• Jody Kussin

In Times Like These #32 4-15-2020

Funny times. Hard to anticipate which will be a good day and which will be a bad day. Mostly the days are in between days, with peaks and valleys. We are like new puppies being crate trained – we spend time in our crates and get to come out and play in the yard a little, and then for some reason, back into the crate. We have not figured out the wheres and whens of the process. However, the crates are often warm and feel like nests now, and less like prisons. Weird.

One challenge many of us are having in these times is sleep. We are sleeping too much. Or not enough. Or at the wrong times. Some of us (newborns, 12-22-year olds, 82-92-year olds) are mixing up our nights and days. Sleep changes in and of themselves are not necessarily a problem. The problem with our sleep problems is that we are obsessively focusing on the issue, and worrying about the issue, and sure that of all currently impacting us, this is the biggest disaster AND the area we can/should/ought to be able to control and fix. Thus, thinking about not sleeping has become much more distracting and devastating than not sleeping.

So, let me share some information with you.

  1. You cannot force your child to sleep. At any age. You can introduce or reinforce nice sleep routines and habits. You can increase physical activity each day (cardio cardio cardio) for your child. You can sing pretty songs, tickle backs, set limits, threaten to take a phone away – but –you cannot make your child go to sleep.

  2. Some children (and grownups) need less sleep than others. We are each wired different. You probably are aware of your own sleep patterns and those of all with whom you are sharing space (the crates are kinda tiny, after all.) If someone is prone to insomnia, assume that will continue and/or worsen, in these times. If someone loves to sleep and can nap anywhere, anytime, assume that will continue and/or worse, in these times.

  3. Unless the under or over sleeper is not functioning in one or more areas of their lives (work/school/independent living skills) then cross this off the worry list and file it under the ‘hmmm, I guess it will all work out ok’ list. Adding worry to the sleep problem does not help with sleep and, most likely, you already have plenty of things on your worry list.

  4. If you want to try a few things just for fun, i.e., scientifically assessing yourself in a little at home experiment, then make a change once a day and see if/how it impacts sleep. Give up caffeine. Or, conversely, drink a lot of caffeine. Give up sugar. Do not drink any alcohol. Or, conversely, have a cocktail or two or a glass of wine or two. Exercise. Spent at least two hours outdoors. Try meditation. Practice breathing skills. Create a list of nice visuals and then visualize things. Do some yoga. Take a nap. Do not take a nap. Music music music. Read in bed. No screen time before bed. Screen time with grandma reading a story to grand pup in bed. We have all the time in the world so, try the ‘WIT’ method – whatever it takes.

  5. If you want to try medication, ASK YOUR M.D. There are over the counter sleep aides but for children, get your pediatrician’s okay first. Melatonin, for instance, may be helpful, but get professional advice prior to implementing the self/child study.

  6. And if it’s the middle of the night and someone cannot sleep, generate a list of ‘what I can do in the middle of the night’ and leave it in a prominent space. Slow laps around the house? Warm bath? Read a book? Do a comparative analysis of our late-night talk shows to see who can function without an audience/laugh track and who cannot. Decorate and write cards to send to hospitals to thank responders. Change venues – sleep on the floor, sleep on the floor in a sleeping bag, sleep in another room on the floor, make a fort to sleep in.

This missive is not to minimize challenges with sleep. Sleep deprivation is dangerous and bad for us, for sure. And hypersomnia is not good either. However, for most of us, sleep changes in a time of tumult and crisis are to be expected. So, in these times, try to ‘ride it out.’ Deep breaths. And maybe, it’s not a bad time to stop counting ‘days in’ and rather, count blessings….backwards from 100 - - - sometimes it helps for sleep, and when it does not, it helps our hearts.

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