SubMom: We’re being tough on you right now because we love you and believe in you so much that we won’t let you not believe in yourself.
For years now, we have noticed that Girl doesn’t seem to be a “good” sleeper. She would often wake up in the middle of the night, she would have trouble falling asleep, and then have trouble waking in the morning. I would joke that it was as though we already had a teenager in the house.
We noticed an inability to concentrate with her, and some hyperactivity: talking a thousand words a minute, fidgeting, forgetfulness, but we always attributed it to hearing-related causes, or, we became increasingly convinced, ADHD. It was with ADHD in mind that we tiptoed into the realm of trying medication. As a fifth grader, the demands being placed on her at school are increasing, and I simply cannot be her brain any longer. Our reasoning was, at least we have a shot at teaching her how to organize herself when she’s slowed down enough to stay on task.
Three medication fails later, and with a noticeable uptick in sleeplessness, likely due to the stimulant meds we tried, her pediatrician referred her for a sleep study. Apparently, sleep deprivation in children can present with ADHD-like symptoms. The studies he shared with us indicate that as many as 20% of children in the United States are sleep deprived. Of course, after the doctor went through family history with us, I’m convinced that we all have sleep disorders. *Note to self: Lay off the search engine results.
The diagnosis? Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder AND Obstructive Sleep Apnea. A two-fer.
Delayed Sleep Phase Disorder is a Circadian Rhythm issue. Your waking/sleeping internal clock gets “off.” As the doctor put it, “If you’re a French painter, and you paint between midnight and four, then go to sleep and get up at noon…no problem. But, you’re a fifth grader. Hence the problem.” The solution for this particular conundrum is light therapy with a 10,000 lux light box. They are surprisingly inexpensive.
Problem number two is more complicated. Obstructive Sleep Apnea means that she’s relaxing her throat so much when she sleeps that it’s obstructing her airway, and her brain wakes up to tell her to breathe. She does not audibly snore, so this came a a total surprise. According to the study, the average person gets approximately 25% of their sleep from REM, or Rapid Eye Movement Sleep. Girl gets approximately 3.4% The recommendation for this is a tonsilectomy/adenoidectomy or a CPAP machine. We’re also exploring the idea of a dental implement.
Not surprisingly, once she heard that option number one meant surgery this is what she said: “No way. I’m not having a SIXTH surgery. I’m sick of them.” I can’t say I blame her. She’s had more surgery in ten years than I’ve had my whole life.
As her mom, I feel a strange mix of relief and frustration. Relief that this isn’t a psychiatric issue – I was becoming concerned that there was something else going on that was far harder to treat, e.g., anxiety, bipolar, etc. Frustration that once again, the universe is kinda hard on my kid.
When she went to bed last night she was feeling down, on the verge of tears. I could tell it was that hopeless feeling you get when it seems like you just can’t get a break. I told her, “There’s one thing that I know about you. I can’t explain it, I have no proof obviously, but I can feel it in my heart and soul – by the time you are an adult, you will be the strongest person imaginable; able to smell baloney from people with a single whiff. You’ll know yourself and what you’re made of. And as we figure all this stuff out with you, it’s making me stronger, so thank you for teaching me.”
Stay tuned for sleeping updates.