sleep

Cranky

Vista is slowly coming down from the two weeks of oral steroids she was on over Christmas for her asthma.  It’s hard to say when she’ll be back to ‘normal’.  But it’s definitely showing in her behaviors.

Her teacher commented on it at preschool on Monday.  When ever one of the kids would approach her she would scream and throw a fit (see: How to win friends and influence people).

Aaaaand that would be why we’re thankful she has an aide in class with her.  To deal with the situations like that.

At home, though, there’s no aide.  Just us.  It makes for some long days.  Add the fact that the steroids interrupt her sleep patterns and you have long nights too.  And I’m one of those people who NEEEEEED to sleep.  I love my sleep.  I covet the sleep I used to get pre-kid.  Lack of sleep = very cranky Jenn.

And that in a nutshell is why I haven’t been on the interwebs lately.

Cranky kid + cranky parents = not fit for human interaction.

But we’re slowly getting back to normal around here.   Whatever normal means.  If someone figures that out, let me know.

Putting the Kid To Bed…It’s a game the whole family can play. Even the cat.

Around here, putting Vista to bed is a team effort.

You say the world b.e.d and there’s immediate waterworks and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  And Vista gets pretty upset too.

She has a distinct aversion to the thought of going to bed.  Doesn’t matter how much we stick to routine, how much warning we give (or don’t give)… there’s always tears involved.

And lately she’s started insisting that Daddy come and lay down in her room while see falls asleep (because she knows that Daddy is a big sucker who’s wrapped around her little finger and there’s no way Mama’s playing that game).

But lately we’ve discovered a secret weapon.

Our gigantic ball of fur, known as Xander.

Xander gets mad props for not having clawed Vista’s face off (yet).

He’s tolerates her so-called petting.  He tolerates her hugs (which involve her laying across him and using him as a pillow).  He even tolerates her trying to pick him up and put him in the microwave (charming child of mine).

Xander was a SPCA rescue that we picked up.  We had no idea, really, what we were getting.

What we did get was a giant suck, a proficient mouser (judging by the number of decapitated mice he leaves around the yard *gag*), a peace keeper (remind me to tell you the story about the time he broke up a dog fight), and so much more.  But from the moment we brought V home, he was her cat.

And these days he’s our bedtime saviour.

As soon as the cat hears V start demanding that Bil sleep with her, he runs into her room, jumps on her bed, and curls up at her feet.  At that point Bil becomes persona non grata.  She settles right down, no more arguments, no more whining.

The other night she woke up at 1am crying.  I went in to try and calm her and find out what was wrong.  She wasn’t having any of it.  But eventually Xander heard her, woke up, and came took up his spot on her feet. She immediately told me to get out (no, not even kidding) and went back to sleep.

He usually doesn’t stay long in her room.  Just long enough to see her settled. Then he comes back out and takes up his normal spot in the living room.

I’ve never met an animal as perceptive as he is.

But he was definitely meant to be part of this family.

Sudafed Is My Gateway Drug

I keep coming to my blog wanting to write something.  Something cute and fluffy with cute and fluffy things in it.  Like a post about my dogs and cats and how cute and fluffy they are.  Well, make that dogs and cat.  Because the other cat may be cute and fluffy but she’s dumb as a post and I’d rather she was stuffed and sitting on my fireplace mantle, but since she’s Bil’s cat, that hasn’t happened yet.  Nor have I fed her to the local coyote pack, although I’ve been sorely tempted on more than one occasion.  But then Bil would get all whiney about how I killed his stupid cat, and blah blah blah… so, she’s still alive.  For now.

Where was I?  Oh right.  Cute and fluffy.

Yeah, not feeling so cute and fluffy. Well, maybe fluffy, but I totally blame the local bakery for that.

I’m like my own version of the seven dwarfs, lately.  Bitchy, whiney, sneezy, wannabe doc, fluffy, zombie, and doped up.

And all I really want to do is whine about how hard this parenting gig is, right now.  We’re starting to rack up frequent flyer miles at our local ER.  And you know it’s bad when the doctors look at your kids chart and start discussing your opinion on possible treatment options.  I’m still waiting for my medical degree to magically appear in the mail.

Remember how, before you ever had kids, people would tell you how hard it is?  And you’d look and them and think “ZOMG…shut up and get over it.  It’s a kid.  How hard can it be?”

Yeah.  Totally eating crow now.

The universe thinks it’s funny.  Me?  Not so much.  I find it’s sense of humor rather lacking, these days.  Along with the amout of sleep I’m getting.  Which tonight I can fully blame on the Sudafed I took before bed.  That stuff makes most people drowsy.  You know the whole ‘don’t opperate heavy machinery or you might poke someone’s eye out and then you’ll be sorry, but it won’t be our fault because we told you not to do it right here on the box’ warning?  Yeah, doesn’t apply to me.  Apparently, Sudafed jacks me right up.  Like RIGHT up.  Like holy hell I haven’t slept tonight and WEEEEEE I feel fucking awesome jacked up.  So… uh…yeah, not taking it before bed EVER again.

And I probably shouldn’t be allowed to blog while under the influence of sinus cold meds either.

I don’t see a warning for THAT on the fucking box.

Jenn’s Guide to Melatonin

One of the questions I get all the time is ‘You give melatonin to V right?  I think I want to start giving it to my kid, but I don’t know how much.”

I decided to put together a little FAQ, which turned into a bit of a novel.  Sorry.

But here is:

Jenn’s Guide to Melatonin


Now… first things first.

I am not a doctor, I only play one on Twitter.  This information only comes from my own personal experience and research.  It should NOT take the place of medical advice from your doctor or pediatrician.  Melatonin, like any drug, can have adverse effects, and as such, should be used carefully.  If you are considering using melatonin for your child, I strongly suggest consulting your child’s doctor or pediatrician to see if it’s right for them.

OK.  Now that’s out of the way.

What is melatonin?
Melatonin occurs naturally in your body.  It’s the magical substance that helps your body fall asleep by making you drowsy and lowering your body temperature.

So why would you need to take it in pill form if your body is already producing it?
There have been studies that prove that children on the autism spectrum don’t produce as much melatonin as normal.

It’s been my personal experience that this extends to a lot of kids with neurological or central nervous system impairments, as well.

These kids seem to fall into cyclical sleep patterns. I’ll use Vista as a specific example of what I mean by cyclical sleep.

At the beginning of her cycle she sleep like any normal kid.  The further she gets into her sleep cycle, the less she sleeps, until, at the peak of it, she might sleep an hour or two a night.  The rest of the time she’s wide awake.  Eventually her body becomes so exhausted that it forces her to start sleeping more and more, until we’re back at the beginning of the sleep cycle again.

One full sleep cycle for Vista lasts about 2 months.  So she might go without sleep for weeks at a time.

I, on the other hand, cannot go without sleep for weeks at a time.  I turn into a zombie.  (true fact – the zombie apocalypse is going to be caused by exhausted parents)

So, this is when we turned to our pediatrician crying “we can’t do this anymore *sob*” and he told us that
a) we were silly for waiting so long to talk to him and
b) to put her on melatonin, stat, or he would call the loony bin and tell them I was on my way in

How do I know if melatonin is right for my child?
Melatonin is not a cure all pill.  And it is certainly not right for every kid.

If your kid throws a temper tantrum every night when they go to bed, this is a behavioral problem.  Melatonin will not magically fix the issue.

If your kid likes to get up super early every morning, I can guarantee you that melatonin will not fix this issue (personal experience speaking here).

If, however, your kid just doesn’t seem able to sleep at night, or wakes repeatedly, then melatonin might help.

Melatonin is not meant for newborns or very young children.  Every parent with a baby is sleep deprived.  It’s a right of passage.  Get used to it.

By the time your child is 2 or 3yrs old, though, they should definitely be sleeping a full 8-10+ hours.

This is where I recommend you talk to your pediatrician/doctor, though, to see if they think this is a behavioral issue or a possible melatonin deficiency.

OK, my doc recommended melatonin.  How much do I give?
Again, I would talk to your doctor, but here is my personal experience with dosing…

Start slow and work your way up.  I cannot stress this enough.  Do not slam your kid onto a high dose of melatonin, because this is definitely a case where more does not equal better.

Too much melatonin can cause vivid, horrible, night terrors.  These will keep you up all night and can make kids afraid to sleep.  So, I say again – start at a low dose and SLOWLY work your way up.

Most melatonin comes in 3mg doses, as that is a ‘typical’ adult dose.  Check with your health food store to see if they care a 1mg dose for kids.  This will make it much easier to get an accurate dosage.

There are different forms that melatonin comes in – capsules, sub-lingual (pills that you put under your tongue), and strips (that you put on the tongue that melt).  We usually use the capsules and open them into a cup of milk that Vista takes half an hour before bedtime.

Start with 1mg.  Try this for a week, minimum.  Give it time to work.

If 1mg isn’t working, go up to 2mg.  Stay there for a week or two to see if it helps.

Continue like this, slowly increasing the dose, 1mg at a time, until it starts working.

How will I know if it’s working?
Oh, you’ll know.

The first morning you wake up and realize you got to sleep through the entire night rather than getting up with your kid for the first time in who knows how long?  Yeah, that’s when.

What’s the highest dose I can give my child?
The generally accepted answer to that is 9mg/night.  However, I don’t know anyone who has ever needed to give their child anywhere close to that.

Most people I know eventually settle in the 2-4mg range with their kids.

Do I have to give it every night?  How long should they be on it?
There’s no easy answer to this as it depends on your child.

First off, yes, you need to give it every night, while you’re using it.  And you should leave them on it a week or two, once you find the dose that works.

Sometimes that week or two is all kids need to reset their sleep clocks and they start sleeping through the night on their own.

You can try backing off the dose and see if the sleep problems come back.  If they do, return to the dose that was working.

Vista has been on melatonin for over a year and a half.  We have tried taking her off it, and the sleep issues returned, so her pediatrician recommended we leave her on it for the foreseeable future.

Over the past year and a half we have slowly increased her dose.  She was on 3mg for quite a while.  It’s only in the past few months that, due to a change in medication, we’ve had to bump her up to 4.5mg/night.  Now that her meds have been properly adjusted, we will probably try and take her back down to 3mg.

Will melatonin make my kid drowsy during the day?  Should I give it to them for naps?
No and definitely NO!

I have used melatonin myself.  You do not feel drowsy or ‘hung over’ like you can with sleeping pills.

Melatonin is meant for use at night.  It will not help your children nap and can actually throw off their natural sleep rhythms if you try and use it for that.

When do I give it to my child?
You want to give it to them half an hour to an hour before you want them to go to bed.   This gives it time to work.

This does not mean however, within an hour your kid is going to magically collapse in a pile of sugar plum dreams.

Unlike sleeping pills, melatonin does not put you to sleep, it merely prepares your body to sleep.

There have been times that we give Vista her melatonin at 7:30pm and she still ends up being awake until 9:30pm or later.

Where it does help is that, once your child finally decides to settle down to sleep, they’ll drift off faster and stay asleep.

Is there anything else I should know before giving my child melatonin or taking it myself?
Melatonin, like any drug, can cause adverse effects in people with health issues.  Always check with your doctor before starting to take it.

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you should definitely not take melatonin.

A site I find to be a good resource is http://melatonin.com.  They have information on dosing, cautions, and research.

If there’s anything you think I’ve missed, or information that you feel is incorrect, please let me know.

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