Parents Need Advice at Night About Kids’ Sleep Problems

New app shows the need for professional advice when sleep issues happen, typically not during office hours.

The most common questions parents have about their children’s sleep problems are posed after office hours at night, according to a phone app developed by Johnson & Johnson, the baby products company.

Over three months, 365 users submitted a question to the “Ask the Expert” feature on the app for iPhone. Jodi Mindell, PhD and her team answer questions submitted to the app and respond within 48 hours. They found that 37 percent of questions are submitted between midnight and 6 a.m., while 22 percent inquire between 6 p.m. and midnight about children’s sleep problems.

“Times when professional help is typically not available,” observed Dr. Mindell, who also serves as psychology professor at St. Joseph’s University in Philadelphia and associate director of the Sleep Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Most of the children with sleep problems — 68 percent — were between 3 months and 11 months. Twenty percent were toddlers age 12 months to 36 months. Twelve percent were newborns from birth to two months. Sixty-nine percent of the app users were mothers around age 28.

Babies wake up naturally two to six times a night, Mindell said, and may be helped by “a consistent bedtime routine with a bath, changing into pajamas, and reading two stories, in the case of toddlers,” to help them fall back to sleep.

Mindell said users of Johnson’s Bedtime Baby Sleep app will be able to upload information in a few weeks about their child and receive a customized sleep analysis, including a sleep score and advice for improving their child’s sleep.

Though the iPhone application provided helpful information, it also highlighted the need for contact with health professionals. Mindell recommends that parents consult their pediatrician during office hours about any sleep problems their child may be experiencing, and discuss age-appropriate interventions.

She and her team presented the sleep results at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference in New Orleans. The study, “An iPhone Application for Infant and Toddler Sleep: Characteristics and Concerns of Users,” reviewed information from nearly 8,000 users who took advantage of a free app.

By Sharon Kay