Dr. Shelby Harris: 2022 Women’s History Month Sleep Leaders Part 1

March is Women’s History Month! Project Sleep is proud to celebrate the vital role of women in the sleep community through a series of feature profiles.

Meet Dr. Shelby Harris!

Dr. Shelby Harris, PsyD, is a psychologist in private practice in NYC, NY specializing in behavioral sleep medicine (BSM) and Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for anxiety and depression. She is one of the few board-certified BSM specialists in the world – 3 of whom we’re featuring this month!

Once the long-standing director of Montefiore Medical Center’s Behavioral Sleep Medicine Program, Dr. Harris is now in private practice and working to improve the sleep of the entire family – from babies through older adults. She is currently a Clinical Associate Professor of Neurology and Psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, where she trains students in evidence-based sleep approaches. 

Dr. Harris is passionate about women’s sleep issues and educating the public on sleep. Her CBT for Insomnia book, The Women’s Guide to Overcoming Insomnia: Get a good night’s sleep without relying on medication published in 2019 (Norton Books), has helped many people improve their sleep during the pandemic. 

Along with women’s sleep issues, Dr. Harris is adamant about educating the public on sleep. She is a regularly quoted expert for major outlets like the New York Times and Today Show on topics like “revenge bedtime procrastination,” “momsomnia,” and evidence-based approaches to insomnia. She also records sleep education videos for the Headspace App and has turned to Instagram to bring sleep education to the masses on a faster, more accessible platform. 

Regarding “momsomnia,” Dr Harris explains:

“A lot of the parents… will say to me…, ‘Even though my baby started sleeping through the night, I stopped sleeping.’ A lot of moms — some dads, but mostly moms — almost become hard-wired to listening for what I call “sleep threats.” For example, if their kid is going to cry or come and get them. Even after the threat is gone, they continue to have trouble with sleep because they’re so conditioned to listening.”

– Dr. Shelby Harris via The New York Times

Dr. Harris is both an educator and advocate in the sleep space. She has run two Boston marathons for narcolepsy research, one in 2013 and the other in 2014 with Wake Up Narcolepsy. Project Sleep featured Dr. Harris in a Sleep In 2021 Interview. Further, she is collaborating with our team on a new research project analyzing film and TV portrayals of narcolepsy. Stay tuned for updates on this cool collaboration! 

Written by Anna Marr. Graphic by Eleanor Wales.

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