Wellness Wednesday: Understanding the Importance of Sleep

One of the common issues that autistic individuals face is the ability to sleep. I am no casualty of this and for many years have struggled with the ability to procure a good night’s sleep. However, now as an adult I find it imperative that it is essential to do so in order to function through life.

Throughout my childhood, before I got my diagnosis, I struggled many times getting a good night’s sleep. Looking back to why that can be is from having undue anxiety about things the next day or other related issues to cause me excessive worry where my brain would be excessively overactive and lacked the ability to shut down. 

Once after getting the diagnosis at 13, my parents knew this had to be addressed and as such we were referred to a psychiatrist who prescribed medication to not only help in this effort but in other issues of autism such as anger and irritability that are caused relative to not getting sleep.

As such, for nearly two decades, I was religious in taking said medication, knowing it was imperative to ensuring my ability to get a full night’s sleep. However, about four years ago, upon moving out on my own, I had begun to miss doses of this and other medications and as a result entertained the thought where many thought that I “needed” it in order to meet their qualifications. 

I was wrong for not following their advice and for the course of the next few years, nearly losing my job and nearly at the crash of the world of beginning of the demise of losing my first apartment due to circumstances beyond my control, with COVID and stay-at home orders in play, I came to a near mental breakdown from not medicating overall in the course of two separate weeks that almost had my parents, as I was living with them at the time drop me off at emergency room and not look back, I am forever grateful for my therapist that she could be easily reached and could talk me down from my outbursts and I could realize that I needed to get back on the regimen.

Until a few weeks ago, when I would react to my mother, as she has been many times the target of my anger over my life, I have ultimately accepted the importance of taking my medicine once and for all as it is not only needed for my ability to sleep but my other moods. I do not want to make this about medicine, as it affects everyone differently and may not be the common opinion of everyone, but for me, I have accepted that for me it is what works for me to live the life I want to. 

When I do not get the sleep I need, my brain is in overdrive, constantly thinking of thoughts that I have in my headspace. As such it can be hard to shut down from the train of thoughts or having a steady amount of sleep that is needed in order to function the next day. As a result, it makes everyone involved irritable,likewise for the autistic individual they can have more energy than their neurotypical peers and many times struggle harder with getting into a sleep routine. 

For me, I had to realize that in order to start my day at the desired day I wanted to, I need to go to sleep at an earlier time in order to get the outcome I desire and have the medicine properly work in its favor. This was one of the hardest things I had to accept on the journey when I was not properly medicating but was the root of why I had the love-hate relationship that I experienced. I was quick to blame family, professionals, employers, etc. for their “making” me take my medication because I “thought” they wanted me to be a certain way. 

However, I didn’t see what the lack of sleep was doing to my mental and physical state and from the lack of it I was reacting negatively and as such they saw me in a state that they did not see me previously that presented their duty to warn those that thought could be able to get me back in to the right state of mind of understanding that I needed to sleep and as such in most cases, I need my medicine to do that.

Again, what helps one get to and stay to sleep needs to be tailor made and part of a deeply rooted conversation, but if it is affecting those that are around an autistic individual in a negative manner, then it needs to be addressed so that everyone can have a beneficial life and outcome and ultimately, the autistic individual can live their best life.

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