Kai in bedJoseph used to wake up every single night…several times…for several hours at a time.

Night after groggy night.

Year after dreadful year.

It was torture. I nearly went barking mad.

I could easily have become a child abuser. The closest I came was in the middle of one particular night. Joseph had woken and was sitting in his room, playing (loudly) with his toys. I stormed in like a raging alcoholic, grabbed his toys and threw them out of his room, bellowing with all my might. He cried from fear.

Sigh. I am not proud of that moment. But I was almost insane. Truly.

When we went to our first biomedical doctor, I begged — BEGGED — her to give us some drugs to make Joseph sleep at night.

She refused. “Address his gut issues!” she said sternly. “How well do you sleep when your stomach hurts?!!”

The thing is, Joseph always woke up happy and stayed happy, no matter what hour it was. It didn’t seem that his gut was bothering him.

But we took the doc’s advice and addressed his gut issues.

That year he started waking up only once a night instead of two or three or four.

The next year he actually slept through the night now and then. We started to notice a direct correlation between pooping regularly and sleeping regularly.

Now that he poops virtually every day, he will go a month or so sleeping through the night! Then we might have 8 or 9 days of waking up for an hour or so. Then we’re back to sleeping through again.

Is it a virus cycling through that is waking him up? Is it knowing that preschool is coming up? Is his gut still bothering him? Are we doomed to this forever?

As for me, my sleep is still traumatized — thanks for asking. I have given myself permission to continue to use sleeping pills until Joseph makes it through the night for three months straight. After that (if the day ever arrives), I’ll start to wean off of them.

The thing is, sleep is a very primitive, basic need. What specialists and teachers often point to as behavior problems in our kids can often be traced simply to the fact that they are not sleeping well. When a kid (or an adult, for that matter) sleeps well and regularly, you will sometimes see an entirely different kid.

So we’ve come a long way with Joseph, but we’re not all the way there yet.

I once went to a satsang with Kali Ma, a spiritual teacher. She spoke about the different things we take refuge in: alcohol, drugs, chocolate, the internet, etc. Her guru advised her to take refuge in only three things: God, Guru, and satsang (other spiritually-minded people). This was a major growing point in her spiritual life.

I have become sane enough with sleep that, when Joseph wakes up in the night now or pops up at 4:30am, I realize that sleep is not a refuge that I am often allowed. I give it all to God: my fatigue, my energy level, my thwarted desires.

And when I’m open to God like this, I feel Him holding me, giving me strength when I feel I simply can’t make it.

So. Take refuge in God. I like it. I practice it. It works.

And sometimes I take a power nap in the afternoon. 🙂