When I first heard about Owlet’s new Dream Lab sleep training program—which claims to get your baby to sleep through the night in as little as seven days—I was skeptical. My skepticism was two-fold: I doubted whether it could possibly be true, and, if it were true, if I would be able to steel myself enough to follow their (sure-to-be draconian) instructions. After all, I’d been adamantly opposed to “sleep training” because I pictured it as the harshest of cry-it-out methods, and the thought of my little cherub crying his heart out literally shredded mine. However, I was exhausted, and therefore willing to try anything that purported to help me get some rest.
What is Owlet Dream Lab?
The newest product from the makers of the popular Owlet Baby Monitor, Dream Lab offers a personalized sleep learning video course to help parents and their babies get more sleep. It also includes an in-depth sleep assessment, a personalized sleep plan, an auto-adjusting daily schedule, as well as step-by-step instructions. Plus parents have access to weekly webinars with sleep experts.
If that alone doesn’t sell you on the program, perhaps this will: The sleep experts behind Dream Lab are none other than Jill Spivack and Jennifer Waldburger, the authors of The Sleep Easy Solution.
Sleep begets sleep
Sleep—or the lack of it—is one of the main issues and concerns of parents of infants. In fact, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Pregnancy and Childhood (ALSPAC) of over 600 babies showed that at six months of age, barely 16% of the babies were sleeping through the night. Science has proven that lack of sleep diminishes our cognitive and emotional abilities, which often translates into lower productivity at work and less patience with our loved ones.
Sleep is also prime brain development time for infants, and studies have shown the positive correlation of sufficient sleep with developing language, memory, cognition and executive functioning. Sleep is serious business, and most of us parents reach a point where we will pay for help, whether it means seeking the advice of our pediatricians, hiring an expensive sleep coach, or asking relatives (and random strangers) for assistance.
Dream Lab provides an easy-to-use sleep training tool that is interactive, customizable to your baby, and accessible on your phone, tablet, or laptop.
The idea behind the Owlet Dream Lab is the old adage “sleep begets sleep”. What this means is that an overtired baby doesn’t sleep well—not long and not deeply—so the more well-rested your baby is, the better they will sleep. Poor naps lead to poor nighttime sleeping and vice versa. Dream Lab aims to break this cycle by providing an easy-to-use sleep training tool that is interactive, customizable to your baby, and accessible on your phone, tablet, or laptop.
The Owlet Dream Lab program doesn’t start with a whole bunch of impossible-to-follow instructions. In fact, there isn’t a ton of upfront reading—after all, who has time for that with a baby? Instead, it starts with a video introduction and helps you gain insight into your baby’s sleep hygiene by having you complete a digital assessment with five major components.
These five components are called Sleep Stealers, and they include:
- Sleep Environment (where the baby sleeps and what he wears)
- Sleep Association (how awake baby is when he’s put down)
- Sleep Schedule
- Night Noshing (night feedings)
The program also explains that there are three methods of helping your baby sleep through the night: Visit, Stay and Touch. Visit—where you physically leave the room while your child cries—takes the least amount of time (4 to 5 days), though many parents aren’t comfortable with this method. Touch takes the longest amount of time—14 or more days—since you’re physically soothing your baby during the process. Stay, in which parents gradually move further away from their baby each night, falls in the middle of this range, at about 7 to 9 days.
Dream Lab helps you determine which method is best for you, and it sets expectations for the length of time your chosen method will take.
Putting it into action
After you’ve completed the assessment, your customized plan gets emailed to you and is also visible within the program when you log in. My personalized plan contained four sections: What’s Missing, Chosen Method in Action, Goal Schedule and Daily Guide.
The What’s Missing Section covers everything that the sleep experts behind Dream Lab suggest changing. In my case there were 22 items across the five categories of sleep stealers. For each of the five categories there was a video explaining the ideal conditions and the reasons behind each suggestion. The category with the most suggestions for me was Sleep Associations, and the number one thing recommended was putting my baby in the crib awake and alert.
Chosen method in action
Next up was the expected crying portion, which I found very difficult. In fact I was so sure he had been crying for at least 40 minutes the very first time, but in reality it was only about four minutes. As predicted, each interval of crying got shorter and shorter as the days went on, and I realized that my baby knew he was tired. As we did our simple wind down routine, he would stare at his crib expectantly.
Speaking of his crib, prior to using the Owlet Dream Lab program, naps only took place in his crib about 40-50% of the time. In the daytime, if I put him in there, he would often only sleep for about 20 minutes, and would wake-up still tired. My solution at the time was to keep him in the baby carrier so he could be rocked, swayed, bounced and lulled into sleeping for at least an hour and a half. This was fine when he was a seven pound newborn, but it was not fine with a 20 pound six month old. After using the Dream Lab program, I started getting 1 to 2 hour daytime naps in the crib, and 5 to 6 hour stretches at night, with one feeding in between.
Does Owlet Dream Lab work?
Currently, my son is sleeping about 5 to 6 hours, then taking in a solid nursing session before immediately going back to sleep for another 5 to 6 hours. I consider this a success, though it’s not the promised sleeping through the night. However, considering that prior to using the Dream Lab program he was waking up 3 to 5 times every night, waking up only once is a huge improvement. In terms of how long it took for him to fall asleep and stay asleep for at least five hours, that took eight days.
I think it’s worth noting that I didn’t follow the program completely to the letter, which may have affected our results.
First off, I didn’t consistently use a white noise machine, which is one of Owlet Dream Lab’s sleep environment recommendations. I had conflicted feelings about using one, as I was worried he’d become dependent on it and I’d have to go through a weaning period, especially since he’ll be starting daycare and I wouldn’t be able to guarantee sleep machine use in all situations.
Secondly, I followed the program really well for about 21 days. Then, the holidays hit and blew up our schedules and routines. I did maintain our wind down routines for both nap and bedtime; I maintained the sleep environment recommended for the nursery (sans sound machine); and I did keep putting him in his crib. But I didn’t always put him to bed at the same time because of other family traditions and gatherings, and nap time became challenging while my older kids were out of school.
Owlet Dream Lab really excels at how easy it is to get back on track if your routine gets messed up.
Thankfully, Owlet Dream Lab really excels at how easy it is to get back on track if your routine gets messed up. The program automatically adjusts the schedule for the rest of the day once you enter your baby’s wake-up time, so within three days we were back on track, without any hassle.
Is Owlet Dream Lab worth the cost?
While you can try out the Dream Lab program for free, in order to really take advantage of all of the features you’re going to have to pay. The $179 price tag is steep, but it’s far less than the cost of hiring a sleep coach, and it gives you full access to all the tools and videos for a period of six months. The video content was especially helpful, and even though my baby isn’t technically sleeping through the night, his longer stretches of sleep during nighttime and nap time have improved our quality of life tremendously. If you’re struggling to get your baby to sleep, Owlet Dream Lab is a fantastic—and effective—solution.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.