What my epileptic son can teach the armed forces about sleep.

Sleep deprivation has been widely aknowledged as perhaps one of the finest tools in the interogators repertoire. As a method of torture its effectiveness is matched only by its simplicity. Having once spent somewhere between fifty six and sixty highly active hours on the bounce during my time as a reconnaissance specialist in the armed forces I can confirm its lack of entertainment value. In fact, just forty eight sleepless hours spent in “the cell’s” at Hyde park barracks with a particularly sadistic warrant officer (who entertained himself by using inmates to practice nerve pinches and stress positions ) was plenty to induce headaches, loss of memory and a very short fuse. Some seventeen years later I think I’ve finally learnt an uncomfortable truth when it comes to dealing with the tetchy moods and lack of focus familiar to parents of children with epilepsy….recovery is s..l..o..w, it takes more than a nights sleep to re-balance and replacing mental energy with caffeine will not cut it. Parents of new borns will doubtless be acutely aware of the restless early hour feeds, the relentless broken sleep peirced by merciless crying, yet when my sons little heart rate monitors oversized red digits begin flashing accompanied by the staccato asualt of its blaring alarm, my brain flicks to alert with the electric rapidity of a water sprayed cat. No bleary eyed reaching for a bottle or gentle rocking to a cotton cloud dreaminess. The sensor attached to his toe every night has picked up a change in heart rate, a drop in the predefined threshold that could signal “SUDEP”- sudden death epilepsy. Thankfully his current medication has for the past two or three months reduced these incidences to maybe four or five a month. Mine and my partners 3/2 shift pattern sleeping with him has become negotiable, an extra night or two off here and there. Two seems to be the gold standard in the number of nights to overcome the cumulative effects of a bad few sleeps, that and an abstinence from coffee…..Ministry of defense- you can save yourself some research time and thank my son later.

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