Sleep Problems and the Heart

Posted on June 22, 2011 · Posted in Parenting, Sleep

We have been discussing how to respond to children who are awake in the middle of the night. One important consideration is to be clear that the behavioral issues with our children are always connected to  hearts—their hearts and our hearts. In other words, all the behaviors occurring throughout the day are not random, disconnected events. They all have to do with God—and with your heart. The upset your son had with his little sister in the morning is somehow connected with anger at the dog in the afternoon. It may even impact his ability to get to sleep that night. This is even more to the point if you are unaware of the problems with his sister or the dog when bedtime comes.

If this seems like an overstatement, think about marital problems you have experienced. If your husband was inconsiderate of you with choices he made last weekend and still has not figured that out, does that affect your relationship with him today? Perhaps it even affects your ability to sleep? Of course it does. It is no different with children. Just because we might think our child’s problems are  small compared to ours doesn’t mean your child thinks so.

For clarity, it is important to make sure that you are aware of physical issues that could impact your children’s sleep. Is the temperature in the room appropriate? Is the child sick? Are there noises he can hear in his room that are not heard in other places in the home? As you know, you must always be alert for these types of factors that contribute to a child’s restlessness.

God is explicit in Deuteronomy 6:5-7 and Ephesians 6:1-4 that he is to be the center of all that happens in life. Your children need to hear about God all of the time, because he is in the middle, in the milieu of their life, 24/7.  It is a fearful thing to face the issues of daily life without an awareness of the nearness of God (Psalm 73). This is God’s direction for parents:  raise your children with his words being first in your heart. Look again at two key passages of Scripture:

Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. 6 These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. 7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6:5-7

Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4

As Proverbs 6:20-24 teaches, the things of God are to guard our children in every moment of life, whether they are waking or sleeping. There is no magic formula that says “memorize these verses and your children will sleep happily ever after.” But you must be concerned—always, at every opportunity, to show God to your children no matter what the circumstance or the hour.

Whatever particular techniques or strategies you use to help your children go to sleep, they must all be rooted in bringing your relationship with God to bear in the specific situation. Each family is different. Each child has a different set of life experiences. But what is most constant and most significant is that God is always there, providing opportunities to show that you love him more than anyone or anything  else. This is the great blessing to give to your children when you rise up, even at three a.m.

Thanks again for your interest in the blog – as always, let me know your thoughts.

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Jay Younts
John A. (Jay) Younts is the Shepherd Press blogger, and is a ruling elder serving at Redeemer Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Moore, South Carolina. He has written Everyday Talk, Everyday Talk About Sex & Marriage, Finding the Right Track, the In Touch With Paul stewardship series, and What About War. He has studied and taught about biblical childrearing for 30 years. He and his late wife Ruth have five adult children.