The editors at Sleepopolis tried and tested several new products and strategies rising in popularity on social media during Mental Health Awareness Month (MHAM), in an effort to find solutions for the many people whose sleep struggles have a clear connection to mental health. Note that these methods should not be interpreted as endorsements or referrals; our goal is to report honestly on our own experiences.
Most moms I know could write a book on kids and sleep. Several books. Luckily they don’t have to, since so many books have already been written (my favorite is Dr. Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block, but maybe another popular book’s title, Go the F**k to Sleep, says it all) about this particular maddening mystery. Suffice it to say: moms will do, and buy, anything that might help them get their kids to sleep. Especially if it comes in a sleek, small design from a trusted brand in the children’s sleep space.
What Is the Nanit Sound + Light?
The Nanit Sound + Light ($79) is the latest product from the well-known tech brand, and seems to combine all the best children’s sleep tools into one neat little box. Almost like the cherry on top of their already top-rated accessories, like the Nanit Pro Camera, the Sound + Light acts as a combination sound machine and night light, all of which parents (and certain 5-year-olds) can control from an app on their phone.
Who Is This Sound Machine For?
You know what? It’s designed for parents with young children, but as with so many modern kid-oriented tech gadgets in the past few years, the Nanit would be right at home on any grown-up’s nightstand, too. And with more options than a standard nighttime sound app’s offerings (your birds, say, or your white noise), it’s one of the more sophisticated choices.
Who should try it:
- Sleep-deprived parents with sleep-deprived babies, toddlers, or elementary school-age children – especially if they’ve responded well to sound machines in the past.
- Parents with kids who enjoy having an extra light in their room
- Anyone looking for a sound machine and/or night light upgrade
Who should not try it:
- Someone whose child is struggling with more serious sleep issues, like night terrors or ongoing insomnia (if that’s the case, always talk to your pediatrician first)
- Children with signs of epilepsy, or sensitivity to flashing lights
- Anyone who doesn’t have basic smartphone skills, since the connected app really enhances the benefits
How to Use the Nanit Sound Machine & Night Light
Once you’ve plugged in and charged the Nanit, download the Nanit Sound and Light app. Following the instructions that come in the package, connect your device to the app, and input your WiFi info. From there, grown-ups and tech-savvy kids can choose from a set of pretty light colors, decide how bright or dim they want things to be, and then pick which of the calming sounds they prefer from Nanit’s library.
It’s worth pointing out that anyone can use the Nanit without the app — it’s just less fun. The minimalistic two buttons on the machine will switch between different sounds, and allow you to manually adjust the volume.
My Experience Using the Nanit
Okay, I’m a certified millennial who’s been extremely online since the AIM and Carmen Sandiago days, but I still somehow had trouble connecting my Nanit to the app. I don’t blame any of my difficulties on the product (most likely it was my WiFi connection, or just my device, which was provided by Nanit for editorial review), but if you find yourself staring at a never-ending swirly swirl in the app, just know you’re not the first.
Once I was synced, though, the fun started. Is bedtime supposed to be fun? Debatable, but it definitely helps in my house. And many parents I know with young children would agree that another key element to successful bedtime routines is making sure your kid is on board. My 5-year-old daughter, true to her Virgo tendencies, loves to be involved. She’s a planner, an organizer, and a big fan of routines in general. So introducing the small, sophisticated-looking, non-iPad tech tool into her bedroom for the purposes of trying out new sound and light combinations at night was like an exciting new game.
A game, I should mention, which she wanted to 100% control herself. And she could! One of the best qualities of the Nanit is how simple and fun it is for kids themselves to play with the light and sound effects. So if you’re trying to address sleep issues in a 4- to 6-year-old, the usability and flavor of gaming is a pleasant bonus.
More likely, children’s sleep obsessives are dealing with infants, babies, and toddlers (0 – 4). And the good news is the Nanit’s simple selections are just as fun for grown-ups, too. Parents can choose from 11 different sounds — your basic light noises are all here, including brown, green, and pink noise, plus typical offerings associated with sleep like birds and waves. In my daughter’s case, she was overjoyed to select the birds as her personal favorite (another fun feature: you can save your most effective combos in the app, including exactly how loud and how bright you prefer things to be), before going back to the same sound she’s fallen asleep to since the newborn stage: white noise.
The light options are just as varied, and the app makes adjusting the volume and brightness of everything from your phone a breeze. And a note to those newborn parents: the Nanit has a built-in “cry detector” feature, which I didn’t get to test because my daughter has thankfully aged out of that phase, but I’ll never forget how crucial a feature like that can be when you’re a first-timer and worried about every little thing.
Mental Health Benefits
Even if you’re not a parent yourself, it’s hard not to realize just how important sleep — both children’s and parents’ — is during that first year or so. The clichés are just true: sleep is everything. Any product, especially one as user-friendly and aesthetically appealing as the Nanit Sound + Light, that genuinely enhances a baby’s sleep environment, is going to offer some level of mental health relief for new moms and dads. And there’s something powerful about having full control over that environment, especially when you land on the ideal sound and light combo for your individual child. And thanks to the Nanit, you’ll quickly find that ideal combo and (hopefully) put things on auto-drive for years to come.