Better sleep for the entire family, babies through older adult


Sleep problems impact 25-40% of children and adolescents. Inadequate sleep has routinely been linked to issues with obesity, emotional distress, depression, behavior/conduct/aggressive problems, and trouble with focus in school. In addition, poor sleep has been linked to a higher incidence of risky behaviors such as self harm and substance use. As most parents are well aware, poor child sleep can negatively impact the parent’s sleep, leading to stress at home for the entire family, especially as bedtime approaches. Despite what we often hope and think, children do not typically outgrow sleep problems independently. The earlier you begin to work on your child’s sleep, the faster you will all be on the road to a good night’s sleep.

Dr. Harris is board certified in behavioral sleep medicine for all ages - babies through older adults - and was the lead sleep psychologist at the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore outpatient sleep clinic for over a decade. She has been in consultation groups with two of the leading experts in the field of pediatric Behavioral Sleep Medicine, Dr. Jodi Mindell and Dr. Lisa Meltzer.

Dr. Harris also works with a number of MD sleep specialists and will assist in referrals if a medical sleep evaluation is necessary with a possible sleep study. Sleep apnea, reflux and dangerous/frequent sleepwalking behaviors are examples when a referral to an MD sleep specialist may be warranted.

In addition, Dr. Harris is a mom to two young children and she understands the struggle that parents face in trying to get her kids to sleep and get a solid night’s sleep themselves. She practices what she preaches.

Common pediatric sleep issues treated by Dr. Harris

  • Difficulty falling and saying asleep

  • Repeated night awakenings or trouble returning to sleep

  • Nightmares

  • Parasomnias such as night terrors, sleepwalking and sleep talking

  • Night owl syndrome

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Sleep training for babies, toddlers and younger kids

Sleep training is a very broad term that refers to teaching your child to fall asleep - and return to sleep - without the need for parental intervention. It is a broad term because there is not one specific treatment plan used for every child. Instead, Dr. Harris thinks broadly about your family, challenges that might be faced with traditional sleep training methods, and ways to overcome these obstacles while all still within a research-backed individualized program.

A number of myths about sleep training exist, though the evidence routinely contradicts them. Myths frequently include: sleep training will psychologically or physically damage my child, my child will cry all night long and that introduction of food will help keep your child satiated all night long and stop awakenings.



It is natural for children to begin delaying their bedtime and wake times as they enter pre-adolescence and adolescence. This is the major reason for the argument to delay school start times in adolescents since they are too drowsy in the early morning hours.

Some adolescents overshoot the biological mark and begin struggling with going to bed at a more reasonable hour. Instead they have significant trouble sleeping at the beginning of the night, leading to major issues with getting up on time during the week in order to get to school on time. Some children try and force themselves to get up to attend school, whereas others miss the initial school hours, call in sick or even get a home school tutor to work on their own schedule.

Dr. Harris works directly with adolescents and their parents to figure out the root of the sleep problem. She will then tailor an individualized plan for you and your child, taking into account anything that might impact follow-through. Behavioral interventions, mindfulness meditation, properly timed low-dose melatonin (only when indicated and only with the approval of the child's pediatrician) may be used. She will also work specifically on tech use before bed. Older adolescents are asked to have more accountability in their sleep-wake pattern, with a focus on lessening reliance on parents to wake up every day being an ultimate treatment target.