It’s 3:00 a.m.

Filed Under (autism, Safety, Sleep) by Estee on 16-08-2010

I am writing this at 3:00 a.m. I left Adam’s room at approximately ten o’clock hoping he would go go sleep. I know I did, but I suddenly woke up at two. I was hoping to fall back to sleep but decided to heed some sage advice and not fight it. I’ve heard that if you cannot go back to sleep, just get up and do something else. The sleep will come.

Sleep is a huge issue for many of us. I remember three years of complete sleep deprivation after Adam was born: three hours of soothing and rocking him alone in a dark room, creeping out of his room on all fours because the floors were creaky and would wake him, only to have him wake up every hour and a half anyway. I remember feeling tired, frustrated and this certainly had an effect on the way I interacted with Adam in the early years, and I didn’t even get a reprieve by way of a naptime. I tried to “Feberize” him to no avail.  I was always flabbergasted that Adam could keep on going on such little sleep. Later on, we discovered Melatonin  which is the only thing that usually helps him fall asleep when he is particularly wired, except for these monthly anomolies where it has zero effect, and I have not discovered the reason specific to Adam.

As I began to quietly descend the stairs in what is typically called the dark night of the soul, coined by F. Scott Fitzgerald,  I hear Adam mumbling softly to himself — quite a change from the infant and toddler days when he would cry.  In fact, my office is directly underneath his bedroom and I can hear him moving about contentedly right now.

I write this because it’s another feat in our coexistence as two different kinds of people. It used to be that Adam would make much more noise and I would spend hours trying to settle him. Perhpas because of experience, knowing that autistic cicadian rhythms have been reported to be different in autistic individuals, I have decided on an alternate strategy: not to fight it. I am teaching Adam how to stay alone in his room quietly and do other things. It still requires some of my effort, my reminding (and perhaps some dark circles under my eyes in the morning), but I know it will be worth it as he is growing and maturing.  As he grows older, he will be able to use this time to read, study, work on the computer, but right now I would hesitate putting him on the computer because he will gear him up rather than wind him down.

This happens to Adam about once a month, I’ve recorded. He seems to wake at 2:00 a.m. and he goes to camp or school and has, usually a fabulous day while I am otherwise dreary-eyed. Still, I am discovering that I too am developing a remarkable energy that I didn’t think I had before. It’s amazing how things don’t feel as difficult if we try to work with the circumstances. In fact, I planned on reading and writing a bit before I realized that Adam was awake.  I’ve ensured that the house is safe in the event I do doze off and he decides to roam, and this might be in large part why I can relax.  So far, Adam stays in his room.

I suppose the only thing is my sensitivity to Adam. I didn’t think I  heard him at two, although I must have. It would be nice to know thatI can sleep through the night while he does what he has to do….safely. We’re getting there.

I sit here writing sort of amazed at how far I’ve come in this. Another milestone, perhaps, not for Adam, the autistic child, but for Estee, the autism mom. It’s past three a.m. now. The dark night will quickly turn to dawn.


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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.