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When a child sleeps poorly.

"Our child is 4 years old. He doesn’t sleep well at night, twists and turns, grinds his teeth in his sleep, wakes up and goes from his bed to ours. What should we do?"

There can be many reasons why a child doesn’t sleep well. One must consider the following conditions: is the child healthy, is he outdoors enough, does he become overexcited during playtime, does he fear darkness, is his bed comfortable and so on. If he goes to daycare, then you must find out what his relationships are like with his peers, with his teacher. All these circumstances are very important.

Sometimes, the child gets a good nap during the day and then sleeps worse at night. On average the child of 3-4 should sleep 10-11 hours. Many children at this age do without a nap. If the child has slept during the day, the interval between the nap and bedtime at night should be no less than 3-3 ˝ hours.

Speaking of recommendations, first of all I will point out the necessity of keeping to a daily schedule. One should put the child to sleep at a regular time. You should spend some time next to him, make the sign of the cross over him and bless him for the coming sleep. Speak softly, kindly, calmly. He may not want to part with you, he may have a subconscious fear of losing his parents, finding himself alone. Hug him, kiss him, make him a comfortable "nest," let him take a beloved toy to bed. If during the day something has not been fully said, if you have punished the child, then you must explain why he was punished and forgive everything. In a word, the situation should be resolved by evening.

And remember: the Lord grants a healthy, deep sleep. Orthodox parents teach their children prayers, the sign of the cross, and the child will not fall asleep until he makes the sign of the cross on himself. He knows that he is protected, that he is not alone: the Lord is with him, the Most Holy Mother of God, his Angel-Protector, multitudes of saints are praying for him, for mother, father and for all Orthodox Christians. The child attends church services, partakes of the Holy Mysteries of Christ. His parents are married in the church; their house is blessed in the name of the Most Holy Trinity; there is a crucifix, icons, a votive, in his room. The child has God’s and parental blessing, on his chest is a cross with which he never parts. This is the internal and external world of a child in an Orthodox home.

You ask what should you do if the child comes to the parents’ bed. First of all, you should be calm. You can offer that he go to the bathroom, and then decide: should he stay until morning or will you take him back to his bed. And in future always be consistent, stick to the original decision.

Concerning the grinding of teeth, this occurs from involuntary contraction of muscles in the jaw and points to sleep that is not deep enough, to the excitability of the child. One can use herbs that serve as sedatives for calming the nervous system. I can recommend glycine, 1-2 tablets a day under the tongue, a spoonful of honey just before sleep, a warm shower before bedtime.

There are audiocassettes with the lives of the saints on sale in churches, reworded for small children. If there is a tape player at home, then it is good to play a soul-healthy recording for the child for 20-30 minutes. If then sleep has not improved, then come for a visit to me or to another specialist.

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