SOUND SLEEPER (aka My Secret Weapon!)
GUEST BLOG - Sound Sleeper App Creator Michael Feigenson
If I had a penny for every time a new parent asked me how I managed to settle their little one to sleep, I would be a very wealthy lady!
There are several factors that contribute to the 'magic' that is a newborn photographer's ability to settle a baby into a deep sleep and position them into all those cute poses. For starters, a newborn photography studio will be lovely and warm and then there is what I call 'Sx4', that is; Shushing, Swaying, Swaddling, Sucking.
During a newborn session I will use everything I have learned over many years in business and with thousands of my little clients (as well as my own three babies), but today I want to talk particularly about White Noise.
Isn't it lovely to think of our unborn babies, curled up safe and sound, floating peacefully inside a warm bath of amniotic fluid before leaving the womb to join us in the outside world? Lovely indeed but peaceful? Not so much!
While in the womb, a baby will hear all kinds of sounds for example, mum's digestive system working, the whooshing of the placenta, mum's heartbeat and the sound of her blood running through her blood vessels and so on. I recently read an abstract from an article by Richard C Niemtzow (Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey. 48(9):596, September 1993) about Loud Noise and Pregnancy. In this it says that "Background noise in utero is about 85 dB, with peaks of 95 dB reported with each stroke of the mother's heart." To put that into perspective, 85 decibels is equivalent to the noise made by heavy traffic while you are in a car, or the sound of a food blender.
You can see therefore how newborn babies might, in the early days at least, prefer a noisier environment in order to settle and feel secure.
I've always used white noise in my sessions. In the early days, I used a CD which was great, but annoying because I had to keep re-starting it mid session. Then about ten years ago I found an app called Sound Sleeper. This app allowed me to select from a choice of white noise sounds to play during my session and gave me the ability to play them continuously. I even use it myself to help with my occasional bouts of insomnia! For any of my clients reading this blog then yes, this is the app I most likely recommended to you during your session.
Recently I've been chatting with Michael Feigenson, the developer of this wonderful app, and he has kindly agreed to take part in one of my guest blogs to tell us a bit more of the story behind Sound Sleeper. Its a real family affair, as you'll see. I'll let Michael take over from here. Thanks for reading!
|Michael tell us a little bit about yourself and the story behind the creation of Sound Sleeper
I am a physicist by training and my wife Miriam is a professor of medieval Arabic literature. We live with our kids in the beautiful city of Jerusalem, just 15 minutes walk from the historic old city.
About ten years ago, when Miriam was pregnant with our first son, we learned about the teachings of Dr Harvey Karp "The Happiest Baby on the Block'' (which we highly recommend to all new parents). Among other things, Dr. Karp talked about the fact that babies love white noise! Newborns, after nine long months in the womb, are used to the monotonic sounds they heard constantly inside their mother’s body. It turns out that if we want to calm our baby, we must imitate the comforting, protecting and very loud environment that he remembers from his life inside the womb.
When our son arrived, we started using YouTube for this purpose, and found that certain sounds were amazingly calming to him - and saved us from a lot of angst! Rain and vacuum cleaner, and of course "womb sounds", which worked no matter what. But it was so inconvenient to start fumbling with our computer or our phones in the middle of the night...that was quite a pain. And sometimes ads popped up.
"Couldn’t we do this better??!" we thought to ourselves. We wanted an interface that was appropriate to the nighttime hours, that took a baby’s needs as well as sleepy parents’ needs, into account. Something that we could play in the background so that the screen would be black. Something with sounds that were high-quality and that we knew….worked! And that's how the idea for the app was born.
The creative team behind 'Sound Sleeper"
| How long did Sound Sleeper take to build?
Around that time the solar energy company where I worked closed and I lost my job. It was a great opportunity for me to start working on our own idea. That was the time when everybody around us had "and idea for an app" and I was caught up in the rush. I said to myself "The baby sleep app sounds like a pretty good idea, and I know at least one family who needs it desperately. So why not give it a try?! Miriam's father came up with a name - he is an inveterate punster- and we set out on the ride.
It too me about a few months to write the basic first version of Sound Sleeper, but to create a fully functional app with a user experience which parents would enjoy using even when they are half asleep in the middle of the night, took more than two years. I enjoyed working on this project so much that I never went back to physics and began to fully dedicate myself to this new venture.
|What is your most memorable moment during your journey in creating the Sound Sleeper app?
|The first few years the app didn't bring any revenue, so when anyone asked "who are your investors", I would frankly answer - my wife. But despite this very slow financial growth, the real catalyst to the business were the App Store reviews and the thank you letters we started receiving from the users, in particular from new parents. The word "lifesaver" appeared pretty much in every letter. That is when I realized that we are not only building a good product, but also a product that does good in the world - that helps others!
|Tell us a little more about what Sound Sleeper does and how can we get the best out of this app
Sound Sleeper helps children and grownups fall asleep and stay asleep. The monotonic and comforting sounds of rain, a fan, the ocean, and more, block outside noise and ensure peaceful sleep.
The sounds are sorted by age. Newborns like womb, vacuum or shushing; Infants like rain, a fan, or the roaring sound of an old car. Toddlers often like sounds of the ocean or the hustle and bustle of a farmers’ market. This categorization is intended to help parents find sounds quickly - to quickly calm children.
Based on our own home needs, we added a "listening" feature, that listens to the baby and starts playing the sounds automatically - the instant she or he begins to cry. In this way, Sound Sleeper often lulls the baby back to sleep, so the parents can continue to sleep as well.
When our son was about one, we added a sleep tracking feature. It automatically tracks the baby's sleep and wake times during the night or day, and generates graphs. This is often helpful to sleep consultants …. Or even for your mother in law.
A recent addition to the app is lullabies - which had been requested by many parents who loved the app. This has become one of the most popular sections of the app. We love classical music, so we also decided to add to Sound Sleeper a curated selection of classical music by Mozart, Bach and a number of other great composers. We find that this music is not only educational and culturally important, it also is wonderful for calming children down towards bed, from the age of toddler and beyond. (thank you to the MUSOPEN project for providing the recordings.)
And just a word about Sound Sleeper is useful for adults. (**note from Lorraine - it most certainly is!!) Since the pandemic broke out, we both switched to working from home. With everybody at home trying to do their own things, it became particularly challenging to focus and concentrate. We found it very helpful to use the sounds inside the app to help us focus on what needed to be done - even amidst the noise and hubbub of having the whole family home.
|The app isn’t just for babies, tell us about its wider uses
The app is great for focusing in busy places with distractions or - as we said above - home during pandemic lockdowns (which will soon hopefully be over!). Miriam loves to use it in the library when she is researching, to help her focus.
Sound Sleeper is also a great tool for baby photographers (Hi Lorraine!) - helping them during newborn sessions to keep their "client" calm and relaxed.
A new addition to the app is bedtime meditations for kids (geared for ages 5 to 10)! We have partnered with Ryan Judd, our friend and a talented musician, composer and music therapist from New Hampshire. Sound Sleeper now includes a selection of Ryan’s relaxation music and bedtime meditations. The meditations are very special, given Ryan’s therapy background, and in them each day of the week is dedicated to a particular aspect of social emotional learning. We talk about dealing with worries and anger, developing gratitude, self-empowerment, and many more. (By the way, you can also hear these meditations on Alexa, we have recently released a special version of these meditations for Amazon Alexa called Cool Koala Bedtime Meditations for Kids. Check it out!)
|How many downloads have you had to date?
|We are absolutely thrilled that since the creation of the app, more than 5 million people from around the world have downloaded Sound Sleeper, and the reviews on the App Store are testimony to how helpful our app is to them.
|How much is your app? Is there a free version?
|Our business model is freemium, which means that the majority of the audio content inside the app is accessible to all our users, and in fact, a majority of our users are entirely satisfied with what we provide in the free version. Those who would like unlimited sound duration (in the free version, duration is limited to 75 minutes) or the "listening" feature, which I mentioned before, can purchase the premium version. The monthly cost of the premium version is $6.99.
|Where can we find and download Sound Sleeper?
Enjoy using Sound Sleeper and treat the whole family to a good night’s sleep!