How Our Kids Get Better Sleep
Last month Abalone had her annual well-check visit with her pediatrician. We see the Doc every 3-6 months for a variety of reasons but mostly to reevaluate our tactics with dealing with both kids’ ADHD. Abalone getting better sleep turned out to be our top priority discussed during this visit.
One of the things we discussed was Abalone’s current place of residence in “La La Unicorn Land”. At school, her teacher told me that a couple of weeks ago it took Abalone two hours to write her name, date, and three things she was planning to work on in her journal for the day. The behaviorist observed A for a day and she noticed that A frequently stands in the middle of the room, not really looking at anything, sort of in her own head.
In addition, one of the problems at home is that she will talk and sing to herself for two hours after going to bed. This has been a regular problem since before she could form sentences. She would her replay her day and we’d hear a lot of “Nuh-ah, Da-Dee.” from her room as she mumbled and grumbled about whatever barbaric treatment a two-year old could take from the word “no”.
At The Appointment
The Doc and I have a special relationship. She knows when she sees “Wilferd” on the appointment list that there will be lots of eyebrow raising and joke cracking. She walked into this visit and the first thing out of my mouth was “Did ya miss me?” She totally did.
But she also set my ass straight. She reminded me that both kids need better sleep and that the best time they learn all the stuff from the day is when they sleep (because that’s when new information is seared into their neurons). We were both reluctant to up Abalone’s medication dosage because she is nearing the top limit of the dosing amounts for her age/weight and her appetite is already suffering. And because her sleep quantity AND quality suck ass, that perhaps her ADHD symptoms are being amplified from that suckitude as well.
So we decided to tackle the sleep issue first and evaluate the quantity AND the quality of sleep Abalone (both kids, actually) is getting. Then we would reevaluate if upping her medication dosage is something we need to do.
Quantity Of Sleep
Both kids are sent to bed at 8:00 p.m. and wake-up time on school days is 6:00 a.m. Monkey will fall asleep fairly quickly, let’s say in about 15 minutes. That gives him 9.75 hours of sleep. But, Abalone’s sleep pattern of 10:00 p.m. (remember, she talks to herself in bed until then) to 6:00 a.m. is only 8 hours. A child her age needs a minimum of 9 hours sleep. And because she has ADHD, more sleep is necessary.
Quality of Sleep
This is where it gets dicey. Monkey has FOMO to the max. It’s so bad that even in the dead of night if his sister gets up to use the bathroom, so does he. If she gets up because of a bad dream or feeling sick, so does he. According to Monkey, Abby has to go upstairs to bed first because her room is closer. In reality he doesn’t want her to get an imaginary extra hug or to stay up 30 seconds later than he. The luxuries she would surely receive in the four steps behind him up the stairs would be unjust, indeed. At 6:00 a.m. he is wide awake and ready to start the day. He quickly deteriorates within the first hour if he doesn’t get his meds, but he has always woken up this early. You can set a watch by Monkey’s morning wake up.
Abby frequently wakes because….well I don’t know why. Because “ADHD”? That’s the only explanation I have. One night she could sleep to the zombie apocalypse. The next she can hear monsters under her window outside when the wind farts. Her patterns are unpredictable and random and frustrating. When she finally wakes, she wakes up with dark circles under her eyes and if it’s the weekend we let her sleep until 9:30 a.m.
I am regularly amazed at how two kids, both with ADHD, could manifest that disorder so differently.
Here’s the “Better Sleep Plan” we hatched:
Doc told me hands down that my lack of a bedtime routine was no good. I figured once elementary school started that sort of thing wasn’t necessary. Again, I was reminded that ADHD doesn’t work that way. Better quality sleep and ADHD definitely don’t work that way. She didn’t totally care what I did, as long as we started about an hour before bedtime by turning off all screen time. From there I could put in getting ready for tomorrow, putting on jammies, taking a bath, reading, cuddling, talking about our day, whatever. We agreed that an 8:00 p.m. bedtime was good. So the routine would need to start at 7:00 p.m.
Periodically, when Abalone wants to co-sleep, she needs to be coached and reminded to go to sleep. She will try to talk to me in bed and sometimes I’ve gotten sucked into the discussion. I mean, my child wants to engage with me! How can I say “no”? And then I realize what I’m doing and remind her it’s time to sleep. After a few cut offs she will go down and then she’s out cold. But without that gentle reminder that it’s time for sleep she would talk to me and probably never go to sleep. Once when she needed to stay up until midnight for a neurological test she did it without any hesitation.
So I agreed to sit upstairs in the hallway and remind her that it’s time for sleep. I estimated that it wouldn’t take long because of our co-sleeping incidents and her ability to fall asleep without any issues once reminded.
I wanted to try guided meditation and add it to the mix. The kids and I have listened to Sitting Still Like a Frog before. I found a great YouTube brand called New Horizons, who have guided children’s sleep meditation that are about 30 minutes long.
Here is a link to their page on YouTube.
The intro is the same on all of them and when I play it for the kids they like knowing what to expect from those first five minutes. But because I have an iPhone and refuse to pay for YouTube’s subscription service I had to remain in the app while the meditation played. I could not read any Kindle books or get in some long articles. After about a week of proven effectiveness I purchased one of their albums on iTunes. I will likely add another album as well. Both Abalone and Monkey mostly enjoy these three from New Horizons.
This is my secret weapon for better sleep for the whole family. But there’s some things you need to know about magnesium.
I spray the magnesium on the soles of their feet.
The magnesium spray is in a brine solution. The instructions say to massage it into the skin and in my head I’m yelling “NO!” It’s already itchy enough, the last thing I would recommend is to rub it in. Plus, any scratch, microscopic cut, or abrasion will either itch or burn like a mofo. The soles of my kids’ feet are the least likely spot to have any open or damaged skin.
We spray two spritzes on each foot at 7:30 p.m. and set the timer for 5 minutes to allow time for the feet to dry. Within this time the magnesium from the salts are absorbing into the skin and taking effect. Warnings say that it could take weeks for this to work. That might be true for a lot of people but myself and the kids noticed it working on the first night.
I sprayed it on myself on both sides of my ribcage and could’t keep my eyes open a half-hour later. I like to use the spray on Sundays when I’m anxious about going back to work and all the things I wanted to do over the weekend weren’t finished.
Here is the same magnesium spray that we use.
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So What's the Verdict? Did It Work?
After three weeks how has it been? Well, I have cleaner kids from all those baths. I also have kids that are asleep about 20 minutes after I start the meditation track (but I let it play all the way through just in case they need those last ten minutes).
As for behavior, there’s been some better activity. The jury is still out because in these three weeks Abalone has caught a virus twice and the results are not accurate. I will update as soon as she is feeling better and keep data for both kids. But, just the fact that Abalone goes to sleep within 20 minutes instead of two hours is a huge step for us.
If you try any of these steps please let me know. And if you see a difference in your child’s sleep I’d love to learn about that.