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  • Posted on February 24, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Is insomnia catching?  Not in the usual sense, but in some ways it seems to be, at least in our household full of insomniacs.

Both my husband and I struggle with sleep issues.  Part of it is situational.  With children who, collectively, do not leave room for a full eight hours of sleep, my body has adapted to being able to sleep less and still function.  Function, but not well.  Late nights and early mornings make for too little sleep in between.  But having all three boys at school leaves room for daytime naps.

Of course, my body has taken that to extremes.  On a weekly cycle, I range from up all night to sleeping during the boys’ school hours.  Various stages between.  To being up all day, and sleeping at night.  This is, partially, because of my class on Saturday, which requires being up all day.  Though, in any given week there is something I need to do during the day.

Genetically speaking, my boys got a double-dose of insomnia.  So, at any one point one of the boys may have a sleepless night.  This can be “catching” if that child makes enough noise in an unfortunate location, and thus wakes up one or more of his brothers.

Mark, on the other hand, is on medication that also “helps” with sleep.  Maybe it’s his normal or maybe it’s the depression, but he also requires more than eight hours of sleep.  Usually about ten.  But sometimes he can’t sleep.

It goes round and round and round in our household.

I long for a sleep schedule that allows predictability and availability when I need it.  One schedule.  Not a cycle.  I don’t know if my body is capable of it any more.  I try and try and try, but I can’t seem to maintain it.

Melatonin Update

  • Posted on September 2, 2010 at 9:04 AM

So, we’ve had the liquid form melatonin for just about a week—long enough for the boys to have gotten used to it.  The delivery arrived just in time to get them on the sleep schedule they need to be ready to start school.

I am very impressed with the results.  The boys are calming down and sleeping much better at night.  Not only that, but—after only a few days of taking melatonin—they are ready for bed at an appropriate time.  I give them each a dose of melatonin, and by the time I’m ready to put them to bed—about twenty to thirty minutes later—they are going upstairs nicely and climbing eagerly into bed.  This is a fabulous change, since I used to have to herd the boys up the stairs—sometimes carrying one or both of the little ones—and then wrestle them into bed.  And still they wouldn’t stay there, so I’d camp out between their rooms for an hour or three until they finally fell asleep.  Melatonin has changed that!  Last night Ben was even curled up and drowsing on one of the downstairs couches before it was even time for bed—though I think that might be because he’s fighting off his first cold of the season.

Melatonin has been a great relief.  Not only does it work once the boys are actually dosed, the dosing is much easier than I expected.  The liquid form can be diluted in a small bit of milk or other beverage—Ben prefers Dr. Pepper over milk, silly guy that he is—and they drink it with little resistance, though it does require monitoring.  Willy is actually excited to take it and wants to make sure he gets to help with the dropper!

The only downside is that it doesn’t seem to carry over in the sense that it creates a sleep habit.  At least, it doesn’t help me to create a sleep habit.  I took melatonin two days in a row and was on a regular sleep schedule—going to bed at night and waking up in the morning.  Then, I didn’t take it two nights in a row and just kept going and going like I usually do.  Luckily, when I took melatonin last night, it helped me sleep and I woke up fine in the morning.  So, it works—it just doesn’t create a sleep habit that allows me to maintain a schedule without it.  At least not after two days of use.  So, I have to be sure we have a steady supply of melatonin for each week.

Overall, I’m impressed.  I appreciate the benefits to my family and hopes it keeps working this well over the long haul.  I’m glad I tried it.  I still retain my skepticism regarding the popularity of experimenting on children using various over-the-counter remedies.  But I also think that when a problem gets severe enough, trying remedies used by a large network of trustworthy individuals is an appropriate step.  The bottom-line, for me, is to remember that all these drugs on the market are, above all else, powerful and incompletely understood.  It’s not something to play around with “just in case it works.”  But taking a cautious, rational approach can allow us skeptics to make use of these drugs, while still preserving the long-term welfare of our children.