Last week, I had a great opportunity to attend a presentation by Tom Rath, the author of such books as StrengthsFinder 2.0, Eat Move Sleep, and, most recently, Are You Fully Charged?

And oh man, for that last one, I am absolutely not. Fully charged, that is. I’m more like the battery of an old phone where the promised 12+ battery life at purchase date has dropped down to an hour on a good day if you’re not doing anything rigorous with it. . .like turning on the screen.

According to Tom Rath, a person who doesn’t get enough sleep over several days is functioning at about the same level as someone with .08 blood alcohol level. Based on my current tally of days getting enough sleep vs. laughing in despair at that thing called a bed, and assuming Tom’s research is right, I’d say I’m functioning about at the level of mild alcoholic without once touching the bottle (except to make delicious Sticky Toffee Pudding).

For example, let me tell you about last night, which is the real reason for this rant. Finley sucks with transitions, which is common for children with autism. We’re not talking a day or two of frustration or whining of boredom after school ends. We’re talking about full blown Mike Tyson in the Ring tantrums. Tell him to do something, and you’re equally as likely to be met with screams, cries, or punches to whatever body part is closest to him. We’re lucky nobody’s lost an ear.

Part of this difficulty leads him refusing to go to bed. He’s never been good at going to sleep on his own (which is likely exacerbated by the anxiety running through my family’s veins), but we’ve recently taken it to the next level. On a good night, he’ll stare at the wall for well over an hour with eyes wide open before he’s finally whisked off to unconsciousness. On a typical night, you have to add a whole bunch of talking, playing with random toys, having random toys taken away, jumping up and down, telling terrible jokes, fidgeting like crazy, spouting professions of love, doing experiments, taking apart electronics, etc. Sleep hits closer to hour 2 of the bed time process.

If Amy or I try to leave his general vicinity during this process, he’ll know. Screaming will ensure, with as much property damage as he can inflict.

For anyone thinking, “Why don’t you just do X, Y, or Z? That worked with my child,” stop. It won’t work. Trust me. We’ve tried it. Unless it’s giving your child a half glass of scotch or a brownie from the local dispensary, in which case, we’ll pass.

Last night was taken to new extremes. He wouldn’t calm down in his room. He wouldn’t calm down in our bed. He wouldn’t calm down watching shows he really shouldn’t watch (that was the point we gave up and started watching TV).

To make all this worse, since Finley has a track record of status epilepticus, we can’t just let him fall asleep wherever while we lock ourselves in our room and get some rest (or lock him in his room so we can get some rest). His bed has a special camera that detects his seizures, so we’ve finally gotten comfortable enough to fall asleep when he’s asleep there. Anywhere else–unless it is physically right next to me–and I literally can’t sleep worrying that he’ll collapse with another seizure that will almost certainly kill him if not stopped with medication.

Remember me mentioning that family anxiety? There’s a perfect example of it at work in me.

So last night, while I was struggling with a cold, I finally got him down at sometime between 12:30 am and 1 am.

Which sucks.

If it was a one night thing, that would be fine. I could handle it. But this is just an extreme example of what we’ve been going through since he realized school was ending and all of his teachers and aides wouldn’t attend to him every day. Average time for him to actually sleep is probably 10:30 pm, with a bedtime set around 8 pm.

I like to look on the bright side, though. The bright side of this is that I get a very clear comparison between how my mind works on a good day versus days like this. I’m not sure how it compares to drinking, but it’s definitely not good for my productivity.

So maybe Tom Rath has a point. Maybe I should read his books. Though I doubt it’ll offer too much help on keeping a special needs child in bed.