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How to Get Your Kid to Sleep in Their Own Bed

Bedtime can be a stressful time of the day for both children and their parents. Getting your child to sleep in their own bed at night can be quite the challenge. Figuring out what works best for you and your child can be exhausting and may require a trial-and-error process. Sleep Blog

If you are searching for ideas to help your child sleep in their own bed at night, you may be interested in exploring some of the options below:

Bedtime routine

  • A bedtime routine is extremely important if you are having a difficult time getting your child to stay in their own bed. It may be helpful to have them take a warm bath, put on their pajamas, brush their teeth and pick out a book, as well as a stuffed animal to sleep with before getting into bed. Establishing a before-bed routine will reduce your child’s stress levels and assist with falling asleep, staying asleep throughout the night and waking up feeling refreshed. Many children benefit from a visual schedule, so that they can follow a step-by-step picture sequence of their routine.
  • During the hour or so before bed, make sure your child engages in calming activities. Activities that are alerting or stressful for your child can make the transition into bedtime more difficult. Examples of calming activities may include guided meditation, listening to calming music, yoga, drawing or reading a book.
  • Keep in mind that consistency is key! It is important to establish a routine and stick with it, even if you may not be noticing immediate results.

Gradual transition

  • Be sure to give your child ample warning time before bedtime approaches. Moreover, do not suddenly tell your child that it is time for bed while they are in the middle of their favorite activity. It is beneficial to give them a reminder that bedtime is approaching, roughly an hour before they should be asleep, with consistent warnings until it is time to go to sleep. If your child has not yet mastered the concept of time, using a timer can assist with this.

Bedtime fading

  • Another option is a concept called “bedtime fading.” This is putting your child to sleep somewhat later than their usual bedtime, so that they are more tired and fall asleep faster. After doing this for a few days, you can gradually shorten the time down closer to their actual bedtime. For example, if bedtime is typically 8 p.m., put your child to bed at 8:30 for a few days. Then 8:15 and so forth, until you get back down to 8. This allows them to gradually learn to fall asleep alone, especially if they prefer to have a parent with them in the room in order to fall asleep.
  • Your child may also benefit from keeping their bedroom door open. A child may feel better falling asleep on their own if the door is open at least halfway. If they do not stay in their bed, the door gets closed. You can also try using a nightlight to increase their level of comfort while they are trying to fall asleep.
  • Gradually moving yourself out of the room may also be beneficial. Explain to your child that you will stay on the floor next to them until they fall asleep. The following night on a chair nearby, etc. After a few days, the goal will be to phase yourself out of their room.

Reward system

  • A reward system works well for many children, especially during bedtime. If your child lays in their own bed without coming out, they can earn a breakfast treat or pick a prize out of a bin of options such as stickers or toys of your choice. You can even place that reward on a shelf in their room, so they know it is there for them in the morning. If your child comes out of bed throughout the night, they do not receive a reward; however, can try again the next night. It is best not to bring too much attention to the fact that they were unable to achieve the reward and focus more on earning it for the following day.

Re-direction

  • The first time your child gets up from their bed, take them by their hand, walk them back to bed and calmly state that it is bedtime and they need to go to sleep. The second time, do the same thing but just say the word “bedtime.” If it happens again, say nothing and silently walk your child back to bed. The less talking, the better, as to bring less attention to the situation.

Praise your child

  • Saying your final “goodnight” should be brief. You may want to discuss how your child’s day went and what will take place tomorrow. Praising your child for something he or she did during the day that you were proud of them for will help them to fall asleep on a positive note.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonDeerfieldLincolnwoodGlenviewLake BluffDes PlainesHinsdale and Mequon! If you have any questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140!

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yoga for a better bedtime

Yoga For A Better Bedtime

Today’s guest blog by Erin Haddock, owner of Five Keys Yoga, explains how to have a better bedtime with your children using yoga.

During a busy school year, sleep routines become of utmost importance in keeping energy levels and mood balanced in both kids and adults.  Yoga is renowned for its ability to relax the body and the mind.  As a Yoga Therapist, I have seen many people start practicing yoga and improve their sleep.  As yoga is a tool that can benefit both kids and parents alike, it is important that parents practice these exercises with their child.  This builds a relaxing connection and gives the child a yogic role model.

Yoga Moves for a Better Bedtime:

Deep Breathing

Deep breathing is a very popular recommendation, for good reason.  Deep, slow breaths trigger theYoga For A Better Bedtime relaxation response and slow our heart rate.  The mind is connected to the body through the breath, so deep breaths also keep the mind calm and content.  My favorite deep breathing exercise for kids is to have them imagine that there is a balloon inside their body.  When they breathe in, they fill the balloon and when they breathe out, the balloon empties.  After getting comfortable with this image, ask them to slowly fill the balloon in three smaller breaths.  Breath one fills the belly, breath two fills the chest, breath three fills the balloon all the way up, and then slowly let the air out of the balloon.  Repeat this breath at least two times, working up to ten or more repetitions.

Gentle Stretches

Stretching is a great way to release tension that has accumulated in the body over the day and prepare it for sleep.  Certain yoga poses energize the system and others relax it, so it is important to keep a before bed yoga practice slow, to allow the mind to unwind.  Forward bends are particularly helpful, as they stimulate the vagus nerve – a deep nerve that induces the relaxation response through activation of the parasympathetic nervous system.  A simple sequence I like to practice before bed includes:

  1. Reach to the stars: Start by standing with your child, relaxed but tall.  Reach your arms overhead so that your palms face inward, toward one another.  Start by reaching your right arm a little higher than the left, keeping both feet rooted to the floor.  Reach as high as you can for the stars, then relax your right arm, so that both arms are overhead, facing inward again.  Now reach your left arm high to try and touch a star, then relax.  Repeat this once more with each arm and then relax your arms down by your sides.  When your breathing has returned to normal, reach both arms up again.  Try to touch the stars with both arms at once and then reach your arms forward and down, to touch your toes.  It is a good idea to bend your knees slightly, especially if you feel any pain in your back.
  2. Gentle Twist: Sit on the floor with your legs crossed.  You can sit on a blanket or cushion if this is uncomfortable.  Sit up tall but relaxed and breathe in.  As you exhale, bring your left hand to your right knee and your right hand on the floor next to you, as you twist your belly and chest to the right, gently looking right or closing your eyes.  As you breathe in, instruct your child to imagine all the positive things that will happen tomorrow entering his or her body.  As you breathe out, imagine all the less than positive things that happened today leave her or his body.  Breathe like this a few times.  Inhale to bring your body back to center and then repeat on the other side.
  3. Child’s Pose: Child’s pose can be a very soothing pose, allowing us to draw our attention inward.  Kneeling, bring your toes together, as you sit your bum on your heels.  Lean forward and release your torso over your thighs, relaxing your head to the floor and arms down by the side of your body with your palms facing up.  If this feels claustrophobic, move your arms overhead, with your elbows on the floor.  Feel your breath as it moves your back and the sides of your body.
  4. Legs Up the Wall: This pose can be practiced in the sequence above or on its own.  Putting your legs up the wall is very relaxing and feels great!  Make sure that your bum is near enough to the wall, so you feel no strain in your back or legs.  Bending the knees slightly can further relax the body.  You may also try placing a folded blanket or small pillow under your bum and low-back or under your head and neck.  Try to make your body as comfortable as possible.  Focus on slow, deep breaths moving the belly.  Stay here for 30 seconds or longer.  Lie flat on the floor for a few breaths before standing up.

Click here to learn more about Five Keys Yoga.

NSPT offers services in BucktownEvanstonHighland ParkLincolnwoodGlenview, Lake Bluff and Des Plaines. If you have questions or concerns about your child, we would love to help! Give us a call at (877) 486-4140 and speak to one of our Family Child Advocates today!

The Sleep Discrepancy: How Much Sleep We Need and What We Actually Get

Sleep is incredibly vital to our everyday health.  The questions of why we sleep and in the manner we do (consolidated to approximately eight hours) has been accumulating and theories surround its “cleansing” and “restoring” properties have been coming to light.

Theories on Why We Sleep:

One theory suggests that sleep helps to clear our brains of unwanted toxins (Xie, L., Kang, H., Xu, Q., Chen, M., Liao, Y., Thiyagarajan, M., O’Donnell, J., Christensen, D.J., Nicholson, C., Iliff, J.J., Takano, T., Deane, R., & Nedergaard, M., 2013).

An additional theory hypothesizes that our brains have a limited capacity based on a 24-cycle which can only be restored through sleep (Nauert, 2010).  So, if we fall short an hour or two every night, you can imagine the cumulative effect on our cognitive functioning!

Why Are We Sleeping Less Than Before?

Nonetheless, the fact remains that we are all getting fewer hours of sleep than in generations before. Why?  Reasons can be explained by our longer work days that often continue well beyond the time we arrive home, easy access to distracting (albeit entertaining) modes of technology, more events and activities to attend, and an increasing academic workload for junior high and high school students, to name a few.

How Much Sleep Do We Really Need and How Much Are We Actually Getting?

In the school years (6-12), the recommended duration of sleep is between 11 to 12 hours.  Yet the incidence of sleep problems may be as common as 30-40% in children at any one time (Fricke-Oerkermann, L., Pluck, J., Schredl, M., Heinz, K., Mitschke, A., Wiater, A., & Lehmkuhl, G., 2007).  While likely to be transient and not in need of professional care, when the problem is persistent and clearly interferes with the child’s functioning, intervention is warranted.  It is best to begin with your pediatrician who can determine whether Melatonin (an over-the-counter supplement with sleep-enhancing properties), cognitive-behavior therapy, and/or a sleep study to rule-out medical conditions are warranted.

What About Teens and Sleep?

As I have mentioned in my previous blog: Teens and Sleep-How Technology Plays a Role in Restless Nights, adolescents are notorious for their poor sleeping habits and insufficient sleep.  While it is recommended that teens get 9 to 9.25 hours of sleep per night, the reality is closer to 7 hours on weekdays and 8.5 hours on weekends.  Clearly, these teens are not “catching up” on non-school days, creating an ever-increasing cumulative deficiency.  If you suspect that your teen is struggling with optimal sleep and is being negatively impacted as a result, first consider whether environmental factors (e.g., late-night cell phone use, late-night homework and study sessions, overscheduled nighttime activities, etc.) may be contributing and could be adjusted to make sleep a priority.  When this is not successful, recommendations are similar to those for school-age children and include speaking with your pediatrician about effective treatment options (Melatonin or other sleep-enhancing agents, cognitive-behavior therapy, and/or a sleep study to rule-out medical conditions).

To Summarize:

The fact is that our society is one that values hard work, grueling academic schedules, and an abundance of extra-curricular activities, which ultimately end up harming us when it comes to sleep.  It is time for the focus to be placed on sleep once again so that we are in a position to raise healthy adults who will pass on this wisdom.

Need help getting your family’s sleep on track?  Meet with our sleep specialist.

The Importance of Sleep in Adolescence

Sleep is vital for everyone.  Many children and adolescents do not get enough sleep on a nightly basis.  Research has demonstrated that there are some major concerns with an adolescent’s social and academic behavior when he or she does not get enough sleep.

There have been several studies examining later school start days in which the adolescents are able to get more sleep due to later morning awakenings and the positive results with their academic and behavioral functioning (Beebe, 2011).

These studies indicated that these adolescents who are able to attain more sleep demonstrate the following:

  • Less subjective and physiological sleepiness
  • Improved high school enrollment stability
  • Better attendance among the least stable students
  • Less tardiness
  • Fewer automobile accidents
  • Fewer sick days

Anytime an adolescent exhibits concerns with academic, social, emotional, or behavioral functioning, it is always recommended to assess that individual’s amount and quality of sleep.  Click here to read more on how a lack of sleep affects children.

If you have concerns about your teen’s sleep, contact our neuropsychology department for more information.

Reference: Beebe, D. (2011).  A brief primer on sleep for pediatric and clinical neuropsychologists.  Child Neuropsychology.

7 Ways to End Bedtime Battles

Bedtime battles are a common issue among many parents with young children. However, putting your child to bed atend bedtime battles night can become an enjoyable time where you can wind down and spend some quality time with your child. By following a few simple guidelines, the bedtime routine can turn into a more enjoyable experience for the whole family.

7 Tips for a Smooth Bedtime:

  1. Keep the Time for Bed Consistent, and Create a Nightly Routine to Follow – Children respond really well to routines, and it will help them learn what is expected each night.  It will also make the whole bedtime process easier for everyone.
  2. Avoid the Use of Electronics the Last Hour Leading Up to Bedtime – Instead of your child playing video games or watching a movie, have her engage in more calming activities such as reading, coloring or taking a bath before bed.
  3. Gradually Transition Into Bedtime – Do not suddenly tell your child that it is time for bed. Instead, give warnings that bedtime is approaching starting about 45 minutes before she needs to be asleep, and then remind your child again 15 minutes before she needs to be asleep.  Continue to give warnings right until it’s time for bed.  If your child does not yet fully understand the concept of time, you can use a timer to help.
  4. Always Remain Firm but Calm – Never negotiate when you child does not want to go to bed, or if your child gets out of bed repeatedly. Calmly tell your child that it is time for sleep, and lead her back to her bed. In this situation, the less talking, the better.
  5. Adjust Nap Schedules if Necessary – If you notice that your child does not appear tired during her regular bedtime, consider adjusting her nap schedule or eliminating naps altogether.
  6. Give Your Child Choices During the Bedtime Routine – When children have choices, it gives them some degree of control.  This sense of control is likely to make them more compliant. Examples of choices that can be given at bedtime include what books to read, which pajamas to wear, or how many stuffed animals to keep in bed.
  7. Teach Your Child to Fall Asleep Alone in Her Own Bed -These are good skills to teach at an early age.  If your child begins to fall asleep only when a parent is in the room, or only when she is in her parent’s bed, this can become a habit that is difficult to break. Teaching independent sleep early will help alleviate many future bedtime struggles.

Click here for advice on how to deal with night terrors.  For more information on healthy sleep habits, contact our behavior therapy team.

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Sleep Deprivation in Children and 5 Tips on How to Get Your Child to Sleep

Sleep is one of the most important activities in your child’s day but it is often overlooked as such. It is as essential as food, water, and child sleepingsafety and vital for adequate physical and cognitive development.

How much sleep does your child need? Often more than we typically expect, school-age children need 10-12 hours, with younger children needing the most, and adolescents needing 9-10 hours of sleep per night to function optimally. If your child is not getting this on a regular basis, they can become sleep-deprived. When this is prolonged, a number of problematic issues can arise, including problems focusing, mood dysregulation, and risk for falling behind in school.

How do you know if your child is sleep-deprived? Some of the signs include:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness (e.g., falling asleep in the car, wanting to take naps)
  • Needing to drag your child out of bed in the morning
  • Waking up irritable and unrested
  • Problems falling asleep at night (more than 30 minutes)
  • Sudden change in emotions or behavior

Here are some tips to help your child sleep and for your entire family to get the rest they need:

  • Dim the lights: Our sleep cycle is regulated by light so try turning off or dimming lights around the house 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Avoid the “second wind:” Tune into your child in order to find the time when they begin to slow down and become tired. If this opportunity passes, children may become more hyperactive and difficult to settle.
  • Routine is key. Keep it simple and short (less than 30 minutes)
  • Oftentimes children will need help settling down. When other strategies have not worked, you may want to talk to your pediatrician about Melatonin, an over-the-counter supplement.
  • And finally, make bedtime a time in which to look forward. Use it as an opportunity to unwind from the day and bond with your child.

If you suspect that your child may not be getting enough sleep, and your attempts to alter the problem have not helped, talk with your doctor or schedule an appointment with one of our behaviorally-trained social workers and experts.

Get your Child Ready for 1st Grade

For many children going to 1st grade is a huge milestone.  More hours spent in school, higher expectations for academic, behavior,  social skills, and more peer pressure.Child in First Grade

Here are some tips to parent these kids as “right” as you can before 1st grade:

Academics

  • Prepare your child with some online fun academics, flash cards, or any workbook for 1st grade readiness;  but make it fun!  10 minutes per day is enough! You can even try KUMON math and reading to get them strong in basics for math and reading.  This will also prepare them with homework.
  • Strengthen up any weaknesses your child may have in academics. If they need a little reading help, use the following tips in this blog. If they need some number work, try flashcards, or try a tutor, but even just 10 minutes a day can make a huge difference in their self esteem about academics.
  • Get your child tested now if you detect any challenges. Don’t wait for the teacher to say something at conferences!  Go get a good neuropsychological exam and you will know what strengths and challenges your child has and have an opportunity to grow them.
  • Use a daily schedule even in first grade for time management and learning appropriate skills.

Behavior

  • Make sure your child knows how to follow rules, understands boundaries, and knows the expectations of first grade children.  This includes raising hands, taking turns, staying quiet and getting involved/participation, etc.
  • Get your child some support if behavior is an issue.  There are social groups, social workers, books, all kinds of tools to help out there!
  • Your child needs to know what YOU expect of him and what your consequences  are at home.
  • Make sure your family gets proper sleep and food daily.

Social skills/Peer Pressure

  • Make play dates for your child and help model proper 1st grade skills.
  • Join a community playgroup/social group at a local clinic, park district or religious organization.
  • If you suspect something is still off about his social skills, get him evaluated and he can practice his skills with the right support.
  • Make sure to keep your child engaged and talkative with you so you can help him through the tough and great times of 1st grade.

Good luck!

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“Can you check under my bed for monsters?”: DOs and DON’Ts to Help Children Who are Afraid of the Dark

Teeth brushed? Check. Pajamas on? Check. Story read? Check. Tucked in? Check. Search the closets for monsters? Should you or shouldn’t you? Manychild scared in bed children are afraid of the dark, and these fears becomes especially present during bedtime, when they are alone with their thoughts of monsters, ghosts, or other scary creatures that lurk in the dark. Children may also have difficulties differentiating between fantasy and reality, especially if they hear scary stories at school or see monsters on television. Implementing a consistent bedtime routine takes time and energy, and when children are afraid of the dark, this routine can become stressful for everyone involved. As parents, listening to your children’s fears and empathizing with them, creating appropriate accommodations, and empowering your children are ways to help them with their fears.

Do’s and Don’ts to Help Children Who Are Scared of the Dark:

Listen, normalize, and empathize 

DO: Listen to your children’s concerns with an open, warm, nonjudgmental stance. They will be more likely to share their fears with you if they feel supported. Express curiosity about your children’s fears to gain an understanding of where their fears may have come from. This can help you reassure your children. For example, if they saw a show on television that had scary monsters, you can explain that television is pretend and different from real life.

DO: Help your children feel accepted by explaining that everyone has fears, even adults! Reassure your children by explaining that even though people feel afraid sometimes, they can overcome their fears. Children may feel embarrassed or hopeless about their fears; knowing that everyone has fears and that there are steps they can take to overcome them can help children feel reassured and hopeful.

DO: Empathize with your children’s concerns even if their fears are irrational. Let your children know that it is okay to feel scared.

DON’T: Minimize your children’s fears. Saying “You have nothing to be afraid of” or “That is silly! There are no such things as monsters!” can make your children feel embarrassed. Minimizing your children’s fears can also stop them from opening up to you in the future.

DON’T: Reinforce your children’s fears. Checking for ghosts or monsters, for example, shows children that you think they exist too, which can exacerbate their concerns. Instead, check for items that do exist. For example, open a closet and say, “Look! There are clothes and shoes in here, just like in the day” rather than “There are no monsters!”

Create appropriate accommodations

DO: Help your children feel safe at night. Problem solve with them to see what they think will help them feel safe. This process can also help them feel in control and brave. Asking, “What do you think you can do to feel safe at night?” is a great place to start. Appropriate accommodations include listening to a favorite bedtime story, sleeping with a special blanket or stuffed animal, and using a nightlight.

DO: Add these accommodations to your children’s bedtime routines in a consistent way. If children know they can expect a goodnight kiss, a special stuffed animal, and a nightlight every night, they can feel safe and comfortable.

DON’T: Allow your children to sleep in your bed. As tempting as this may be and as much as your children may want to sleep in your bed, showing your children that they can feel safe and sleep in their own beds is very important. Letting your children sleep in your bed can send the message that their fears are legitimate and can, in turn, reinforce and maintain their fears.

Expose and Empower

DON’T: Pressure your children into exposure they are not ready for. Facing their fears without a plan or comfort can make children feel even more afraid.

DO: Help your children overcome their fears by gently exposing them to the dark in a fun way. For example, you can play games in the dark, such as flashlight tag, so your children can associate the dark with an enjoyable game.

DO: Give praise when your children are able to sleep in the dark through the night. In the morning, you can say, “I’m so proud of you! Even though you were scared, you slept by yourself in the dark all night! I know you can do it again tonight.” You can also offer praise at night, by saying, “I like how you are trying to be brave and sleep in your bed. I know you can do it!”

What have you tried to help your children who are afraid of the dark? What has worked? What has not worked? Please share with us!

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How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Child

Many parents struggle with issues related to getting their children to sleep and helping them to stay asleep. I have probably been asked the question “How much sleep does my child need?” more than any other question in my career. Parents are frequently more aware of the impact of their child’s sleep onSleepy Child their own functioning when they find themselves awake for the third night or more in a row trying to deal with onset or maintenance insomnia in their little ones. Adults are quick to perceive the daytime fatigue, poor mood and declining cognitive skills in themselves following poor sleep.

Typically, daytime fatigue is a less commonly reported side effect in young children following decrease sleep. More common complaints include hyperactivity, behavioral problems and subtle learning difficulties. In fact, studies have shown consistently that children who sleep one hour or more less than their required total sleep time each night have twice the rates of ADHD, three times the rate language and spatial deficits and significantly lower scores on measures of sustained attention.

Why sleep is critical to kids:

One of the reasons sleep is so critical to the developing brain is that this is a period where many hormones, such as human growth hormone, are released. Disruptions in sleep cycles can lead to inadequate hormone regulation, which has enormous impacts on
development. In addition, REM sleep, which is critical for consolidation of new learning, makes up a higher percentage of total sleep time and deficits in this area can impact learning and school performance. Sleep is not simple a passive, restful process, but rather a period of the lifecycle devoted to ensuring adequate development.

Total amount of sleep children need:

While the individual needs of a child can vary, total sleep time (including naps):

• First year is 13-14 hours per day

• Ages 3-8 require about 10-12 hours

• Adolescence, around 9-10 hours.

In fact, though adolescents experience a “phase shift” (they stay up later and want to sleep in later) during their teens, their need for sleep varies only slightly from younger children and the rates of daytime fatigue due to decreased sleep become more apparent. In fact, in a large scale study, high school students reported the greatest fatigue in classes before 10:00am and their grades in these classes (regardless of the subject) where significantly lower in 55% of the students. In addition, 25% reported falling asleep in class the previous week.

Reasons why your child may be staying up late:

With the increasing data on long-term deficits in cognitive and behavioral performance in young children with inadequate sleep and correlational data of declining grades in sleep deprived teens, one would think that more emphasis would be placed on ensuring healthy sleep habits in children. However, the data suggests otherwise.

• Increased homework

• Demanding parental work schedules

• After-school activities have lead to later nights for many children.

• Conditions such as sleep disordered breathing, some allergy medications, restless limbs

• Poor sleep habits

Most, if not all sleep problems are treatable with good routines and habits, addressing underlying causes of sleep disruption and environmental changes. If your child has problems getting to sleep, staying asleep, arising too early or snoring, please contact a specialist. These are not problems to be ignored or taken lightly.

How To Calm Your Child Down Before Bed

Bedtime can be a challenging process for parents and children alike. Many children have a difficult time calming their bodies down before they go to sleep – their engines are often going too fast around bedtime, and this can cause frustration for everyone involved. Here are some strategies that parents and caregivers can use to make bedtime easier.

Calming Strategies for BedtimeCalm Sleeping Boy

  • Use a visual schedule for the bedtime routine so that the child knows what to expect and can feel more organized.
  • Incorporate heavy work activities in the bedtime routine such as wheelbarrow walking; animal walks (e.g. bear walk, crab walk) or have your child help with evening chores like wiping the table after dinner, carrying the dishes, or putting heavier items away in the cupboard.
  • Make your child into a “sandwich” or “hot dog” by wrapping their body tightly in a big blanket and applying deep pressure with a big hug.
  • Dim the lights and play quiet music before bed to calm Read more