Insomnia as a Child

Closet shelves, pool decks, climbing over gates, that’s how my insomnia started for me, around age 3 or 4.

My parents tried gate on top of gate to keep me inside my room and did everything they could to keep me in my room each night, except put a lock on my door.

I never slept as a child

I’m sure my parents never got a wink of sleep since the moment I learned to walk, as I tested them at the worst time possible - when they were able to calm down and get sleep, I would be up all night testing their ability to see how long it would take them to find me away in the strangest of places.

I recently asked my mother what it was like for her and she responded, “Oh my god, I’ve blocked all of that out. That was a terrible time for us. You were sassy!”

Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to a toddler, stacking chair on top of another chair to reach the top of the closet, to find me laying on a closet shelf, playing with big girl toys that were not age-appropriate to play with yet. How terrifying that must have been.

Sometimes I left the house

And then to find me weeks and months later unlocking the patio door to the outside, to go swimming in the pool at 3 in the morning! I can’t imagine what that must have felt like to be a parent and feel like you can't even see your own kid inside the house.

The patio door incident happened time and time again, despite gates, wood stoppers, and other safety mechanisms they had back then. (Remember this is a time when lead paint was a pretty normal thing).

When I asked my mom what they would do after that point, she said we did everything to keep you inside your room but lock you in there. We tried one gate, you opened that up. We tried another gate on top of that gate and you climbed over it. There was nothing we could do to keep you in your room at night. You never slept and you never stayed asleep.

The 21-day rule

My life has been lived by the 21-day habit rule - do something for 21 days and the habit quickly becomes something routine. As I’ve grown into an adult, despite good sleep hygiene and medications, and trials of 21-day “fixes”, I believe my life has been full of cycles of 21 days full of insomnia, which leads to body alarms. So, I’ve woken up in the middle of the night, and shortly after I fall asleep almost every single night now.

Something that has really affected my sleep disorders, sleep hygiene, and patterns are times when I’ve had to be hospitalized for various illnesses (even during adolescence), some lengthy, some short. I truly believe vital checks, safety checks, and various staff in and out of the hospital rooms I was in, have had an effect on my overall sleep. There are months after 1-2 week hospital stays where I wake up every hour, on the hour, when I have been checked on in the hospital, despite being home.

Always a work in progress

So despite being affected as a child, adolescent, and adult, I still aim towards good sleep hygiene, no matter how many times I’m up or how long I’m up throughout the night. Therapy has also helped me find coping skills to calm my anxieties about not sleeping, instead of constantly being angry that I’m not able to fall, stay, or go back to sleep. It’s a work in progress and always will be.

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