Monday, May 12, 2008

Craving darkness

For a very long time now, the seven-year-old has preferred to sleep with the lights on. In fact, if it were up to him the lights would be on in the entire house while he sleeps. When he wakes up in the middle of the neat, he typically leaps out of bed and runs through the house turning on the lights and TVs in every room. He has a look of great distress as he does this; it seems like he is worried that something awful will happen if the lights are left off.

He has been a poor sleeper since he was about 18 months old. We've been given him melatonin supplements for five years, which helps some, and clonodine for 4 years, which helps more. Without medication he used to go to sleep any time between 8 p.m. and 4 a.m., and get up some time between midnight and noon. It was extremely hard on us.

Now, with the medication he generally goes to bed around 9 p.m. One night out of every three or four, he wakes up at night. He runs around turning things on. Sometimes he goes back to bed without a hitch, other times he's up for anything from an hour to the rest of the night.

I sleep in his room with him. We share a double bed. This seems to help keep him asleep. Sometimes I am able to convince him not to get out of bed when he wakes up, which usually means he goes right back to sleep.

We do everything we can to make the environment sleep-friendly for him. That is, to maintain the conditions that actually help him sleep rather than the conditions that you might expect will help him. The lights are on all night. The TV is on with a Sesame Street DVD playing. Fortunately he is OK with the sound muted.

As a result of all this, I haven't slept in a room with the lights off for quite a while. I've always preferred to sleep in a very dark room. I love the blackout curtains that some hotels have. Nowadays I find that have an almost physical craving for darkness at night.

Recently I tried hanging a blanket over the rail of the top bunk, creating a kind of curtain over part of the bed. This helped block out the light. It was particularly nice that it blocked it from shining on my face. It's hard to tell how the seven-year-old feels about it. Since he can't talk he doesn't tell us whether or not he likes it. At first I thought he liked it. The last week or so we haven't been so sure. He seems to be waking up more often and having more trouble going back to sleep.

Tonight as I was putting him to bed I noticed that the blanket had been pulled down from the railing. I guess that's a vote against.

Back to sleeping in the light.

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