I have a few things rattling around in my brain these days concerning adoption issues. I doubt I'll ever get a chance to write coherently about each of them, so I'll take a shot at thinking out loud over this one: sleep disturbances in internationally-adopted children.
Well, we somehow have escaped that one- but I guess it depends on what you call a sleep disturbance! Pretty much since we've been home (about 6 weeks), Daniel gets up out of his bed sometime between 2-5 am and comes into our room. I pop him in the bed between us, and he goes back to sleep until about 6:30- when he wakes his Mama up with his version of a good morning kiss (something of a cross between a head butt and the happy greeting of a St. Bernard Dog!).
For us, this is not really a problem- we have always been inclined towards the concept of co-sleeping with our kids when they were babies/toddlers- and, indeed, our 8 year old still occassionally visits us in the middle of the night when she needs to. Now, in other families, maybe his behaviour would be considered a sleep problem, but its OK here. My general philosophy is that a child who wishes to co-sleep probably has a genuine emotional need to be met- and sending him or her back to bed alone won't help with that. And, besides, it has only been in recent times that children have had separate rooms to sleep in. In terms of our evolutionary history as humans, co-sleeping has been the norm for a long, long time. It still is in many parts of the world.
Anyways, I started to really think about sleep disturbances in adopted kids recently because I have just heard from a couple of parents, on two different Yahoo groups that I read, who are recently home with their children and who are experiencing a lot of aggravation over sleep (or lack thereof) behaviours in their kids. Then, I remembered something that psychologist and therapist Dee Paddock said about sleep disorders in adopted kids... she seems to believe that these kids' issues are related to their experience of abandonment- which, more than likely, occurred while they were sleeping. Here's the set-up: baby is with birth family one minute, falls asleep, wakes up in a train station among strangers and gets whisked to an orphanage. Life has changed forever. No wonder these kids are anxious about falling to sleep.
Umm... OK. There definitely may be something to the hypothesis that sleep disturbances are due, in part, to adopted kids' deep-rooted anxieties about abandonment. But doesn't it make more sense to also look at some of the possibilities that are buried less deeply in the psyche? (Can you guess that I'm not a big fan of psychoanalysis?)
Like how about the fact that most of our children have slept in a big room, dorm-style, with umpteen other kids? Most of them have probably shared a crib with another small, warm little body. Then, they get adopted and sooo much changes for them... not the least of which is their sleeping arrangements. Once they arrive home, they get gently placed in their cribs in their beautiful nurseries (so lovingly decorated) -and then are expected to go to sleep.
Where is everyone else in the house? Probably not in the nursery. Mom and Dad are likely anxiously tip-toeing around the hall. Where's the sound and, yes, the smell, of 20 other children falling asleep and an "ayi" padding about the room? Where's the little friend you shared your sleep space with? All of it... gone.
I'm not trying to be overly dramatic, but ALL of the falling-to-sleep cues that our children have ever known get changed for them once they get home. Along with everything else in their little lives. So, how could they NOT end up with a sleep disturbance?
I'm sure age, temperament, and the developmental stage that a child is in also has a lot to do with whether the adopted child has trouble with sleep. In our case, our son is 3 years old. He had his own bed in the SWI- but he did share a room. We have those pictures. He still shares a room- with his older sibling. We could have put him in his own room, but we chose not to- at least not yet. He also falls to sleep in a house that is not particularly quiet until at least 10 or 10:30 pm, and, more often than not, there's a dog or a cat (sometimes both!) on the foot of his bed for long stretches of the night. I'm not sure that these things have much to do with the fact that he's been sleeping rather well for a kid whose been home for less than 2 months, but I don't think they're hurting.
Sometimes, I think we just need to look at "problems" from a different angle. Maybe we need to change our ideas about how to get kids to go to sleep and to stay asleep longer. I also know that children need to learn, at some point, to "self-soothe" and cope with sleep on their own. I guess I just feel that that time is later rather than sooner.
Well, speaking of sleep- it's getting late here. Good night! I'm sleepy after writing all this- I can only imagine how tired you all are if you've read to the bottom of this post! That's my rambling for this week.Promise!