So I hit rock bottom last Friday night as a Mom. Michael’s behavior had been progressively getting more impulsive and hyperactive now that he was off his medication for aggression that had dulled an important side of his personality. My son was not smiling, did not have a lot of energy and was putting on weight. However, I was not prepared for the pre medicated Michael to emerge that quickly and emerge he did. I’d been handling the stress by staying up late pretty much for a month to have “me time”, to write, and to have personal space. This was all wonderful, but it came at a big price-the price was my sleep.
Yes, sleep dear parents. We yearn for sleep when our little ones wake us up at night to eat and be changed. And then we yearn for sleeping in. And as they get older, it usually gets easier, but not always. When your child has additional anxiety and behavior challenges, it wears you out in ways you may not even realize until the end of the day when you say silently to yourself, “go to sleep so I can have some peace.” You know what I mean! You want to sleep at night, but you know you need your adult down time to be the best parent and human being you can. The thing is though, that when you sleep less, your patience runs out. I know this. I tell other parents this, but I fought it in myself this summer until, low and behold, my patience expired last Friday night. Everything became a battle with Michael from the time I picked him up at camp. He was not any worse or challenging than he has been this summer. It was just the adding up of his challenges with my frustration and sleep deprivation. When Dad came home and it all exploded in his face, he took over and took Michael for his nightly park outing to burn off the excess energy and I went to lie down in the bedroom. I did not actually fall asleep till close to ten pm, my usual bedtime when I am not burning the midnight oil, but the rest, oh the rest was better than anything I’d had in awhile. That’s when I realized, I was physically and emotionally exhausted. Why didn’t I admit I needed sleep sooner?
As parents, especially Moms, we tend to put our own needs last, below everyone’s. Sleep is the first thing to go. Now, I’m not suggesting you don’t stay up late if it helps you. I am a self-confessed night owl, and though I tend to get up early to get a head start on my boys, (even though Michael now sleeps in, yeah!), I still find I do my best work and thinking at night. So it’s all good if I go to bed a little later most weeks. But I was reminded again at the end of last week, that when my thoughts start becoming more negative, I feel irritable and impatient, it is my body’s way of telling me to go to bed early for a few nights. And if I’ve been exercising and doing everything else I usually do to feel energized and don’t, sleep is what is lacking.
I used to find this unproductive to the rest of my life, but guess what? If you are yelling, have no energy, and are stressed to the max, you are no good to your child, yourself or anyone around you, right? The first thing I noticed when I got up Saturday morning, was that even when Michael had his challenging moments, Buddha Mom was back. That is, the Mom who didn’t react and make the problem worse. And why was she back? The body that housed her had rested. Interestingly, Saturday my body gave me a message to sleep early again. I had a massive allergy attack. And Sunday. Wow! Patience again. I truly was reminded how sleep can make a big difference.
So, how can you prioritize sleep in a busy life? Here are some tips:
- Go to bed an hour early for a few nights.
- Try grabbing an early afternoon cat nap.
- If your child is young and napping, try lying down when they nap. Even a rest is good if you don’t actually sleep.
- Having some “me time” set aside in the day. A ten or fifteen minute pause with your coffee or tea.
- Set the alarm early and then stay in bed for about fifteen minutes resting. Say a prayer or meditate. It is very refreshing and calming.
Exceptional Parents, where does sleep rate on your priority scale? Remember, in order to be at your best, you need to be balanced in all areas of your life-physical, mental and spiritual. Sleep will help with all of these and restore to you the greatest power of all, your serenity which you can then pass on to your child. This will help you both through the challenging moments of exceptional family life. Until next time.
Feeling stressed about special needs parenting? You are not alone. I have been there and lived these very words before realizing the gift of who my son is and what he has helped me realize. If you want to have more information about me and my journey, check out my website http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com and my FREE E-BOOK “5 WAYS TO HANDLE EXCEPTIONAL PARENTING” at http://www.creatingexceptionalparenting.com/ebooks.