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Friday, June 3, 2011

Why isn't he sleeping?!!!!

Have you ever watched your child look like he's almost going to have a seizure, only to realize he's so exhausted he's falling asleep as he sits in front of you?  Or, have you watched him keep going but he never sleeps and his body is breaking down?  Does he sleep in your room still?  Is he up all hours of the night - back and forth to bed?  Does he act ready for sleep, only to get into his room and have a new burst of energy and take 4 or 5 hours to wind down for sleep again?  WHY?!!!!

The energy of my room affects me soooooo much.  It is a similar concept to Feng Shui, only it doesn't necessarily follow the rules of Feng Shui.  I don't utilize and manage energy and emotions the way most NT (Neuro-Typical) people do, and so the rules don't always work for me.  When I am moving in to a new room, the first thing I do is go into the empty space, stand there, and feel the flow of the room.  That tells me where to put my bed, what direction I want it to face, what I want in the room and what cannot be in the room, etc.  I step in and close my eyes and I can picture the way the room feels best to me.

When I am working with children who are non-verbal I take some time to connect with them first.  After that we go into their room together and feel it out.  I guess the best way to explain this is to give you a real example, so I will use the family I am currently working with.

Mom told me that Elena wasn't sleeping well.  So I asked a few questions.  The norm seemed to be that Elena would come into mom's room.  They would read and Elena would fidget and fuss all around the bed on top of mom, off mom, etc.  Eventually she would fall asleep and mom would carry her into her own room and put her to bed.

Most people would think that she just doesn't want to go to bed, or she doesn't like being alone, or something along those lines.  The first thing I thought was, her room is too much for her, it isn't a safe space for her.  So I went up to her bedroom and, sure enough, I felt bombarded, overwhelmed, almost attacked by the room.  It was WAY too much for me, and I'm not 1/10 as sensitive as Elena is.  So I told mom what I would do if it were my room.

The first thing was to rearrange the room.  We removed a dresser and a corner shelf.  We took down all of the pictures from the walls.  The purple curtains?  Gone.  The changing table?  Gone.  Her mattress was already on the floor to prevent injury, but had it not been, that is one of the first things we would have done.  Below you will see a rough sketch of her room arrangement before and after.

Behind her rocking chair, on the wall we hung a large, rough fabric, curtain that is a cardboard brown.  Instead of curtains she just has blinds with a sheer, off-white curtain that goes from above the window and attaches to the safety bar on the other side of her bed (so it is almost a canopy look).  Other than those two things her walls are bare.  Her toys and extra things have been removed except for a couple that fit on the bookshelf with her books and diaper supplies.

After this change Elena went to bed, much more easily.  A couple of days after the rearrangement mom was out late and I put Elena to bed.  As I was in there I noticed she was still having a hard time falling asleep.  Mom told me she had been sitting in the room with her while she went to sleep.  I tried a couple of things and found that she prefers no one in the room, or maybe there for just a few minutes and then out.  She also prefers her door shut.  She doesn't like all of the energy that comes in from the rest of the house.  Her door shut makes it feel much more of a safe space.

Mom noticed she slept through the night, but she was still waking up very early.  She bought a sound machine that has several different settings.  The best setting is rain, followed by the stream.  The other sounds have birds, or thunder, or something - all of those things add to her energy level.

Now, the why we did what we did.  First the bed.  Emotions are energy (if you haven't read previous posts you really should, and look up a woman named Barbra Brennon who was a research scientist for NASA and has data to back up this claim).  But there is energy flowing all around and through us.  It is part of everything.  The bed up on a frame creates an empty space under the bed in which energy can flow more freely, which means it will flow faster.  This will be energizing for anyone who is sensitive enough to need this kind of room adjustment.  The best thing is the mattress directly on the floor.  If your western mind just tells you that is some kind of deprivation, try to stick to a half-size box spring at the most, so that the mattress is still above the ground, but only 6 - 8 inches and there is no open space between the box spring and the floor.  This one thing will improve your child's ability to sleep dramatically.

Next, there was too much in the room.  Sharp edges mean energy catalysts.  All of those dressers and shelves were, in effect, allowing energy to sling shot off of them directly across the room - which happened to be right where her bed was placed.  So we removed all but the basic bedroom necessities. 

Her bed was on the wall with her head at the end where the window is and her feet by the door.  All of the energy flows straight through her room, right over her bed.  It flows in from the house toward the window and in from the window toward the rest of the house.  It was the worst possible location for her bed, just with this alone.  But when you add all of the sharp-cornered shelves and dressers directly opposite, I am surprised she slept at all, I certainly would have had a hard time with it.

The dresser we kept had rounded edges, which made things much easier, less of a sling-shot, and more of a gentle, rolling flow.  We put the mattress under the window with her head up against the wall.  This accomplished two things.  First, her head had a wall to push against that would give her spacial grounding.  Second, the energy that was coming off the bookshelf's sharp corners, and the roll off the dressers rounded corners all were aimed at some other part of the room than where she would be sleeping.  Also, she could still have energy from the window, which is more of the nature and life energy.  The sheer curtain we hung has many benefits.

First off, it acts as a buffer to separate the energy flows.  The energy coming in from outside, from nature, was more invited to stay and was slowed down by the curtain being there.  We tied it to the safety bar to act as a sort of net, if you will.  Nature is very healing to Elena, even when it is not completely balanced, it is still the energy she most connects with.  So, while keeping in the energy from outside, it also acted as a sort of shield to block out more of the energy flowing in from the rest of the house.

We only tied one corner of the curtain down to the bar.  This way she could have the tactile satisfaction of the rough and smooth patterns on the curtain.  I also put a nail in it above the window because she pulls on it a lot.  Her main way to receive and release energy intentionally is through her feet.  She loves to put her legs over the curtain, pull on it, rub her feet on it, etc.  So I made sure it was anchored and she wouldn't rip it down or bend the curtain rod.  The curtain hanging on the wall behind the rocker is to slow down the energy flow and act as an absorber.  It is also a very useful tactile tool. 

We chose the curtain over her bed and the curtain hanging on the wall behind the rocker together.  I took her with me to the store, she sat in the cart, and we went down the isles of curtain and fabrics together.  We looked at sheets, towels, regular materials, window curtains, bath curtains, and everything in between.  As we went past each thing I would let her reach her hand over and feel all of the different materials.  I told her that we were looking for something to hang on her walls that would help her feel more calm and at peace in her room.  I had almost given up after over an hour of wandering up and down the isles and starting to repeat the same fabrics when we got to the last row of window curtains.  She let her shriek of delight and I was elated to follow her gaze. 

We went over to the bunch she was looking at and she started feeling the different fabrics.  I would pick a couple that were out of her reach and pull them toward her.  She did as she had all day long, pushed them away without even feeling them.  Then, I stumbled on it.  There was a very rough, canvas-type cloth curtain.  She grabbed the sample end from my hand and would not let it go.  I asked her if this was the one she wanted and her eyes lit up.  So we put one in the cart.  Then, knowing I wanted something sheer to go over her bead to help with the energy separation I went a little further down the isle to a group of sheer curtain we had missed.  And there it was, the one she wanted.  It was off-white and had little flower designs on it that were, at least in tactile terms, fun...even for me.

The big heavy canvas curtain had metal rings on it that she loved.  So we hung the curtain upside down.  That way she could sit on the floor and play with the rings (and I have to admit the idea of her practicing having a grip on something like that went through my mind).

When we got home, she loved it.  She smiled and smiled and squealed with delight and then hugged me repeatedly and smiled some more.  Once the room was in place and the things arranged properly and we figured out the need for the door to be shut and no one in the room, things went well (unless she was sick...but that is true of NT children as well).  In fact, one day mom knew Elena was up and she came out of the shower and could not find her.  Whenever this happened in the past she knew she could find Elena in her older sister's room getting into things.  Mom hurried in there, worried what Elena could get into as the room is nowhere near child-proof.  Elena wasn't there.  Mom kept looking.  She found her sitting in her room on her bed, playing with her curtain.

Elena found her safe space.  And she loves it.  She will go over to her hanging curtain and wrap up in it when she is nothing but a diaper.  Today she was scooting back and forth along the wall, rubbing her bare back and legs against it as she slid back and forth.  She sits down, grabs hold of a ring and tugs and pulls on it, giving her a good grip exercise and her body a great energy release.  When she got home from school today the first thing she did is go to her bed and lay under her curtain for a moment.  Then she reached for me and the feeling was, "I want to share this with you, it feels so good."  It's the first time she's invited me into that space.  I felt so happy, because I know how very protective I am of my safe space and whose energy and emotions I allow to come directly into it.

Not only has Elena found her safe space, but it is also her healing space.  I cannot emphasize to mothers enough the importance of your child having a space that is energy friendly to them and is safe, where they can choose the things they allow in and the energy and emotions they want to accept into that area.

As you learn to discern your child's energy and emotions, you can help him have a room that is healing and calming.  It will give him peace in sleeping and allow his body to heal more from the previous day.  It will allow him to breathe, to be at peace and to have a place where he is not on constant fight or flight mode because of the barrage of emotions and energy that is incessantly hitting all of us.  And that is a miraculous thing.  You will find he is more steady, more peaceful, and less likely to have meltdowns.

He is the only one who should be given free access to that space.  Cleaning and those kinds of things are necessary.  But outside of necessities, no one - not even mom, should be allowed in that space without his invitation.  If this boundary is respected, the temperament in the home will shift.

I would tell her, often, that whenever she wished she could go into her room and have some time for herself.  I cannot do this with Elena, because her room is upstairs and she is not steady enough to go up and down the stairs without a worry of falling.  In moments when she is not upset or frustrated or overloaded with all the emotions and energy around her, I would explain to her that her room would be a great place to go in those times to help her get grounded and centered.

If you will do this with your child, he will start to go there when he feels himself unable to handle whatever is going on.  He will go to his safe space, stay there until he feels better, and then come and rejoin the family.  With verbal/signing children this may be a little easier to get across, but it is useful for all children - not only those on the spectrum.  ALL children are much more sensitive than we are as adults.  They all need times that they can step away from the overload and have a minute to learn to accept and filter and readjust and then move forward. 

He will sleep.  He will rest.  He will begin to feel more tranquil and peaceful.  You will find less meltdowns, less tantrums, more concentration, more interaction, and more clarity for learning the things that will allow you both to bridge that communication gap.  Before you know it, the question "why isn't he sleeping?" will be a warning that he is probably getting ill, or has had a little too much exposure to something toxic to his body.  Instead of it being a drain on your patience and your energy it will become another form of communication between you and your dear child.  Very soon you will find, the majority of the time, he is sleeping, peacefully.

*This is a blog about my own life and my own experience.  If you choose to follow anything written here, you do so without any claim on me for problems or complications that may arise.  I am not a doctor.  I have no degree.  I am not a professional.  This is my perspective and experience, that's all.  If you don't think you should do something on here, then don't.*


  1. This totally makes sense to me. My son with Asperger's has had trouble sleeping in the past and does better now, but I am going to take his bed frame down now and put it on the floor. He shares a room with his brother that is 3 years older than him and also has autism. We were having a difficult time getting them to sleep in their room with bunk beds. None of my children have liked bunk beds. As a child, I did not like my bunk bed either and would go to my parents room in the middle of the night. When the beds were taken down, I did better as a child. My husband and I took down the bunk beds and put them side by side on their frames. They do much better, but I think I am going to take the beds off their frames and put them directly on the floor. Here's why. My Asperger's son (he is 5) still comes to my room in early morning hours (2-3 a.m.). He does not wake us up, just comes in and lays down. This is why this idea makes sense. The bed my husband and I share is on the floor. We don't have a frame on our bed. It is on a box spring and the mattress is on top of that. We have a king bed in the master bedroom. My children love sleeping in my bed. That must be why. Definitely going to take it off the frame. The autistic boys room does have a window in their room that you can see our backyard, filled with trees, grass, and animals. They love looking out this window. We have a curtain that is thin and hangs about 3/4 of the way down the long, slender window and a blind hanging from this window as well. These boys have to have their room clutter free in order to sleep well. We pick up toys and vacuum this room each night before they go to bed. We also put a small t.v. in this room as these children tend to need 30 minutes to calm them down before they go to bed. It does not have cable/satellite connected to it. It is just for movies. I let them watch a 30 minute or sometimes an hour long movie each night before they go to sleep, usually a church movie or something calm like a Disney animated movie. This seems to help them relax. When I go to check on them during this movie time, they are usually asleep and I just turn off the t.v. We also having a fan in their room that produces white noise that they cannot sleep without. These children when they were younger (under 5) used to climb into the closets and empty everything in sight. I realize now that we had kept the light on in the closet door as a nightlight and left the door open. No wonder they could not sleep. Since the doors have closed, they sleep much better. Thank you for your suggestions. Taking the bed frame down tonight. Great ideas!

  2. You're coming to my house and helping me find Summer a safe place.

    And that, my friend, is that.

    P.S. Go to bed!