At Our Little Family Blog, Mom wonders if William would sleep better with a weighted blanket. A weighted blanket is a sensory tool that is supposed to be calming to the child with sensory integration issues. Her post triggered me to reminisce about the various rituals and tools we have used in attempts to help Orangeboy get to sleep faster and to sleep soundly.
Of course, we started with the bedtime routine- a consistent routine that cues and comforts. A classic. But actually, it started before that with nap time. I have long been a firm believer in the principle of "sleep begets sleep". I shake my head in dismay when I see or hear a parent trying to "wear out" their baby or young child so he/she will "sleep good tonight". In my experience, this leads to an over-stimulated child who cannot settle down to sleep and a terribly frustrating night for the ill-informed parent.
Haven't you ever slept in on a weekend morning and then felt groggy for a good portion of the day? Or does this just happen to me? If you are too busy to remember having a morning to sleep in, you'll just have to believe me - regular and adequate sleep leads to regular and adequate sleep. Allowing late bedtime weekends and trying to "wear out" a child leads to chaos.
(Ok, give me a sec while I tuck away my soapbox.)
So while nap time and routine helped some, Orangeboy still took a long time to get to sleep and often slept restlessly or awoke during the night. In the morning I would typically find him curled up at the bottom of the bed and his covers in a twisted wad. At one point he was even having night terrors, which caused much night terror for Mom. To be bolted awake at 2 am by a child in the next room SCREAMING bloody murder and kicking the wall is not good for the heart. And then rushing in to see him wild-eyed and senseless is even more unsettling.
So I tried aroma therapy; specifically lavendar-scented bubble bath, and soothing music with some limited success. I tried giving him a 3 mg tab of Melatonin an hour before bed and that seemed to help him fall asleep faster- and worked for over a year. His doctor prescribed something that knocked him out, but was also supposed to increase his appetite so he would gain weight and it really didn't work for him on that front.
Then I bought the vibrating pillow. That's right, I admit it, I bought a vibrating pillow. Wait a minute now, I know what you're thinking, you're thinking what his psychiatrist said - and I do not get those kinds of catalogs! I actually bought it at Walmart in the health section, where they have the seat cushion back massagers and the feet spas. It was a foam lumbar pillow that took two D batteries and vibrated quite violently. I somehow got the idea that if Orangeboy had something stimulating to distract him, he would actually be able to relax and go to sleep. And, lo and behold, I WAS RIGHT! He loved it and it worked like a charm - much to the surprise and amusement of his perv psychiatrist.
Every night I would turn the pillow on (no snickering) and place it at the foot of his bed. At first, I tried putting it next to his head, but it was too violent and buzzed audibly. At the foot of the bed, under a folded blanket, it hummed nicely and effectively vibrated the whole bed to the delight of Orangeboy. He would lie there with a look of bliss on his face and go right to sleep in about ten minutes. I would slip in later and turn the pillow off. It was great. I really think it was a combination of that and the Melatonin that got him on the right track to regular, restful nights of sleep.
The only drawback to the pillow was that it took two D batteries and if I forgot to slip in and turn it off, the batteries would run down in one night. I used rechargeables, but it got old. The good news is that once he developed the habit and skill of falling asleep and staying asleep, he could do it without mechanical and herbal props. These days, all he really needs is a good night peck on the cheek.