I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s not a mom or dad who hasn’t struggled with a colicky newborn in the middle of the night or a child fighting sleep when it’s way past their bedtime. While this is typical behavior that children go through as they develop and grow, it can drive a parent batty. Well, there’s an app for that, ya know!
Your Rockin’ Blinks Cheat Sheet:
- Develop healthy sleeping habits with a consistent routine
- Control bedroom lighting and limit screentime at night
- Use mobile apps with research-based methods that help children fall (and stay) asleep
- Carefully weigh the pros and cons of using technology at bedtime
Smartphone apps designed to help parents with their kid’s sleep are becoming more popular than ever. From apps that monitor and track a baby’s sleep to those that tell stories, technology has shown evidence of helping children with relaxation at bedtime. However, finding a balance between incorporating technology and maintaining healthy habits is a challenge for parents. While technology and artificial intelligence is developing fast and supporting “healthy habits” at the same time, electronics can be a negative resource at bedtime.
This guide takes a close look at how children’s sleep apps work. You’ll learn the pros and cons of relying on technology to sleep when screens aren’t recommended at bedtime. Lastly, we provide our top recommendations on the best choice for you. But first, we dive into how to develop healthy sleep habits that help your child sleep better.
Developing Healthy Sleep Habits in Children
Many things can keep a youngin’ from sleeping when they need their rest. For one, their circadian rhythm affects the time when they’re wide awake and when they’re sleepy. Research estimates that a baby develops a circadian rhythm in about three months. This 24-hour cycle of physiological activity requires time to sync with the natural light of daytime and the darkness of nighttime. Just as importantly, there are a number of healthy sleep habits guaranteed to help children sleep more soundly.
Here are a few critical sleep habits to keep in mind:
- Control Bedroom Lighting – Light is a significant factor when it comes to a baby’s “internal sleep clock.” As such, controlling the light in your child’s environment is vital to helping them develop healthy sleeping habits. Ensure your baby is exposed to bright light during daytime hours and keep their room pitch black at nighttime. This helps to sync their body to the earth’s natural light and dark cycles.
- Maintain Consistent Bedtime Routine – A considerable influence on your child’s sleep pattern lies in their routine. An inconsistent or altered daily routine can disrupt their circadian rhythm. Set a time for your child to go to bed based and stick to it. Children’s needs change as they grow — a 2-year-old’s schedule is not the same as a 6-year-old’s schedule — so consider following age-appropriate sleep schedules. Also, incorporate a specific bedtime activity (e.g., taking a bath or reading a book) to signal your child that it’s time to sleep. That way, lights-out time ensures sleeping times and rising times remain consistent, which can help kids sleep longer through the night.
- Creative Positive Bedtime Associations – Children learn to associate specific things with bedtime and naps, which helps them fall asleep. On the other hand, some associations can do more harm than good, such as when a baby gets in the habit of only being able to fall asleep when driven around in the car or being lulled to sleep in a rocking chair. Healthier associations are those the child relies on independently and remain constant through the night. Falling asleep in the same space where your baby will find himself when he wakes up is a positive sleep association.
- Limit Screentime at Night – Nowadays, children grow up watching TV and playing with iPads. It’s a constant struggle to limit electronics that have become a part of everyday life. Using technology too close to bedtime can make it harder for your child to fall asleep. Make a rule restricting screen time until, say, after lunch or dinner. Instead, encourage your child to read a book or quietly play with a toy until it’s time for bed. I know it’s easier said than done, but it’s possible!
What Are Children’s Sleep Apps and How Do They Work?
The infant sleep market is a $325 billion industry that’s been steadily rising over the past several years. You’ll find more and more devices designed to help babies fall (and stay) asleep.
Baby sleep product trends include a focus on functions that:
- Mimic natural sleep-inducing sounds (e.g., mother’s voice)
- Rely on neurological research (e.g., meditation)
- Play music (e.g., scientifically proven lullabies)
- Collect data (e.g., sleep trackers)
Many of these products are multifunction. They may offer additional features besides those that focus on helping a child sleep, such as acting as a baby monitor or family planner. Some are standalone devices, and others work on smartphone or tablet devices.
Our Top Recommendations for Baby Apps
Children sleep apps work in different ways depending on their function. Some are more complex than others. Following is several of the latest free or paid Android and iPhone apps that have become popular with parents with babies.
Calm is one of the most popular web-based and mobile apps (iOS and Android) because it offers programs suited for the entire family. The Calm Kids library features age-appropriate content, including original bedtime stories, lullabies, soundscape music, and meditations. Children will recognize many of their favorite characters, from Peppa Pig to Thomas and Friends. New sleep stories are released several times a month, so your child won’t be limited to listening to the same thing over and over.
The Moshi app for kids can be downloaded for Apple, Android, and Kindle Fire mobile devices. It features hundreds of audio stories for children from infants to 10-year-olds. New ones designed to help your child sleep are added every week. In addition, the app offers a wide assortment of soothing sounds, music, meditations, and moments (special audio clips to help a child calm down). Studies on the use of the app showed that kids fall asleep faster (28 minutes), stay asleep longer (22 minutes), and have a decrease in night wakings (50%).
Slumber is a mobile app for iOS and Android explicitly designed to put you and your child to sleep. It offers an extensive library of four audio options: sleep meditations, soothing sounds (music and soundscapes), calming stories for adults, and children’s stories. The unique thing about this app is that you can add and customize music and background sounds, such as crackling fire or rain.
Bedtime Stories for Kids App
The Bedtime Stories for Kids app is available on Android and features more than 240 tales. The stories include everything from fairy tales to Aesop’s fables. You can set the app to either read the stories to your child or allow you to read the story to them.
The Little Stories: Bedtime Books app for Apple provides a collection of stories for kids to listen to as well. This app lets your child become the main character in the story when you input their name and gender. There’s even an option for parents to record their own voiceover as the one telling the story.
Baby Shusher App
The Baby Shusher is available as an Android and iOS iPhone and iPad app, as well as a tabletop sound machine. This sleep app gives off soft, calming shushing sounds designed to lull your baby to sleep. It mimics the sound heard in the womb, keeping you from repeatedly using your voice to make the natural shushing sound that babies find so comforting. The app comes with a timer you can set and an equalizer that makes the shushing sound louder if your baby makes a noise or cries.
Baby Monitor 3G Video Nanny App
The Baby Monitor 3G Video Nanny is available on Android and iOS. It’s an audio and video camera monitor that can also be used on a tablet or computer. You can watch and soothe your child through your device as they sleep. The app also features a nightlight and records all sounds. You need to connect two devices; one stays with the child and the other with you. The great thing about this is it can replace a traditional monitor or be used when traveling.
Sleep Genius Baby App
The Sleep Genius Baby App is clinically tested but only available for iPhones. It’s based on a neurological study on the types of music proven to help babies fall asleep faster and get a better quality of sleep. It also claims to improve cognitive function. The calming and soothing expert-chosen list of music can be set to play continuously or timed.
WebMD Baby App
The WebMD Baby app can be downloaded for free for Android and iOS devices. This isn’t a typical sleep app, as it’s not designed to help them sleep. It offers a great (manual) way to keep track of your baby’s sleeping patterns along with feeding, nursing, and diaper changes. If your child has problems sleeping, the data from this app will be useful to share with your doctor.
Pros and Cons of Relying on Technology at Bedtime
Technology offers so many advantages and disadvantages that it can be hard to discern whether it’s good or bad to use with your child. Much of it depends on the type of technology, its capabilities, and how it’s used. Before deciding to use technology at bedtime, consider these pros and cons.
- Improves Sleep – Most kids’ sleep apps tend to focus on producing relaxing lights or calming sounds. Many have been proven to help children fall asleep faster and even prevent them from waking up in the middle of the night. Some of the science-based approaches involve the positive effects of music and meditation.
- Develops Healthy Sleep Habits – When used wisely, technology can play a role in good sleep habits. Apps can be used as part of the bedtime routine and to help control the environment. These signal to a child that it’s time to wind down and go to bed.
- Tracks Sleep Patterns – Some apps also let you manually track your child’s sleeping patterns. This option can be useful information to give to pediatricians when trying to find ways to address sleep issues. Unfortunately, parents can’t follow all of the sleep cycles their child may go through during the night.
- Disrupts Sleep – Electronic media can interfere with your child (and you) getting a good night’s rest. That’s because smartphones, tablets, computers, TVs, and other electronic devices give off blue light, which mimics natural sunlight. This blue light reprograms the brain, delaying the onset of sleep. Some devices have a “night mode” setting that changes the screen display from blue light to warmer shades.
- Poor Bedtime Association – Clearly, some devices can be more of a distraction than actually supporting a child who’s fighting sleep. Technology can also become a poor bedtime association when a child can’t seem to fall asleep without it.
- Lacks Helpful Information – Very few apps provide sleep information or recommendations for parents. There’s some evidence that digital technology can improve sleep problems in children when used as an alternative method for face-to-face medical intervention. For example, parents could remotely communicate with providers about addressing their child’s sleep problems.
Sleep challenges are a common issue that parents face, but most are unsure how to address them adequately. Although letting your child play games or watch videos on an iPad can be tempting, that’s not always a good idea. Electronics from smartphones to TVs can greatly reduce the quality and quantity of sleep. In contrast, many of the newer apps have been researched and designed to help kids sleep. Technology that makes use of tried-and-true approaches is often a safe bet.
Baby sleep apps have become the latest and growing trend. The apps vary widely from helping kids sleep through lights, music, and sounds to assisting parents with keeping track of their baby’s sleeping patterns. While some technology may help improve your child’s ability to fall asleep and get a good rest, others might do more harm than good. It’s essential to carefully choose apps that use methods proven to help address sleep problems.
At Rockin’Blinks, we believe that good sleep comes from understanding child development. We strive to help parents foster healthy sleep habits through understanding baby and kids sleep. Check out Rockin’Blinks sleepwear with the best sleep tips. You can also contact us to get a one-on-one session with Lola Sánchez Liste, Rockin’Blinks’ founder.