The Sleepless Three Year Old
For those of you who follow this blog, you’ll remember that I have a 3.5 year old son who was diagnosed with a sensory processing disorder around the age of 2.5 years old. Those of you who didn’t know, now you do! I love my son very much but because of his SPD, he can be a challenge to parent sometimes. One of our biggest parenting hurdles was getting him to sleep and stay asleep. This is a brief rundown of our journey.
His sleeping issues started at about 7 months old. His daddy was deployed and him and I took a trip to my home state to visit some family. When the sleeping issues started I simply chalked it up to the vacation throwing him off and figured we’d get back into a routine. After about two months, and momma ready to lose her mind, I started to seek ideas to help him get back to sleep. My son had always been a good sleeper, right out of the gate so this lack of wanting to go to sleep and stay asleep was a frustrating situation for me. We started with simple things, white noise, night lights, stuffed animals, nothing seemed to offer comfort. Then I went to more drastic ideas, room darkening curtains, a rocking chair, claiming bath soaps, still no improvement. Jacob’s moods were now suffering from his lack of sleep. He was a complete mess during the day and at many points completely unmanageable.
During my son’s 12 month well baby check, I brought up the lack of sleeping to his doctors. We started toying with the idea of having a sleep study done to determine what the problem was. My husband came home for a break in his deployment when Jacob was 12 months old. I ended up pregnant with our daughter and in turn my fuse became even shorter with the lack of sleeping in the house. By 15 months old my husband was home from Iraq and measures needed to be taken. We signed Jacob up for a sleep study which was preformed when he was about 18 months old. Around this time we also started talking to his doctors about other concerns we were noticing (lack of speech & other ‘quirks’ that made him stand out from other children). By 24 months old, we had tried giving Jacob Benadryl every night (as prescribed by his doctor) to try to encourage his body into a sleep pattern. Nothing came from the Benadryl and the sleep study showed nothing impressive so we were again at a road block. We had a newborn who wasn’t sleeping, a 2 year old who wasn’t sleeping, momma and daddy were working 40-50 hours each and overall the family was just plain exhausted.
Finally we got Jacob into a speech program and our problems started to get corrected. Once we were dealing with therapists we started to put Jacob’s puzzle pieces together. It was brought to our attention that Jacob likely had a Sensory Processing Disorder. We started to research this and found amazing things. Sleep issues and SPD’s are often linked together. Many children who have what Jacob have, also have sleeping problems! We were on the right track to helping Jacob get the sleep he needed! After much more trail and error we finally found a combination that worked for my son.
Jacob was quite active while in bed, so our first adjustment was to move him into a larger bed. He currently sleeps in a twin, so although it’s not huge, it’s perfect for him! We purchased a bed tent to fit onto his bed which provides him with a sense of security (just like newborns like being swaddled, this is a ‘big kid’ version of being swaddled!). Jacob also has a night light that hangs on the wall, inside his bed tent. He can control the night light with a switch and it’s given him another added comfort. Even with the love of his new bed, he still could NOT fall asleep at night. He would lie in bed for hours before finally wondering into our room for comfort. We were at least heading in the right direction of getting him to attempt to go to bed on his own. After speaking to his doctor and therapists we all came to the conclusion that we were going to give a small dosage of melatonin a try. Melatonin is naturally produced in the body but some people have an imbalance of this chemical. Kids with sensory issues can often have this imbalance. We started Jacob on melatonin (along with his new lovely bed!) and we found the magic key in no time! Jacob has instantly changed. His attitude is improved and he is such a happier kid! Melatonin might not be for everyone, but for our family, it has worked WONDERS. If your child has been diagnosed with a Sensory Processing Disorder and has sleeping issues, talk to your doctor about your options. Sleep can increase your child’s sensitiveness due to their SPD and getting them on a proper sleeping routine can help make these outbursts more manageable!