San Francisco

Starved for Sleep, Bay Area Parents Try New App to Soothe Kids' ‘Night Terrors'

A San Francisco startup is trying to help kids and parents stay asleep longer by creating a device and app aimed at calming kids’ "night terrors."

Shrieking, thrashing and with no way to console them – it’s a parent’s nightmare. But for kids, it’s known as a "night terror."

Sleep specialists say kids seem to be in a kind of trance: though their eyes are open, parents can’t wake them up until the episode is over.

“It’s like a light bulb, and she just suddenly goes: ‘Hi mommy, hi daddy,’” Mountain View parent Carol Lin said.

She and her husband Tiem Song say they panicked when their daughter Madelyn had her first night terror when she was just 14 months old.

“It sounded very much like she was in pain. She would sit up and twist her body around,” Lin said.

Lin and Song tried ‘jostling’ her to wake her before night terrors would start, but tracking the time became tedious.

The Songs tried the Lully Sleep Guardian, created by a San Francisco startup. The company, started by a former Stanford fellow, is trying to help kids and parents stay asleep longer, creating a device and app to help calm kids’ night terrors.

The vibrating device goes under a child’s mattress and is connected to a smartphone app that learns the child’s sleep patterns. Parents simply record when the child goes to sleep and when the night terrors begin and end, and the software creates a history.

Creator Dr. Andy Rink says about four million American children suffer from these episodes. He says he developed Lully when because night terrors impacted his family.

“It even affected the neighbors. The neighbors called the police. It was so bad because my sister was up screaming with these night terrors every night,” Dr. Rink said.

Lully helps night terrors by 80 percent in about four weeks, according to Dr. Rink.

“There’s a pattern of abnormal sleep before a night terror happens, so if you can get the child out of that sleep pattern, then you can prevent the night terror from happening,” Dr. Rink said.

Pediatric sleep consultant Dr. Angelique Millette says Lully works; however, she recommends parents adjust their kids’ sleep schedules before trying the device. She says night terrors are greatly reduced with behavior alteration.

“Make sure they’re eating, make sure they’re napping if they need a nap, make sure they’re having an early bedtime – and we start there first before we introduce the device,” Dr. Millette said.

The Songs say Madelyn began sleeping through the night after a few weeks of using Lully.

“Sometimes we have to be cognizant, ‘Oh we have to go to bed, you know, because we’re enjoying time alone now,” Song and Lin said.

Dr. Rink says the device will not work on a child who has other sleeping issues – only with night terrors.

The device starts at $129. Lully is rolling out a program next month to help low-income families.

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