in the wee hours where will eventually put himself back to bed, but will stay up awhile before doing so. He generally does not bother Dad and I, but the fear is there and the tiredness the next day. Short of sleep medication which we are considering down the road should we have no choice, what else has worked to help Michael be calmer at night and fall asleep? Here are some things we have tried with success:

  1. A good consistent sleep routine: This cannot be emphasized enough. It is important to have a sleep sleep routine to calm the body and mind. Something like a warm bath, a story, a massage or cuddle and some relaxation music can work wonders, for adults alike!
  2. Having stress busting strategies on paper to refer to: This is something we recently asked Michael to do. He wrote down positive things he could think about to work through stress- looking forward to seeing a friend at school, a friend’s birthday party, making a fun meal etc. OR strategies to handle stress- doing deep breathing, yoga poses, meditating or reading a favorite story.
  3. Talking about stress to parents or other adult and asking for help earlier in the day: This is also something Michael has recently started doing. When he does it, he sleeps really well. When he forgets, it is a challenging night.
  4. Exercise: This is something I will try and get back to if Michael continues to struggle. Exercise will help the body calm down and sleep better. The thing is, Michael gets home later this year so there is no time to go out and exercise at a park as well as dark and cold. We will try exercise in the house.
  5. Eliminating The Possibility of A Physical Reason Impeding Sleep: Sometimes it could be as simple as a sore stomach, a virus or a daytime fear impeding sleep. Try to get to the bottom of what is bothering your child. If they can communicate it to you, so much the better.

Exceptional Parents, what are your tricks for getting your little Exceptional Ones to sleep at this time of year? With the holidays approaching, it is even more important for children to be rested so they could enjoy themselves with family and friends. Remember, if things that have worked in the past are not working, don’t be afraid to experiment with different things with your child. Also, reach out and see what other parents have tried. Finally, reaching out for professional help is never something to be ashamed of. So many children (and adults) with autism struggle with sleep issues. It’s important they be given tools as early on as possible in order to empower themselves and learn how to control their stress levels. This is what will eventually give them success with their sleep issues, and relief to their tired Exceptional Parents who want to sleep too. 🙂 Until next time.

I am a writer, speaker and parent coach. I blog about how my exceptional son with autism and type 1 diabetes is raising me to a better human being and exceptional mom. My mission is to empower other exceptional parents to trust in their parenting instinct while letting their exceptional child open their eyes to all that is possible! For more information on my coaching services and to download a copy of my FREE EBOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY ANXIETY” see my website, http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com

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2 thoughts on “Nighttime Fears and How To Combat Them- Our Family’s Journey And What Has Worked

  1. This is fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing how you are handling the difficulty that can arise during the evenings. Most nights it is beyond my process to do a complete bedtime routine, which is completely on me. I would love to implement some sort of routine, other than what we do (bedtime prayers and tuck in). You shared some good ideas, thank you so much!

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    1. So glad you found it helpful! It is my pleasure to share how I handle the difficulties at bedtime. I can imagine how difficult it must be. Even parents without exceptional children encounter many difficulties in this area. Prayers and tuck in sound great. Have you tried a bedtime story, either reading or storytelling if your children prefer that? A bath is also good for relaxing the body and mind. A very simple one that I use for my son is: bedtime story, a therapeutic massage (or you could just do a back or belly rub 🙂 ) and then bedtime prayers and tuck-in? Remember, there is no wrong or right way. Go with the flow of your little ones. You know them best. Good luck and keep me posted!

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