I’ve been writing lots of posts recently about the current state of various parts of my life. Writing about things like my speech, routines, trying new meds etc.
Today’s post is about sleeping and what we do to try and make sure that I sleep as well as I can.
I often use melatonin to help me sleep. I don’t need it use it as often as I used too because we’ve slowly worked out all the various things keeping me awake, but it’s handy to use when I just can’t sleep. It doesn’t always work, but I can help.
I have a prescription for melatonin from the same clinic who handle my ADHD meds.
I’ve written about my bedroom in more detail recently, but the short summery would be that we try to keep most of my bedroom feeling safe and simple.
Making the room feel safe means keeping it uncluttered and trying to remove things like sharp edges and corners facing into the room. It should be a place where I won’t get hurt if I fall over.
A safe feeling room really helps me to sleep. When my room was less safe feeling I had a hard time sleeping
I sleep really well in an enclosed bed. We did a project five years ago to custom make a bed for me and it’s been a huge success.
I wake up a lot during the night. When I did sleep tracking I had 10+ waking events every night. If my bed feels safe to my half asleep brain I can more easily go back to sleep.
My half asleep brain also finds it hard to stay in bed. So we have a small bungee cord across the entrance to my bed which helps to provide enough of a barrier that I don’t wake up during the night and wonder around my bedroom.
My favourite clothing to sleep in tends to be close fitting pajamas, buttons vests or short onesies.
My favourite PJs come from the kids section of M&S or John Lewis. Short sleeve or long sleeve both work well depending on temperature.
Most of my button vests came from racketys. or M&S a few are from Etsy. They have a few uses but the main reason we use them is to hold everything in place and to stop my half asleep brain from stripping during the night.
It doesn’t happen often but from time to time I’ll go through periods where I keep waking up cold because my half asleep brain has pulled off all my clothing. The vests work well because my sleepy hands can’t undo the buttons.
The final things i sleep well in are shorty styles onesies. These are a lot like the popper vests except they have some shorts built in and they use a zip. I don’t see these very often in the UK, but I can often buy them at places like Walmart or Target in the US. They work just like the popper vests except they are a bit warmer.
For times when I am stripping really often and it’s effecting my sleep badly I do have a couple of back zip hard to escape sleepers. I don’t like using them as they limit my autonomy, but sometimes it’s just the simplest solution during a bad period to ensure a good nights sleep.
I always sleep curled up with Lion. I sleep on my front as the weight on my chest helps me to sleep. Lion is long and thin and perfect for sleeping alongside.
It sounds a bit daft, but finding soft toys which are comfortable to sleep with is tricky. Not many plushies are long and thin like lion is! I think it’s part of why he’s been my main plushie ever since I was a child. When I went to foster care I had to choose a plushie and Lion came with me.
I don’t have my iPhone near me after bedtime. Recently I’ve been going to bed early as i start my days at 5am. Some days I am in bed and asleep between 7:30pm and 8pm. I am almost always in bed by 10pm.
Once I got to bed I don’t use my phone. It’s on a charger across the room from me and in silent mode.
Instead I have an iPod touch. It has my audiobooks, AAC / speech apps and podcasts on. It also has Disney+ and some access to YouTube (limited to 2 hours each). It doesn’t have anything else installed so I don’t sit on it all night. One of the carers set up the restrictions for me and I don’t have the password.
I combined these things together as they are all things that live in my bed. I almost always have a sippy cup in bed with me. Normally in the corner between the mattress and the bed. I have around 10 of the Nuk Active Cups in use and it’s very rare I use an open cup at home. (I also tend to use these sippy cups on planes / trains / cars etc)
I often have a few toys in my bed. I have a big box of sensory toys in storage and we swap them in and out over time. Some of my favourite toys are from Lamaze. They are a lot of sensory fun and if I am very spaced out provide the perfect sensory input. I also tend to have a toy or plushie guarding the bed from a position where they can see the whole room.
As well as the sensory toys, I sometimes have a chew toy in bed. One the stims I occasionally do is to grind my teeth hard together. In the past I’ve broke teeth doing this, especially after the the dentist. I have a chewy toy in my fridge and I take it to bed with me if I’ve been grinding my teeth a lot. Sometimes I won’t notice so one of the support folks will mention it to me.
Accepting that all of these toys can be joyful and allowing myself to enjoy them took a while. Most of the toys are gifts from friends.
I also tend to have a book or two in my bed. I prefer factual books and generally things which are easy to read. I entirely fit the autistic stereotype of sitting in bed reading an encyclopaedia. I really love the DK books. There’s often a DK Lego book or a DK eyewitness guide in my bed. I have a few sensory soft books too but they don’t come out as often.
I have various bits of lighting built into my bed. I have a colour changing HUE GU10 lamp which clamps to my bed, that does most of light for reading.
I sometimes have a hue strip under the bed. It moves around a bit depending on my bedroom layout.
The projectors come and go. Often the batteries go flat for months at a time until one day I am in the mood for one and I put new batteries in. Then use it all the time till the batteries go flat again!
Sleeping is important and knowing what works to helps me sleep is critical to my stability. If my sleep isn’t very good life is way way harder.
This post was prompted by a recent break in. Someone entered my flat during the night. They silently entered the lounge and spent a few minutes sneaking around the flat before they decided to take the bike. We have them on video and it’s very hard to watch.
All of the various things above are helping me to rebuild my sleep confidence and to feel safe at night.
In the past I haven’t shared as many details because I worry about being judged for having a preference for many childish things. However these days I like to share these things to show that autistic life is often uneven and it’s fine.
It’s not unusual for me to do a talk to 2000 people, release code used by half a billion people or ride my bike down an Olympic double black graded mountain bike track on the same day or week that I have little to no speech, need help dressing and spend the evening playing with the baby sensory toys for an hour an bedtime.
Spending 5 minutes in the baby toys section at Tescos to have a play with all the new toys and maybe take one home is a joyful part of my life. I’m glad I can embrace it and enjoy it and being open about it makes it more fun.
These things work for me. By sharing them I hope they may work for other people as well.