• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”

Lack of Sleep Makes Throws my Brain into Hyper-Driver

Insomnia, night terrors, and an array of other sleeping issues often plaque those of us with autism spectrum disorders. However, what I have discovered is that when I do not get enough sleep a few things happen.

If I don’t sleep tonight, I likely will not be able to sleep tomorrow night—

Or, the night after that, or the night after that. It seems that the longer I am awake, the harder it is for me to fall asleep.  It sounds ridiculous, even to me, it really does because logically if I am exhausted, I should be able to go to sleep!  The lack of sleep began last Wednesday night, when I only slept two hours. At this point I cannot even remember why I was up until 5 am.  That would not have been so bad had I been able to sleep the following night, but atlas it was not going to happen. 

Thursday night I was working on a homework assignment. Just when I was about to shut it down and go to bed a nasty virus took over my laptop, locked me out of the internet, and tried to tell me I had to put my credit card information in to remove harmful threats.  I don’t think so!

I had not installed the Geek Squad anti-virus software that came with my laptop, which was just purchased it a couple of months ago, because I am just not diligent like that—well this teaches me. I had to to use a restore point to regain access to my laptop, and once that was finished, install the anti-virus as I should have in the first place.  Two hours later…

The Tot comes running into the dining room where I am working and squeals, “Mommy, I lost you!

I tried to quickly ushered him back to bed but he was not having it. He insisted on heading to my room saying,  “Mommy, it’s bedtime, you have to go to bed.” He’s getting quite a vocabulary now.

We spent from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. watching Dora the Explorer.  He was so happy, cuddly, and quiet—only I was not allowed to sleep because he kept checking my eyelids to make sure that I was up.  Then when the morning came, he ran to the window, pulled up the blinds, and yelled, “Mommy, look the sun is up!”

Three hours and a violent meltdown later…20140418_105730 

 

I should have slept on Friday night, but by then my brain was moving too fast.

My Thoughts Race—

Lack of Sleep does not make me tired—it throws my brain into hyper-drive. My physically exhausted body has to content with my hyper-active brain that thinks lack of sleep is a signal to race forward chasing down every idea that idly meanders by until it catches hold of one (or many). That is when the problems really starts!

Friday night I decided I would “fix” my blog, and spent all night making it pretty. With Hubby home on Saturday, surely I could sleep in—not such luck.

The Tot insists that if he is up, I have to be too.  Even though Hubby tried to let me sleep in (finally fell asleep at 6 a.m. Saturday morning) by 10, the Tot had it was Dad, and was pulling me out of bed. Fours hours of sleep finally—not bad.

I sleep-walk into obsessive land—

Once my tried brain grabs on to something, it won’t let go. I hadn’t realized that four hours sleep was not going to do it. I should have been clued in when I woke and my first thought was,“got to get back to my blog design.” I obsessively worked on it until 2 am Sunday morning when I made Hubby get up and go to Wal-Mart with me to buy the kids Easter baskets. It was, after all, only a few hours until Easter Sunday! He walked through the store cranky, and half asleep, which really annoyed me.  I mean really? Why can’t he stay up like an obsessive insomniac like I can?

By 4 a.m. I was in the Wal-mart check-out line not even feeling a bit tired, returned home, made baskets, set them on the table, and went straight back to my design project.  Hubby passed out on the sofa ten seconds after all the bags were in the house. I did sleep from 8:30 until 11:00 on Easter Morning, does that count? 

You see I could not just go to bed, what I was trying to accomplish was not finished.  Only problem is that this project cannot be finished in one sitting, which is driving me nuts.

My mouth runs as fast as my brain—and my mother gets a taste of her own medicine

My mother never shuts up—ever. When she calls you, you can put the phone down, come back ten minutes later and find hers still talking. She will never even know you left. She does not need anyone to respond to her, or rather, she doesn’t let anyone. Unless you scream at her to “shut-up,” you don’t get in a word. Well, on the drive back to her house Sunday night, that is exactly what I did to her! 

I rambled on and on, about—I can’t even remember what—the whole way there.  My mouth was moving as fast as my mind. I talked over her when she tried to say something as if she was not talking.  Then when I pulled up in front of her house, I  became completely distracted by how pretty the tree out front looked. What kind of tree it was anyway?  It would make a great painting.

By the time I returned home, I had given myself a headache! But, I still managed to talk Hubby’s ear off for a while, before heading right back to my computer to tinker some more promising that I would be in bed by midnight—a promise I could not keep.

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert , contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, three of which are on the autism spectrum.
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