A Concerned Mum's Experience
Our little boy is nearly three years old and is only just sleeping through all night. It has been a long arduous journey in which we have tried and tested absolutely every technique known to mankind to make sleep possible. In October 2008, he was diagnosed with Restless Leg Syndrome finally, after about 18 months of long term sleep deprivation for our entire family.
My understanding of Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) is that it generally runs in families and is exacerbated by low iron stores in the body. My boy had a long history of barely eating and eventually became iron deficient. This affected his behaviour, his sleep patterns and also his bowel movements. The gastroenterologist eventually diagnosed this condition of whom I will be forever grateful to.
In 2007 we spent four days at Tresillian to assist with his night time awakenings. This helped initially, however after a few months, he started waking again. I went to our local GP and then paediatrician to seek help. I was advised that I had a challenging child and that his sleep disturbances were entirely behavourial. With three hundred dollars less in my pocket, and no further tests taken, I went home with absolutely no idea of what to do next.
So I began sleeping with my child so that he would wake, see me, feel comforted and go back to sleep again. He didn’t or couldn’t. He would wriggle and toss and turn for three hours every night and then finally go back to sleep. It was like he’d had a strong cup of coffee – he just could not stop moving every part of his body! No behavioural strategies had worked after twelve months of trying so I began looking for alternative methods.
In addition to this, I also had a newborn baby at the time and my husband and I would regularly be living on 1-2 hours of broken sleep/night. I met a lady at playgroup who suggested I try an elimination diet – determined not to do this without the support of a good doctor, I drove well over an hour to Hornsby to see an allergy specialist, who was so overbooked she was unable to see me (despite having an appointment). I began the diet anyway and noticed some improvement in his behaviour, particularly after we replaced his milk with rice milk. After six weeks I went to my GP concerned his bowels were chronically loose. At this stage I realized there was a connection between him having diarrhea and his sleep troubles. A blood test revealed he had very low iron levels.
After what seemed an eternity and several visits to our local baby health clinic, Tresillian, two GP’s, a paediatrician, a kinaestheologist and one attempt with an allergy specialist, we finally could pinpoint the problem. It seemed that when the condition got so bad that physical changes were apparent, it prompted GP’s into action.
My little boy was also slow to speak and within a few weeks of iron therapy he was communicating by words in leaps and bounds. His eating improved and after five months of taking iron everyday, his sleep started to improve and waking in the night became more habitual than anything else. This was easily fixed with the help of Sally Hall.
I am writing this as I am concerned there are several parents who are repeatedly told by health professionals that their child’s night awakenings is behavioural – yet if behavioral strategies don’t work the first time, please suggest to your local GP for him/her to have a blood test. I recently informed a paediatric nurse at our local child health clinic about RLS and she had never heard of it. I found this disturbing.
I am not a medical expert but a desperate mother who on several occasions left the family home in the depths of the night to avoid hurting my precious son. Sleep deprivation is extremely dangerous for families and when parents think it is serious enough to visit doctors after trying several behavioural techniques; it really does warrant further medical investigation.
A good website to visit for further information is: www.rls.org.au/pdf/ChildrenRLS2005.pdf
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