'Screaming to dreaming in minutes:' New sleep solution aims to transform your toddler's bedtime
Posted March 8, 2020 8:45 p.m. EDT
Scott Hanson knows all about the sleepless nights that can come along with parenthood. He's the father of twins, after all. But it was a family visit with his toddler nephew a few years ago that led to the creation of the Hush Buddy, a sleep system for little ones that's designed to transform a toddler's bedtime from "screaming to dreaming … in minutes."
Hanson is a former TV reporter, who worked at WRAL in the late 1980s, turned entrepreneur, producing web videos. The idea for the Hush Buddy came to him four years ago. "Since then, I've assembled co-founders and we’ve researched and designed the system we’re bringing to market," he tells me. He's currently taking orders for Hush Buddy through donations on Kickstarter, the online fundraising website.
I checked in with Hanson to learn more about the Hush Buddy's backstory and how it works. Here's a Q&A.
Go Ask Mom: How did the Hush Buddy get its start? What was the aha moment?
Scott Hanson: It was actually during a family visit when my two-year-old nephew melted down at 3:30 in the morning on the other side of a very thin wall. My brother-in-law was so exhausted the next morning and said that’s how it was for him every night. That’s when the idea came to me—what if there was a nightlight that reacted to sound and dimmed when the child cried too much? Would it motivate them to be quiet, and even interrupt that whining before it became a full-blown tantrum? It just appealed to my “dad sense." I knew that would have worked for my twins. I started researching the idea and found out there’s actually science backing it up.
GAM: How does it work?
SH: Hush Buddy works by harnessing two pretty powerful things—behavioral science and the child’s imagination. The centerpiece is a nightlight shaped like a cute little glowing character we named “Whisper." If the child cries or fusses, Whisper dims briefly. It doesn’t go dark—it just dims. But that visual consequence is really powerful.
There’s also a bedtime storybook about Whisper to capture the child’s imagination. It explains that Whisper needs quiet to glow fully, and that Whisper came to stay with you because YOU can be quiet at bedtime. It reminds them that their friend doesn’t like noise.
Finally, we teach parents some scientifically proven best practices for bedtime with a quick and easy to read parent’s guide.
GAM: You have twins, so know a lot about getting squirmy toddlers to bed. But what have you learned in your research as you developed the Hush Buddy? What were you doing wrong?
SH: I did so much wrong and didn’t know it! My biggest problem, I know now, was not being firm about limits. I’d tell my twins that we were going to read three stories, and then I’d read six. Or I’d say I was leaving, but then I’d lay down with them. Things like that can actually lead to something called “limit setting sleep disorder” and it can prolong bedtime dramatically. Also, I was causing them to associate my presence with their ability to sleep. So in the middle of the night, if they woke up, they’d come find me because they didn’t think they could go to sleep on their own.
GAM: We know when kids are exhausted because they get so cranky. But getting a good night sleep or a great nap isn't just about their immediate emotional stability. There are some long-term impacts too. What should we know about toddlers and sleep?
SH: It is just stunning how important sleep is for the two to four-year-old set. It’s a really hot topic for sleep science right now. Research shows that important neural pathways are being bolted together when a toddler sleeps. For example, connections between the left and right brain are maturing during sleep. So if the child doesn’t get enough sleep during those years, that development can be stunted. And studies show there’s a lifelong impact. Kids who don’t get 12 to 14 hours of sleep between the ages of two and four have increased problems with focus, behavior, memory and even physical impacts like a greater incidence of obesity and diabetes. And you can’t make up for it by sleeping more after that window of development has closed. I mean, toddler sleep’s important!
GAM: What are your hopes for the future of the Hush Buddy?
SH: We want to improve kids’ lives by improving kids’ sleep. We would like every parent to take their child’s sleep as seriously as they take their child’s nutrition and safety, and then have the knowledge and the tools improve sleep. We’re building a system to help make that happen. What Elf on the Shelf is to Christmas, we think Whisper, the Hush Buddy can be to bedtime.
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