Those of you who’ve been following my blog for a while probably know about the extensive sleeping problems of our Viktor and how they’ve been affecting the family. As explicitly explained in my post Autism Sleeping Problems, my husband and I have practically not had a night off together in months since one of us has been stuck in the bedroom, trying to get the little gorilla boy to sleep – without much luck! It wasn’t unusual that he was still awake at 11 pm after more than three hours of “Viktor, lie down!”, “Viktor, stop playing and go to bed… now!”, “Viktor, stop standing on your head!”, and “Viktor honey, will you just please fall asleep now! PLEASE!!!”. It has been a nightmare!
According to all the exclamation marks in the previous paragraph you can imagine how big of a problem this is for us. As described in my post This Too Shall Pass, I’ve sometimes been brought to tears due to this problem and felt utterly hopeless of it ever to stop. It also brought out even darker thoughts, bringing you down to your lowest points. I was even starting to resent my little precious for being so difficult even though I knew very well that it wasn’t his fault which only made me feel even worse, loathing myself for thinking this way, having guilty feelings consume me. And for my little Viktor, of course he was getting the worst of it, always feeling tired poor thing, very jumpy and easily irritated. Tantrums were a regular thing and he was becoming increasingly violent, both at home and in the kindergarten.
But no longer my friends – no more. At last, we met up with a child psychiatrist (apparently the only doctor allowed to prescribe melatonin for children in Denmark) after waiting for weeks and weeks and after telling her about our struggles regarding Viktor’s sleeping problems and all the measures we’ve taken, practically trying everything from super-nanny sleeping methods to soothing bath oils and camomile tea before sleep, she agreed to try him on melatonin. However, since he is still so young (according to her, the youngest child she knows of ever to be prescribed for melatonin in Denmark!) she didn’t want him to get the lowest amount of melatonin sold in pharmacies (3mg) but an even lower dose of 1 mg. This meant that the pharmacy had to manually make it and thus, it became much more expensive. But we couldn’t care less – this is literally a life-saver!
The first night we tried it was rather rememberable. We were moderately optimistic, almost afraid to hope that it would work, and therefore, tried to keep our expectations down. We gave him the melatonin half an hour before he was to go to bed and then came the normal “go-to-bed” routine. I went in with him and laid down next to him. Amazingly, he was asleep 20 minutes later! As in 20 minutes!!! I couldn’t believe what had just happened and carefully snuck out of bed and opened the door with the utmost care, extremely afraid to wake him up and ruin it all. As I came up my husband wordlessly stood up with his computer, preparing to take over as so often happened if the one who was on “put-to-sleep” duty lost patience and asked the other one to take over. When I stopped him and said with much amusement that the boys were both asleep – both of them – he put on the most priceless expression I’ve ever seen. When we got over the biggest shock came another problem … the biggest luxury problem that ever existed. We had no clue what to do with ourselves. Suddenly we had several hours of leisure time, time that we could actually spend together doing something fun and we were so unused to this reality that we actually had to think up things to do that we both wanted. In short, I got my husband back! 🙂
Ever since that first night, the melatonin has not failed once. Viktor is asleep within an hour of being given the melatonin and is finally getting the nights sleep he so long has needed. He no longer needs to sleep during the day to make up for lost sleep, although he sometimes falls asleep after extra long and/or sunny days, which is totally fine to us because now we know that he will fall asleep around the same time every night. And since he no longer sleeps during the day he is also starting to sleep longer, sometimes not waking up until 7:30 am which is like sleeping in for us! But the most important change of all is not our newfound quality time as a husband and wife in the evenings or the fact that Viktor is finally getting sufficient sleep, but the fact that he is finally able to show his true happy self. I’m telling you, he is like 10 times happier than he was, smiling and laughing and smiling and laughing like never before! Sure, he still has his meltdowns and mood swings but that’s part of who he is. Moreover, his meltdowns are happening much less frequently and he is generally as happy as I’ve ever seen him and it’s the most wonderful thing to witness as a parent.
Given this new and major change in Viktor’s – and the rest of the family’s – life, it should come as no surprise that melatonin is my new best friend. It has given me back my quality time with my amazing husband and provided Viktor with sufficient rest affecting him in the most positive and joyful way. I’m truly thrilled. So for those of you who have autistic children that have sleeping problems, at least if the problems revolve around falling asleep (it’s supposed to work better in those cases than for children that are constantly waking up during the night), you should definitely consult with your doctor and try melatonin to see if it works. It can change your life to the better!