Though the challenge of getting your children to fall asleep and stay asleep is as old as time, the current world we live in has made sleep troubles even more prevalent in everyone — especially children. A 2018 study on children in England showed that sleep issues were on the rise due to social media and poor health habits. Plus, with the continued concerns over COVID-19, those issues are persisting. Many children are heading back to a school environment that remains fraught with concerns over the coronavirus, adding to the anxiety kids face due to the typical challenges of growing up. If you’re worried about your child’s sleep habits, we’re here to help — whether they’re 2, 12, or anywhere in between — and introduce you to sleep tech designed for children.
Is Technology Safe for Your Child’s Sleep?
The short answer is yes, but it depends on how the technology is used. The biggest concern with technology children (and all of us) are using is the blue light the screen emits. Not only is blue light bad for eyes in general, — it can cause dryness, irritation, blurriness, and a bunch of other bad stuff — but it also makes it much harder to sleep. According to Harvard, blue light suppresses your body’s melatonin production, which keeps you awake. The natural melatonin in your body is what helps you sleep, so if the production of melatonin is dampened, you won’t sleep. With modern sleep tech, your child won’t be exposed to this harsh blue light. Instead, these tools usually use some other form of sound or dim light that promotes sleep rather than hindering it. These products are largely unassuming and provide a calming effect on your child.
Even if your children aren’t currently experiencing any noticeable sleep concerns, sleep tech can still positively impact their overall sleep hygiene. Setting up these healthy habits will also ensure they stay on the right track of sleeping properly through the night and waking up refreshed each morning. With that being said, when it comes to your child’s sleep and routine, it’s never a bad idea to check with their doctor before making any major changes, especially if your child is already having trouble sleeping. A doctor can help pinpoint the issues so that you and your child can work through it.
Types of Sleep Technology for Children
Wearable sleep trackers
Studies have been done on how effective a wearable sleep tracker can be for children, but when it comes down to it, it’s a matter of parents and children figuring out what will work best for them. One study showed that while parents and children didn’t mind using a wearable sleep tracker, they had some frustrations with understanding the data and the comfort level of wearing it to bed. The takeaway here, though, is that perhaps a particular wearable wasn’t the right one for them — it doesn’t mean it won’t be the right one for you. It also takes time to become comfortable wearing a wristband, so encourage your child to stick it out if they’re not loving having it on their wrist at first.
Wearable sleep trackers are really just fit trackers that also monitor sleep. They’re cool little wristbands, often available in fun colors, and can be passed off as jewelry if your child wants it that way. They can be useful for kids of all ages, but most of the wristbands aren’t made for super tiny wrists, so elementary-age kids and above would probably benefit from them more. However, if you can find a wristband small enough for a tiny wrist, there’s no harm in using it for preschool-aged kids as well.
WIth these trackers, your child’s activity data will be sent to a central location — usually an app or a website that parents can monitor. This activity is comprehensive and includes actual waking activity as well as sleep activity. Not only can parents see where any sleep concerns are, but kids can also see how active they are. Outside of sleeping, they can challenge themselves to up their activity level, especially if their friends have similar fitness trackers. Don’t be surprised if your child makes a game or competition out of their activity! Keeping active is a good thing, so this is a definite plus of this wearable tech.
The data that is most helpful in regard to sleep will show parents if their child is experiencing bouts of sleeplessness or not falling asleep at bedtime. With this information, you’ll know if sleep habits need to change and when to call your doctor for assistance. This data will reveal patterns that you can present to the doctor for help in figuring out next steps.
The Fitbit Ace 3 ($80) is a great option for kids. The band is soft and comes in fun colors. It’ll monitor all activity, including sleep, and syncs with the app that parents can tune into to understand what their child is up to. Fitbit recommends this particular product for ages 6 and up.
The Garmin Vivo Fit Jr. 3 ($80) is also a great option for kids and even comes in fun Marvel and Disney Princess patterns. This also tracks all activity, including sleep, and syncs with the app that parents can monitor.
Sleep apps for children
With the prevalence of social media these days, kids are more tech-savvy than ever, so a sleep app should be no big deal for them to figure out and adapt to. Believe it or not, as of 2019, more than half of kids in the United States owned a smartphone, and it’s safe to assume that number has only increased since then. There are a number of apps you can load onto your child’s phone that don’t require them to stare at the screen, helping to promote sleep.
For bedtime relaxation
Sleep apps children can use often include stories, music, and meditation to help them fall asleep. They’re sound-based apps that won’t require your child to look at the screen, encouraging them to close their eyes and relax instead. These apps take the concept of a bedtime story that parents typically read and leave everything to the tech. These are some of the best sleep apps for relaxation:
- Moshi: This is one of the most popular sleep apps available. It is the No. 1 app in over 60 countries and has earned accolades from both Apple and Google. This app has hundreds of stories, songs, and meditations for children to help them calm down at bedtime and fall into a restful sleep. It’s free to download and use for seven days but will cost $40 per year after the trial.
- Calm Kids: If you already have the Calm app, you may know there’s a section specifically for kids. With different meditations for all ages, these audio stories can help kids find peace at bedtime. What’s great about this particular app is that the whole family can enjoy it. With meditations and sleep stories for everyone, it’s a well-rounded app that will keep you, well, calm. You can try the app for free for seven days, and then the cost goes up to $70 for the year.
- Sleepiest: The Sleepiest app will hopefully make your child just that — the sleepiest. It comes with tons of sleep stories and sounds that will lull your child to sleep. What’s cool about this app is that you can even create your own sound with ambient noise, so if you have a child who sleeps better in the rain while you’re driving, you can create that specific sound for them. The app’s free to download and try out for seven days but then costs $50 for a year.
Light therapy technology
Light therapy is a cool bit of technology that can help your child sleep. Like other sleep tech, this runs the gamut from regular lights that you can use in specific ways to lamps and lanterns designed to promote sleep.
Some smart bulbs (or outlets) can be programmed to your phone so you can dim them or turn them on and off. This way, you can shut the light off from outside the room if your child needs it to fall asleep but not to stay asleep. Some of these bulbs, like this Philips Sleep and Wake-Up Light, imitates the sun with sunset and sunrise. It creates an ambience in the room that can make it easier to sleep and wake up. Plus, some of these smart bulbs are even blue-light blockers, which means it will be helpful on the eyes.
Lighted alarm clocks
Just like that Philips smart bulb, a lighted alarm clock can help your child wake up more peacefully in the morning. These devices aren’t quite as jarring as typical sound-based alarms and instead rely on using lights that are bold enough to wake a child but not so obnoxious as to make them uncomfortable. This JALL Sunrise alarm has over 13,000 reviews on Amazon and would be perfect for anyone in the family.
Floor and night lamps
If you have a child who still needs a night light, that’s okay — we’ve all been there. But you should consider a few things. If they need a larger amount of light, think about a floor lamp that has a dimmer. That way, they won’t have too much light in the room to actually hinder their sleep. You can also consider a colored bulb in this lamp that will have lower light.
If they don’t need quite so much light, a night light would suffice. Let them pick out the night light that they’re most comfortable with, especially if anxiety is at stake here. It can be reassuring to know they picked out the night light that will help them sleep better.
For a floor lamp and night light, consider plugging them into a smart outlet that you can control with your phone so that you can shut them off when you go to bed. If you have a child who only needs the light to fall asleep, shutting them once they’ve dozed is a good plan. You can also try a lamp or outlet that has a timer.
These are great for your very little ones who might be soothed by watching lights and shapes travel around the room as they’re falling asleep. A product like the Fisher-Price Smart Connect Deluxe Soother does just that (as well as play music and white noise). You can also find these lamps that simply project moving light rather than shapes, but that just comes down to preference.
White noise machines
A bit of ambient white noise could potentially help your child sleep better by drowning out any external noise while also calming their nerves. White noise machines come in a variety of options, including ones that do other things as well (like some of the previous tech we’ve mentioned). One of the most beloved and popular white noise machines is the Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine, which also plays music and shines a soft light. It can be controlled by your phone, so you can adjust it while your child is falling asleep.
When it comes to a white noise machine, keep a few things in mind. Look for machines that have low, steady pitches, as they’re the most soothing for little ears. Better yet, find a machine that has adjustable sound so you can control it to fit what your child needs. You also want to be able to adjust the volume on these if possible, especially if you’re using them for toddlers who might wake up crying during the night. If the white noise machine is too loud, you may not be able to hear a crying child.
If you’ve tried a wearable tracker, but your child doesn’t like it, it may be time to try other options. Whether you’re installing a monitor in the bed or in a pillow, these products will track sleep without your child even knowing it’s there.
In-bed sleep monitors
A bed monitor, like Beddit, can be installed under your child’s sheets to monitor how much they’re moving around during the night. Just like a wristband tracker, these bed monitors can see if your child is thrashing around or sleeping soundly. It sends the data to your phone so that you can track all the info and notify your doctor if you see patterns arising that are cause for concern.
Smart sleep pillows
Smart pillows aren’t as readily available as some of the other sleep tech mentioned, but you can find them — for example, this iSense Sleep Smart Pillow. Like the rest of these sleep trackers, it monitors your child’s movement. Some of these pillows also take a look at snoring, which is a good bit of information to have because snoring can be a sign of sleep apnea. Though sleep apnea is less prevalent in children, up to 10% can develop obstructive sleep apnea, sometimes as early as age 2. With a smart pillow, though, you can get ahead of this sleep disorder and start treating it.
Additional sleep tech
There are few things more frustrating than being too hot while you’re sleeping. If you have a kid who runs hot, try a cooling blanket at bedtime. This can help regulate temperature while sleeping so they can sleep more comfortably. You can also try a cooling mattress pad for the same effect, like this ChiliSleep OOLER Sleep System.
Air purifiers for sleep
Children with allergies can find sleep to be difficult, especially during allergy season or if you have pets in the house. Try putting an air purifier in their room to see if it helps clear up any breathing issues that may cause sleep to be tough.
Headphones for sleep
If your child shares a room, headphones can be a positive way to encourage them to relax at bedtime, especially if their roomie keeps them awake. Noise-cancelling headphones can really help them take in a sleep story or meditation cycle — just be cautious about what they’re sleeping with. Kids should never sleep with any headphones that have cords (they can get tangled in their sleep), so opt for something cordless.
Is Sleep Tech for Your Child Worth the Investment?
Sleep is a vital aspect of your child’s life and is crucial to their health and well-being. Not only does good sleep play a role in their physical health, but an inability to sleep properly can lead to problems at school and in their social lives. Though sleep tech can feel like a big spend, it’s something to heavily consider, especially if you’re worried that your child is already experiencing problems with sleeping. Sleep tech is an investment up front, but remember it will last you a long time. Some of these sleep tech products even have multiple purposes — like wearable sleep tech that’s also a fitness monitor, watch, and game all in one. If you’re still worried about how to handle an investment like this, chat it out with your child’s doctor for another opinion. They might be able to point you toward a budget-friendly option if cost is a concern or show you more benefits to help you decide what the best decision for your child might be.
How to Help Your Child Avoid Blue Light Exposure
The best part about all the sleep tech we’re recommending is that there should be no blue light involved. Though the apps are on a phone, they’re all audio based. We recommend parents set up everything the child needs on the phone so that little ones aren’t even looking at the device. Many of these devices also automatically shut off after a period of time or can be programmed to turn off, which we also recommend. Another option is for parents to peek into their kids’ rooms before they go to bed to ensure everything’s off like it should be. If you do find, however, that your child needs to use their screen before bed, consider blue light glasses before trying to encourage them to ditch the screens. These lenses will help dull the blue light a bit.
Tips to Help Your Child Sleep Without Devices
As much as we think sleep tech for kids is a great idea, we understand it isn’t always feasible. There are other ways you can promote healthy sleep at home, though. Consider any of the following.
Establish a bedtime routine
Having a routine for nighttime is the first step toward a healthy night of sleep. It can be especially hard to keep kids on a schedule when returning back to school in the fall, but setting up those routines right away will set them up for success as the school year progresses. Because the school day starts so early, consider how much sleep they’ll need to be at their best (based on their age) and remember how much of a toll school can take on kids.
At Slumber Yard, we understand that adjusting to a new routine can be difficult for anyone, especially a child during back-to-school season. That’s why we offer additional resources to make a bedtime routine more accessible to all children. We’ve provided printable templates that families can begin using tonight to co-create their child’s very own personalized bedtime routine.
You can download these resources here:
Before diving into this activity, we recommend parents pre-cut the tiles and then work on this project alongside their kids. This activity will encourage you to work together to place up to 10 routine elements into the template.
Ensure your child has a comfortable mattress
You know how fast kids grow, which means they outgrow everything constantly — including a mattress. Make sure your child is sleeping on a mattress that’s not only the right size, but the right comfort for them. We recommend considering a foam mattress if you have a child who is particularly active during the night, as this will help keep them more still. Mattresses are certainly an investment, but once you’ve purchased that big-kid bed, it should last you for many years. Check out some of our recommendations for mattresses for kids.
Keep television out of sight
If you can avoid it, just keep the TV out of your kids’ rooms. There are a few reasons for this: 1. Bedrooms should be for sleeping only and not for entertainment. This creates a healthy boundary and establishes the purpose of the room, leading your brain to understand that you’re meant to sleep there. 2. TVs emit that harmful blue light that you don’t want before bed. That blue light inhibits melatonin production (and damages eyes), preventing your child from sleeping soundly.
Limit daytime napping
There is a time and a place for naps, but they shouldn’t be had every day. There are clear benefits of napping, based on age and lifestyle, but you don’t want your kids to be taking long naps every day. This will keep them from having a good night of sleep.
Help your child stay physically active
Staying active is great for a number of reasons. It’s, of course, good for your child’s health if they’re exercising regularly, but if they’re also spending that time with friends, it’s a healthy social activity, too. Getting them interested in activities will also put them on the right track to continue those habits as they grow up. Plus, activity leads to healthier sleep. Raising your heart rate and endorphins during the day leads to a more relaxed state at bedtime, which should help your child achieve better sleep.
Sleep tech is a great idea if you have the means to add it into your child’s life. These various products can not only help your child get more and higher quality sleep but also help identify ongoing sleep concerns to bring to your doctor. Sleep trackers are a great way to monitor this activity, and meditation apps and noise machines can help ease any minor troubles. All of these gadgets contribute to establishing good sleep hygiene from a young age, which sets kids up for better sleep habits throughout life.