Kids Pack: The Cognitive Shuffle and Children’s Sleep

Child Sleeping Back to School is approaching. That means a transition in sleep patterns for children and parents alike!

Many parents know all too well that insomnia is not merely an adult’s problem. Some children also have difficulty falling asleep, whether initially or after they wake up prematurely. And when kids can’t sleep, neither can their parents.

For information about children’s sleep please read this blog post of ours first. At the bottom of that post you will see a list of references (including books) that you should check out before reading on below.

Since the initial release of the mySleepButton iPhone app, we have received many emails from parents thanking us for the cognitive shuffle, which they felt helped their children. For example, Bashibouzouk said in her review of mySleepButton on the App Store “On nights when my daughter has difficulty falling asleep, we use mySleepButton and it works every time”.

Many parents have also told us over the years that they have used the DIY version of the cognitive shuffle with their children. The parent essentially conjures up one thing after another for their child to imagine, to help the child fall asleep. It’s like reading a sequence of bedtime micro-stories to the child: every word or phrase is its only little micro-story. (A shuffle item is to a story what a tweet is to a blog post: very short.) However, and this comes as no surprise to us, some parents have difficulty staying awake while shuffling their children’s thoughts! We’ve even had reviewers of the textual corpus of mySleepButton packs tell us that they quickly get drowsy just reading the content. (These are not scientific results, but they align with the theory and we think are worth testing empirically! Moreover, explaining this effect is of deep theoretical interest.)

In sum, feedback received by CogSci Apps Corp. about the cognitive shuffle with children has been encouraging. We suppose one should expect serial diverse imagining (a form of cognitive shuffle) to be particularly helpful with them, partly due to their imaginative abilities, and their suggestibility.

Previous mySleepButton packs, however, were not designed specifically for children. There are many words in the “simple things” pack, for instance, that children can’t be expected to know. Therefore, one of our most frequent feature requests has been for a mySleepButton pack designed specifically for children.

We use a “lean”, empirical approach here at CogSci Apps. And so we have listened, thought, and acted…and developed a mySleepButton pack for Kids!

Selecting content for children is not as easy as it might seem. We are fortunate to have the expertise of a speech language therapist, with over 30 years of experience with children. She has helped us select pro-somnolent content that young English speaking children would likely be able to imagine and understand. 

The result is the world’s first cognitive shuffle pack designed specifically for English speaking children. It is available now for in-app purchase from the Packs tab of mySleepButton for iOS!

The Kids pack is designed specifically for children. It presents content for them to imagine in bed, in preparation for sleep. The Kids pack should be played using the device’s speaker or another speaker, never with a wired headset. The audio instructions included with this version of the Kids pack are to instruct the adult. Well before bedtime, an adult should explain to the child the purpose of mySleepButton, and what to do when content is played to them. At this time, an adult should play the audio for the child, giving the child an opportunity to practice imagining items read to them. The parent should answer the child’s questions about mySleepButton and the pack. The content of the Kids pack was selected to be comprehensible by most young children. However, the child should be told that if they do not understand the meaning of a word, they could continue to imagine the prior item, or something else. In the unlikely event that they should find an item unpleasant, they can use the same strategy. Please note that, using the Settings screen, an adult can remove words from mySleepButton.

Before use of mySleepButton, the parent should turn off all of the device’s notification functions (messaging, alerts etc). Parents should monitor children to ensure that they do not utilize the device during the play of mySleepButton (e.g., for playing games). Parents should remove the device from the child’s room once the child has fallen asleep. If the pack does not appear to reduce sleep onset latency, then use of the application should be discontinued.

Using a mobile device during the night (e.g., for messaging or browsing) would interfere with the child’s sleep, which would defeat the purpose of this product. Children ought not to be expected to have the self-regulatory skills to prevent themselves from using a mobile device during the night. Therefore, if it is not possible or helpful to monitor the child’s use of the app and to remove the device after the child has fallen asleep, then parents should consider forgoing the app. But if parents choose to allow the device to remain in the bedroom, we recommend using sleep monitoring technology such as Apple®’s Beddit® device and iOS app. This will enable parents to monitor the child’s sleep. (This more easily, accurately and extensively monitors sleep than traditional sleep logs.)

If the child is capable of using the DIY version of the cognitive shuffle, and if/when it works for them, then we would recommend it over mySleepButton.

It is possible to transmit mySleepButton’s audio to a wireless speaker, which ensures that the mobile device (smartphone or tablet) is not in the same bedroom as the person trying to fall asleep, sleep guidelines discourage leaving mobile devices with children at bedtime.

Parents, guardians and mental health professionals should keep in mind that the cognitive shuffle technique has not yet formally been tested on children. (We expect to engage in a test of the cognitive shuffle, using SomnoTest, with pediatric insomnia researchers.) Parents should monitor whether the application is helpful and discontinue its use if it is not.

Also important to remember is that the cognitive shuffle, for children or adults, is not meant to replace sleep hygiene, or recommended parenting practices around sleep, it is at best an adjunct for parents seeking an alternative bedtime thinking strategy for their kids. The first step is always to become educated and of course to see a professional if needed. (See also the mySleepButton FAQ.)

This is the first iteration of the mySleepButton Pack for children. It is available right now for users who download mySleepButton for iOS, version 1.4.5 from the App Store.

Here is part of the road ahead with respect to this pack. We will

  • listen intently to user feedback and update mySleepButton and its pack accordingly;
  • provide a new tutorial specifically for children. Whereas currently the mySleepButton pack is designed for children 4 years and up, we will make the age of the pack configurable so as to include content for older children;
  • introduce some new features based on new extensions of the Somnolent Information-Processing theory of sleep onset and insomnia.

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