Evelina London Children’s Hospital has partnered with technology design firm RMA Consulting and IT services company NTT DATA to develop a smartphone app to help resolve children’s sleep problems.

Studies show that around 20 percent of children have sleep problems their parent's find hard to deal with at some time. With the exception of some of the more serious sleep disorders, many childhood sleep problems can be understood and often solved by parents. The goal was to create an app to help as many of these families as possible.

Paul Gringras, professor of children's sleep at the Evelina London Children's Hospital, helped develop the app. Image credit: Evelina hospital
Paul Gringras, professor of children's sleep at the Evelina London Children's Hospital, helped develop the app. Image credit: Evelina hospital

Designed for newborns to teenagers, the new Kids Sleep Dr app features a “finger-painting” data capture method, allowing parents to glide their finger over the app's diary to quickly enter in their child’s sleep patterns. Parents can track and understand the sleep and wake patterns of their child and apply personalised tips to remedy sleep issues.

Research shows that most apps emit light containing blue enriched light, which can postpone the onset of sleep. The Kids Sleep Dr app has been developed with a unique “sleep-aware” colour scheme. As a result, any sleep disruption from using the app at night is minimised for both parents and children.

As the app gathers more data on a child the more tailored the tips given to parents are, based on age and other behavioural data entered. These tips are distilled from years of research, clinical experience, and feedback from the hundreds of parents who frequent the Evelina London Children's Sleep Medicine Department every year - the UK’s busiest sleep clinic.

The app will be used as a prevention tool at a primary care level, empowering parents to self-monitor and start to implement strategies to improve their child’s sleep. On the potential to reduce GP and hospital visits, Paul Gringras, professor of children’s sleep medicine and neurodisability at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, said: “Many sleep behavioural problems are best solved by parents when they have the confidence and background knowledge to understand what is happening and how best to help.

“We already know that in many cases a few telephone calls can avoid the need for an actual visit to a GP or other healthcare professional. This app has the potential to reduce or even replace those calls and visits.”

The app will also reduce the time needed to fill in and process paper-based forms. Prior to the app, patients' parents at the hospital had to fill in paper-based sleep diaries, taking anything between five and ten minutes to complete daily, and 30 minutes each week to manually review. The app now allows parents to email summary reports, containing all relevant patient data, at the touch of a button from their smartphone.

RMA Consulting completed the app design project on a pro bono basis. The Kids Sleep Dr app is available for download now on iOS by parents worldwide, with an Android version slated to follow.