Hospital Launches App to Help Children Sleep
If you’re a parent, carer, or you’ve looked after children overnight, then you may have witnessed what can only be called a glitch in the child’s sleeping pattern.
While most children will sleep soundly, there can be phases where the child just doesn’t want to go to bed, or will wake up during the night.
If the child is usually a sound sleeper but suddenly starts waking up in the middle of the night, then you are likely to express concern to your doctor. But there are millions of other parents doing just that.
Professor Paul Gringras is a specialist in sleep disorders and children’s sleep medicine at Evelina Children’s Hospital in London. He explained that doctors at the hospital have developed an app for parents concerned about their children’s sleep.
The app, called the Kids Sleep Doctor, allows for parents to get the advice they seek without having to wait for lengthy periods of time, while also relieving some of the pressure on NHS waiting lists.
Once the app has been downloaded, details about the child’s bedtimes are entered, such as where the child fell asleep and how many caffeinated drinks were consumed during the day. The app then offers initial advice.
Parents and carers record their children’s sleeping habits for the next five days, including details about how many times the child has woken in the night and what time they went to bed on those nights. That’s when the full service kicks in, tailored to the child based on the details that have been entered.
For instance, like in the example we gave earlier, if your young child suddenly starts waking up in distress during the night, it is likely they are suffering from night terrors. Around 10% of children experience night terrors at some point during their young lives, but how can parents help?
This is where the Kids Sleep Doctor comes in, not only recognising the probable situation, but also offering advice tailored for that child. Although it is likely the child will grow out of having night terrors, no parents wants to see their child going through that, so the app might suggest trying a technique called scheduled waking. This simply involves waking the child up half hour after they have gone to sleep, which shifts the child’s sleep pattern and somehow prevents the night terrors from happening.
At the other end of the spectrum, what about teenagers who struggle to sleep until so late that they are too tired for school the following day? The app might suggest encouraging the teen to exercise in the afternoon, which Professor Gringras describes as powerful as any drug for promoting healthy sleep.
“Hopefully [the children] are sleeping in the normal range, but if they’re outside that, then it advises parents,” Professor Gringras added.
The Kids Sleep Doctor app has even been designed in colours least lightly to emit sleep-disrupting light wavelengths, in a dark and orange palette. Parents will be able to enter details about their children’s sleeping habits while looking over them, without having to worry that the device will wake them once they have finally dozed off!
As the app is more about reducing pressures on the NHS than making money, the app is offering advice for free to parents with children from the age of newborn to 16 years old. Currently, it is only available on the iPhone, but versions for Android and Windows devices will be released in the near future.
Professor Tanya Byron is a child therapist and psychologist. She commented on the app launch, explaining that many children suffer from inconsistent sleep patterns, and the whole family can be affected as a result.
“Getting a good night’s sleep is so important for a child’s physical and mental development, behaviour, and concentration, to name but a few,” she said. “We know parents know their children better than anyone, and I’m confident that the Kids Sleep Doctor app will help parents to understand and better manage their child’s sleep problems.”