Miles To Go Before I Sleep

Last week, I traveled for work. As much as I was going to miss my family, a piece of me was looking forward to the possibility of sleeping through the night.

After we were able to stabilize (but not eliminate) our son’s seizures, we moved him back down to his room, and we’ve gone through a number of devices to be able to see and hear him at night. Our house is made of brick and metal, and the wireless signal is terrible, so most solutions that we’ve tried have been spotty. I still wake up in the middle of the night to find that an app has crashed or that the monitor has lost contact with the camera. My engineering autopilot kicks in, and I reach over and reset the monitor. I always joked that I could, but now find myself literally troubleshooting in my sleep. After the link is back up, I get back in bed and stay just awake enough to make sure I can hear the crackle from the monitor’s speaker before I drift back to sleep.

The first night on the road, my habits stuck. I woke up because it was too quiet and reached for a monitor that wasn’t there. By the third night, I almost slept through until morning…almost. Still, it was the best sleep I’ve had in months. I awoke feeling guilty because I wasn’t home at my digital post keeping my promise to watch over my son.

The night I returned home, I walked in to the house around midnight. I dropped off my bags in the living room and made my way in to the bedroom. I put on my pajamas, brushed my teeth, and made my way in to bed. I was so exhausted that I didn’t realize that my son was also in our bed, sprawled out and taking up most of the space. I climbed in, taking only enough room as to not tumble on to floor. My son woke up, only briefly, enough to say “daddy” with the flash of a smile, before moving closer to me and falling back asleep. I soon followed.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
~ Robert Frost

Really, Who Needs Sleep Anyway?

If you follow me on Twitter (@epilepsy_dad) or Facebook, you might have seen this update recently:

Last night was first night in months where we didn’t get up even once. No seizures that we heard. No nightmares. No insomnia from the meds.

The bags under my eyes, however, are a telling sign that the status update represented an anomaly. Most nights, my wife and I sleep just on the edge of consciousness. The doors between our room and our son’s room are open so that we can hear any sound that he makes. My phone is on my nightstand with the baby monitor app running so we can hear and see him while he sleeps. We’re on watchful guard listening for a seizure, or for him calling out or crying because of a bad dream, or because he just doesn’t want to be alone.

epilepsy sleep tired seizure

On any given night, we might get up between 3 and 10 times, which means we only get a few hours of consecutive sleep at a time. It’s been like this for months. Our informal system has been that whichever one of us that is less asleep will get up, allowing the other to let their guard down a little more and drift a little deeper into sleep. It might only be a few minutes or it might be an hour, but either way, my body welcomes the break and release from constant tension.

When you have a child with epilepsy, especially if their seizures aren’t fully under control, a good night’s sleep is a luxury. Seizures don’t stay in a nice convenient box or stick to a schedule. They happen when they want to happen and, for many people including my son, that can be at night and during the lighter stages of sleep. The kicker is that those times are also when the body and mind desperately want to rest and recuperate and, since the seizures equate to an unrestful sleep, he’s left more tired. When he is overly tired, he’s more likely to have seizures during the day, as well.

I feel like I want to end every post with some variation of “epilepsy is more than just seizures” because it’s the overall theme of our journey so far. Seizures are a part of epilepsy, but there is so much more. There is a lack of sleep. There is a being on constant alert. There is dealing with the stigma, and the uncertainty, and the lack of understanding. There is the inability to explain any of it, to him, to ourselves, and to the outside world. There’s so much to living with epilepsy that it would take too long to list out even a fraction of the ways that it impacts our lives. But right now, my son has gone to bed, and it’s time for me to get whatever bits of sleep that I can. I will hope for another night without one, but I will still listen for his call…a call that I will always and forever answer.