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Can A Yoga Mat Cure Insomnia?

What happens when your son with autism can’t sleep.

I had it good. 

My son was sleeping through the night on a regular basis. That meant that I was getting a full night’s sleep every night for the first time since I became a dad. It felt wonderful to wake up feeling refreshed every morning.

And then we .

He has not slept through the night since. 

We are now back to hearing the familiar in the middle of the night. Sometimes Kai has “interesting” things to say then. 

One recent night, he knocked at 11:30 p.m. That meant that I had been asleep for less than an hour.  I accompanied back to his bedroom and put him back to bed.  Knowing he would keep coming out again if I did not stay with him, I laid down in the extra bed in his room. 

But he didn’t fall back to sleep.  He spent the next hour complaining that he could not sleep. I sympathized with him, when I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself.

I finally thought to give him melatonin, which must have helped as he eventually fell asleep.

But just a couple hours later, around 3 AM, I awoke to the sound of his voice.

“Dad, where is the yoga max?”

Huh? Yoga what? Why is my son thinking of a yoga mat at three in the morning?

I questioned him about it, and he indicated that he wanted to cover his eyes because “those things” were bothering him.

I couldn’t figure out what he was talking about. My son has come a long way with his speech but describing things is still not one of his strengths.

“What things are bothering you?” I asked. 

“THESE THINGS!”

He was pointing, but I could not tell where he was pointing, and did not see anything that should bother him. 

Is it something on the wall?  “NO!”  Is it something on the ceiling? “NO!”  Where is it? 

“RIGHT HERE!” he screamed.

I held my hand right in front of his finger.  “Here?” I asked.  “YES!” he said.  But I didn’t see anything there.

When I recounted the story later to a psychologist at his school, she thought it might have been that he was in a partial dream state and still seeing something from his dream. I had never heard of that, but thought that was more reassuring than the idea that he was hallucinating.

While it was happening, though, I was clueless as to what was going on. I did finally figure out that he wanted something to cover his eyes so that he would no longer see whatever it was that he thought he was seeing. 

So, I rolled up a long-sleeve shirt and made a blindfold for him. 

And that settled him down. He finally fell asleep. For a few hours, anyway.

At 6 a.m., he was awake again. He sounded chipper and eager to start his day. I felt like I hadn’t slept at all.

But why did he ask for a yoga mat?

Later, as I thought about our 3 a.m. conversation, I realized that I had misunderstood what Kai was asking for. He sometimes mispronounces words by reversing the ‘k’ and the ‘s’.  So, he said “yoga maks” (sounds like ‘max’) which I assumed was “yoga mat” when he really was trying to say “yoga mask.”

But what in the world is a yoga mask?

My wife knew.

A few weeks ago, we won a gift basket after attending a Family Day event at the . One of the items in the basket was an eye pillow. I had no idea what it was, but my wife demonstrated to us how you could put it over your eyes to help you relax. She said that it is often used at the end of her yoga classes to help everyone meditate.

I had forgotten all about it, but it must have stuck in Kai’s mind. When he was having trouble sleeping, he had the smarts to ask for it. If only his dad had the smarts to remember it.

It is amazing what you can learn about your child in the middle of the night. It almost makes it worth losing sleep over. 

Almost. 

Now please excuse me while I use the yoga mask to help me take a nap.

Ravana March 07, 2012 at 01:25 AM
I'm curious about what "these things" were that were distracting him so badly. I'm wondering if he is A) over focusing on his phosphenes (those stars and swirls of light you see when you close your eyes) or B) having optic migraines or C) seeing floaters. I think you should ask him to draw the things for you.
Yuji Fukunaga March 07, 2012 at 03:03 AM
I will ask him to do that and see if he can. Words are hard for him but he might be able to describe it in pictures. Thanks for the suggestion, Ravana.
Jenny Stringer March 08, 2012 at 05:20 AM
He's adorable! Your sleepless nights sounds like the nights we have over here. I love my 'yoga mask' for sleeping too - I'm glad you figured it out. Sweet dreams to all of you! ; )
Yuji Fukunaga March 08, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Thank you, Jenny! I think I need to get my very own 'yoga mask.' Hope you aren't having too many sleepless nights!

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