Infants are Such (Sun)Downers

It’s 10:20 p.m. Both my kids are in bed. But really, they’re still running around in my head, one of them saying, “Mom! Watch what I can do! Look at me! Look at me!” and the other just going, “Waaaaah! Waaaah! Waaaah! Waaaah!” I’m not sure which one makes me want more to crack my head open against the wall. It’s sort of a dead heat for now. No, wait. It’s definitely the infant, because while my preschooler’s incessant need for an audience has been quelled by the sandman for the night, my baby is now going on hour four of fussing and fighting sleep. (I have been lying down near him, patting, shusshing, breastfeeding, rocking, blah, blah, blah — for most of that time, and now my husband’s on his shift, because I’m near my breaking point.) The baby does this every night, and every night as we tag-team him through the colic, it drives my husband and me to the brink of insanity.

Why are some babies’ witching hours so much more horrendous and long-winded than others? And more pointedly — a question I intend to ask the Creator when and if we get the chance to meet — why were we blessed with two babies that don’t know how to fall asleep?

Barring any late-night visits from the big J.C. to put things into perspective for me, I have an observation I’d like to have checked out by somebody over at the National Institute for Health:

Alzheimers and dementia patients commonly experience an agitated state in the evening hours — sometimes lasting through a fat portion of the night — that keeps them from falling asleep. As with colic, nobody knows for sure what causes this troubling phenomenon, but its existance is well documented. Called sundowning, the behavior is widely believed to be linked to end-of-the-day exhaustion. Several articles I’ve read say the agitation and sleeplessness associated with sundowning may also be linked to the following:

– an upset in biorhythms, causing the patient to have day/night confusion

– reduced lighting and increased shadows

– disorientation due to the inability to separate dreams from reality when sleeping

What’s equally compelling to me is that the nighttime restlessness associated with sundowning typically peaks in the middle stages of dementia and diminishes as the disease progresses. That’s interesting, considering that the phenomenon of late afternoon and nighttime fussiness that strikes most infants, hitting colicky ones particularly hard, also peaks in the middle stages of infanthood and diminishes as they grow out of the disease that I shall heretofor refer to as Womb Exodus Syndrome.

At any rate, I think I’m going to start telling people that my baby is suffering from the effects of sundowning associated with infant dementia, or I.D. for short, because nobody takes colic very seriously. I’ll just coin a new term to amuse myself through this hideous, hideous stage where nothing, and I mean nothing, soothes our baby to sleep at night. And while I’m at it, I’m going to start calling dementia geriatric colic.

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This entry was posted in babies, colic, motherhood, sleep. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Infants are Such (Sun)Downers

  1. Kim says:

    I have never replied to a blog before, but I just had to now. I know by now your kids are out of this phase, but mine is in it right now! I've been telling people she has sundowners and a joke and it's nice to know someone else out there has the same problem.

  2. Jenny Penny says:

    Kim, thank you for leaving me a note. I am so happy to get a comment on this entry, however old it may be! I really and truly believe that there is such a resemblance between dementia sundowning and colic (or just plain "nighttime fussiness") that there's something to this little theory. Anyway, I am so sorry that you are going through this ugly rite of passage. Not every parents "gets" to go through it, but you will have many who empathize, and I'm among them. It's a difficult experience. You'll get your life back, though. Hang in there.

  3. Ronnie A says:

    Haha. I found this post because I work in Elder Care/Housing, and I was thinking that the “sundowning” seen in dementia patients is so close to the way my pretoddler acts at night. Very funny!

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