The $15 Gadget That Finally Got My Bedtime-Avoiding Daughter to Sleep

published Sep 26, 2021
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Since her earliest days, my 9-year-old, Lily, has had a fraught relationship with sleep. As an infant, she would only sleep while being rocked. I logged many uncomfortable nights on the sofa with Lily next to me in her rocking bassinet, waking every couple of hours, howling for milk. As she grew, her bedtime reluctance changed shape but never truly went away. She expressed so much anxiety around the entire process — the dark, the quiet, the sheer alone-ness. We created routines and reward charts, introduced a low dose of children’s melatonin, and tried to make her bed as inviting as possible, but her nighttime anxiety never waned, and groggy, grumpy mornings felt like a matter of course for our family.

My husband also suffers from poor sleep patterns, and he’s tried his own fair share of solutions, from pricey pillows to sleep apps, to mostly no avail or, at best, temporary avail. But one thing that does seem to help him at least get to sleep (if not to stay there) is listening to podcasts via bluetooth earbuds. So, recognizing something familiar in Lily, he suggested we try a similar solution. That’s when we found Pillow Mate.

How it works

Pillow Mate plugs into Lily’s Alexa device, but it could plug into anything from a CD player to a clock radio. It rests, as the name suggests, right next to her pillow, and emits a low volume hum that doesn’t disturb anyone outside the one-foot radius around Lily’s bed. 

At first, I was extremely skeptical that this would improve our situation. Wouldn’t she just stay up all night listening to podcasts or, heaven forbid, Katy Perry? But, though she’s always been a reluctant sleeper, deep down she really wanted rest, it just eluded her. When we introduced Pillow Mate to her bedtime routine, we set a few parameters: We asked her to set a sleep timer so that the smart speaker would turn itself off after 30 minutes, and we requested that she keep the volume at a reasonable level — a soothing drone, not a full blast yack-fest.

The (amazing) results

Lily instantly loved Pillow Mate. From the first night, I was surprised and delighted to see that the device had done its job. Within about 20-30 minutes of tuning in, she had fully nodded off, and she stayed asleep until morning! But we had been down the road of temporary fixes before, so I maintained a cautious optimism while the days and weeks went by. 

Now, many months later, we are Pillow Mate devotees. Lily goes to bed with a pretty good attitude (though she’ll always angle for a later bedtime if she can). We read and say goodnight, and then she calls up an episode of “Brains On,” “Story Pirates,” or “Circle Round” and, for the most part, drifts right to sleep and wakes up eight hours later feeling reasonably refreshed, which, as you might imagine, helps our entire household operate more smoothly.

Buy it here: Pillow Mate, $11.41 from Amazon