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Podcast Ep. 23: Using Sleep for a Happier and Healthier Family With Sleep Scientist Kate Simon, PhD

In this episode

Ok, if you could only focus on one health behavior and had to let all the other slide, what would it be for you? Well, here at The Family Thrive, it's sleep, without a doubt. If you're not well-rested, then you really don't have the energy, attention or motivation to do much of anything else. So we take sleep pretty seriously, which is why we couldn't wait to have on this week's guest, Kate Simon, a sleep scientist and a mom who studies how sleep affects kids of all ages. 

She's a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine, where Justin got his public health PhD. Go anteaters! And she's worked at Children's Hospital of Orange County, where Audra and Justin' son Max was treated for his brain tumor for 10 years. So we've got these cool connections that we talk about at the beginning. 

Anyway, in this episode, we get all the latest science of wisdom on optimal sleep, not only for kids but for adults as well. So if you care about the health benefits of good sleep as much as we do, then you're going to love this episode. So get a cozy blanket and some chamomile tea and settle in for a conversation that will change the way you think about sleep.

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About our guest

Kate Simon is a postdoctoral fellow at University of California, Irvine who studies sleep — specifically how it can affect people of all ages, including kids. She’s been a part of multiple sleep studies, so be sure to check those out!

Show notes

Transcript highlights

1:54

Justin: I wanted to know about your experience with Matthew Walker, who I've heard on a number of podcasts, and he's like, in my mind, he's like the sleep expert.

Audra: Justin’s a huge fan. Massive fan. 

Justin: Yeah. So did you know that you wanted to study sleep and then or was it that experience that got you into studying sleep?

Kate: Yeah, it's a really great question. So I was an undergrad at UC Berkeley and had devoted myself to becoming a social worker. And then towards the end of my senior year, I said, well, you know, maybe this isn't exactly what I want to do. I end up taking a science of sleep class from Matt and figured out, nope, this is what I want to do. I want to be a sleep researcher. So from there, I asked to join his lab and got the opportunity to, he had just moved to Berkeley from Harvard before that. I'm not positive. Joined his lab as a research assistant, an undergrad. So the people who do all kind of the scut work, right? 

And then joined Dr. Alison Harvey. She's also a fantastic sleep researcher at UC Berkeley. She studies adolescence and sleep and insomnia, so from the clinical domain. And so I joined both sleep labs.

Justin: Oh, yeah. She clearly needs to get onto some more podcasts. 

Kate: Yeah. Oh. So you can listen to her as well.

Justin: Yeah, exactly. So can I just ask real quick, was there when you took that class, was there an aha moment or was it a slow thing over that class or your like sleep? Man, this is cool.

Kate: You know, I don't I mean, it was probably like 16 years ago. It's been a while, but I knew I always loved working with kids is why I'd want to be like a social worker or a teacher. And the sleep, everything just kind of connected together for me in that moment, in that class, and so quickly decided I was going to change course and pursue becoming a sleep and memory and development researcher.

Audra: Wow. What a powerful moment when everything just sort of like clicks and comes together for you. I feel like it's part of the magic of college is exploring different things and having access to things that you wouldn't normally, you know, just think of.

Kate: Absolutely, I think that is the most important thing is, is also I tell this story because I truly devoted everything to being a social worker up to that point. And then I switched in the last semester. And so I like to tell the undergrads that I work with them. There's never a time you can't change course if you want to.

Audra: I think that is wonderful. It's a beautiful message. My mother went back and got a Ph.D. when I was in high school, then totally changed her career as well. And it helped me see that not everything is just about a linear, you know, kind of path forward and finishing, you know, a certain amount of time and find what you want to do that there. The journey of life can take us into new and wonderful direction. 

So, yeah, that's amazing. Does your interest in social work or your background really studying that much in social work inform your work on sleep or research or anything in any way? Because that's more like kind of society, like systems. You know, you're studying like when you're going into social work, you're learning you know, you're learning a lot about how we've constructed our society, about inequity, about all sorts of different things. And then you go into this scientific research and it's a bit different. But do you see connections?

Kate: I mean, I do. I think that it also helped me decide to add on a clinical Ph.D. So I started a program in a cognitive neuroscience and added clinical so that I could really see the person as a whole. So at research, we're really at this kind of micro level at time. So the research I do is very basic. How are these cognitive processes unfolding? What are those kind of small roles? And then I also studied at the clinical level so I could see, well, how does this actually translate to the person and kind of that navigation between those two spheres is what I love the most. And I think what helped, my background helped me support.

Justin: So the next step for you was to go to the University of Arizona. And so we both have ties there. I was born in Tucson, and although I think only a few people in my dad's family went to the U of A the entire family,

Audra: You think they all went?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Just living in Tucson. It's like that's you know, U of A football, U of A basketball, baseball, soccer. No, I like every single sport, like volleyball. It doesn't matter. Yeah. So tell us about your time in Tucson or U of A, how did this shape what you're doing today?

Kate: Yeah, so I had a fantastic time. I love Tucson. I recommend it to everybody similar to your family. So I went to graduate school there from a cognitive neuroscience Ph.D. is where I started. And I worked with doctors Lynn Nadle, Dr. Rebecca Gomez and Dr. Dick Guzman. 

And so I went in knowing I wanted to study sleep memory in kids. It has been pretty true to that since. And so Dr. Buton is a was a sleep brewer has since passed away, but really helped kind of initiate some of the initial sleep treatments. So very big in the clinical world. Dr. Lynn Nadle is a huge figure in terms of hippocampal-dependent memory. And Dr. Guzman studies development. And so I got to have all three as my mentors. I was incredibly lucky and worked with all three to really try and hone my interests and hone my understanding of these three very disparate areas, but to intersect them together and study that intersection.

Justin: So you knew going in it was sleep, memory, kids. What did this come through your work as an undergraduate researcher with Matthew Walker, or was there some other impetus for you to be interested in these three?

Kate: I think Matt’s class, I was like, this is what I want to study. And so he did sleep in memory and adults. So I got that memory and sleep component. Dr. Harvey did adolescents. And then I actually had joined a third lab in undergrad, Dr. Joseph Campos, who is a huge infant development researcher. And so kind of started getting that experience in those labs. And that is what I took with me to graduate school.

Justin: Ok. And then the next step was a clinical internship at CHOC Hospital. Of course, we are very close with CHOC Hospital, our son. 

Audra: That's when we became interested in sleep. And I think, really had no awareness other than when we had babies. And we're like, oh, my God, we need sleep. But we became very interested in sleep for our entire families, health and well-being. Once we started learning about it, having a hospitalized kid.

Justin: Oh, well, another thing and this is not, of course, unique to CHOC at all, but just being surprised. So our son was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011, and we were treated at CHOC Hospital. He was inpatient for almost a month. And we were just surprised at how little anyone seemed to care about sleep. It was like lights and beeping and just like, you know, let's do rounds and when, you know, 4:00 in the morning. 

And at the time, it was like, can we get some sleep? But then when we started to do research about how important sleep was for healing, and it was like, oh, man, how does our, why do our hospitals? And I think it's gotten better from what I've heard. But yeah. How do our hospitals care so little about sleep? Yeah.

Audra: Well, I mean, you think about it and you have clinicians are like broken into the system.

Kate: Yeah, I think I'd like to think that that message is changing a lot, both for residents and having cut hours at certain points, but also kind of older generations of doctors. But in addition, CHOC and other I think hospitals around the country have really changed in the last 10 years and really recognize how critical sleep is to the healing process.

Audra: Can you tell me about your clinical internship? I'm interested to know what that looks like at CHOC.

Kate: Yeah, I worked at CHOC for two years, so one is a clinical internship. And then I did what's called a clinical fellowship, which is similar to a residency there after as a first year postdoc. I loved it. They are a fantastic hospital. So what I did is I had brought all my child psychology experience and really learned how to work with children like your son who had health issues, either acute or chronic. 

And so I assessed them for mental health issues, either as a result of diabetes, cystic fibrosis, learned how to assess children and how to give them resources and how to provide the understanding of these are diseases that may or may not be long term. And how do we work to help you have strong mental health through your treatments? Through the ups and downs of your diseases like that.

Audra: Hmm. And how did your colleagues, you know, kind of like on the care team receive this work? I mean, because to me it seems like a wonderful progression. I know a lot of nurses who are running sleep's studies on sleep and looking to change the dynamics and change the education. So I think that there has been a wave of change. What was that like for you on the child's care team and also with the parents experiencing your work and intervention?

Kate: Yeah. So I worked on a huge team from the psychology department since I was a trainee. So I had lots of psychologists overseeing me and then continued on after I graduated. And I think at least a CHOC and I like to be at most hospitals, psychology is really respected and appreciated field, because we can offer something that the medical doctors can't. We can offer that mind body connection. We can offer different resources, coping mechanisms that potentially the doctors haven't been trained in because they have to focus on how to keep kids healthy. So I think that it's been, it was a wonderful interaction and work with them.

Justin: Awesome.

Audra: It's fantastic. I love hearing of this integration. I think, you know, especially the more we've learned, just as parents have, of the power and importance of sleep and support for mental health, physical health and beyond. It's really, really cool to hear of this. I think change really change in health care.

Kate: I agree. I think it's especially right now, it's really being focused on just wonderful.

Justin: And so to bring us up to the present day, you are now a postdoc fellow at UC Irvine. I got a Ph.D. there. So yet another connection. 

Kate: Very parallel lives.

Justin: So tell us about your work now.

Kate: Mmhmm. Yeah. So I work with Dr. Sara Mednick. She is fantastic. She is actually studying how sleep dependent memory processes change over the menstrual cycle for women, which is women in general. We do not have enough research on us. Really understanding kind of the nuances of how our bodies are different or maybe the same. But that research is lacking. And so there's four phases in a menstrual cycle for women in which hormones change dramatically between estrogen and progesterone. And at each one, we have differences in sleep. And so the idea as well then is our sleep dependent memory process is changing. Long term women are more at risk for dementia related diseases like Alzheimer's. And so we're looking to see if changes in sleep dependent memory around hormones might be a risk factor or a protective factor for later dementia related disorders.

Audra: Oh, so interesting. 

Kate: Yeah. So with this research, I'm learning the endocrinology and a whole bunch of other things that I'm then going to bring down to kids and look at puberty.

Justin: I was going to ask you, are you looking at adolescence? Yeah. Okay. Awesome. All right. So we might revisit all this stuff as we now dig into the sleep science. And so this is what we really want to know about. The Family Thrive where we’re about bringing expert science and translating it for parents so we can, as parents, use this stuff in our home, in our real lives. So before we get into any of the nitty gritty around, you know, sleep training or whatever else. Let's start at the very beginning. Why do animals even need sleep. Like this seems if, you know, you just think about it evolutionarily, wouldn't it be better if we were just on 24 hours a day so we could eat and, you know, procreate? So what I mean, evolutionarily, right. 

Audra: You know, we do spend a lot of time in sleep. 

Justin: So why do animals even need sleep?

Kate: I mean, I think it's still a 100 million dollar question. Frankly, I think we don't necessarily truly know the answer. And there's a lot of different reasons why. Right. You go from an evolutionary perspective. You can say, well, humans and many animals can't see at night we're pretty vulnerable to predators. So maybe we should go hide ourselves in a cave and keep ourselves safe if we know. And that's a perfect opportunity to sleep. I mean, that's one evolutionary perspective. 

For me, I think that sleep is critical to help our restaurant restorative function during the day. Our body incurs so much damage or so much wear and tear is maybe a better way to think about it, that we need the night to really restore those same functions that kind of bring us back to this baseline where we're ready to go the next day and ready to engage in our immune function is ready and at its peak to protect us from germs, things like that.

Justin: So it's restorative, like we should really think about, like the fundamental reason we need sleep is for this restorative. 

Audra: Is there such thing as too much, having too much sleep?

Kate: It depends on what is also accompanying it. So usually when we see people who are having too much sleep, a lot of times it's also a company with disease. So, you know, there's kind of this new shape function, right? Too little sleep is bad. Associated disease, higher mortality. Too much sleep is also bad, associated with disease and higher mortality.

 And so there's kind of this middle ground of of of kind of optimal amount of sleep for you, depending on what age you are. So that's kind of the main reason I will say. In addition, we know that sleep is critical for our cognitive processes and helps support our memory overnight, helps support us to have better attention that our emotion regulation. So there's a lot of reasons for why we sleep. 

Justin: Yeah. And I like to think about that, those cognitive reasons as related to being restorative. And we can get into that in a little bit. But while we're talking about the purpose of sleep, why do babies need so much sleep? Like they come out of the womb, like sleeping all the time and then it gets less and less and less as they get older. And so what's going on early on?

Kate: Well, I'll flip it to you and I'll say, what is going on early on in infancy? What is the baby's number one kind of function or purpose in life? It's to grow and develop. Right. And so to develop in a healthy way, we need sleep to help us get to that optimal place. So during sleep, we know that there's growth hormone secretion. 

So it's helping them grow from sleeping. We know that they're constantly taking in the knowledge of the world around them. I used to study infant sleep at the U of A as we talked about. And so we know that infants are these amazing many statisticians, and that's how they acquire language. They're constantly picking up on those statistics of language. And my work showed that. 

And over just a short nap, infants are able to retain statistical properties of language where without that short nap, they're not able to. So we know sleep is doing these important functions of helping stabilize this new knowledge at tiny little intervals moving forward.

Audra: I have a question about this. Does it matter if that nap is in a stationary location or in a car seat or in a stroller? There's, I remember there being a lot of debate around this, you know, the quality of it according to location or movement.

Kate: I think that's a really good question. I think the jury is out on terms of, you know, I only studied baby sleeping in a crib. I can't generalize my findings, but I will say sleep is sleep as long as you're doing it in a healthy and safe way. Those kind of alone on your back. Just be aware of risks and things like that. But, you know, if they're sleeping on you and you're safe and upright and awake, that sleeps probably the same as sleeping in a crib.

Justin: So just to be clear, you're saying that as far as we know, sleep in a stroller, like if I'm walking the baby down the street and it's sleeping in the stroller, just as good as if it's a lone quiet in its crib.

Kate: I mean, I think the question actually, I'll flip back to you is we know that when we sleep, we have certain brain rhythms and certain stages of sleep. And the question is, are the infants able to get the right amount of stages during the stroller nap versus at home? I don't think we've ever actually studied that question.

Audra: Well, I mean, I'm going to just assume or then sort of like extrapolate from your observations that with all of the moms around the world over time who for whom baby wearing is the norm and is the practice until, you know, the child is fairly well grown, you know, the age three, you know, from infancy. And it seems like those babies grow pretty well. 

Kate: Yeah, I’m not too worried. 

Justin: Ok, just a few more questions to lay the groundwork. Why do babies need so many naps? Why can't they get it all in just one big chunk?

Kate: Yeah, it's a good question. Babies sleep in these kind of polyphasic sleep, many throughout the day, probably rather than one consolidated nighttime chunk. And I think that the true answer is because they are taking in so much information, they're constantly having all these needs. They constantly having caloric needs too, they need to be eating around the clock as well. Eating takes a lot of energy, takes a lot of time. Right. You guys had your son many years ago, I'm sure you remember, when they fell asleep, eating is so exhausting to eat, right. 

So, you know, it takes a lot of energy. And so they need to sleep to kind of regain their energy, to be aware and be present and take in what's around them in the world, eat enough to grow.

Justin: Awesome. So is sleep serving different developmental or cognitive developmental purposes at different ages, or is it basically the same thing of, you know, consolidating memory and some of the other functions that you've already mentioned? So is it the same thing? But it's just a lot more, you know, when we're babies or are there different things going on at different ages?

Kate: I think there's probably to some degree different things going on based on where we are in our lives and our cognitive development. But in general, I think most people assume sleep is doing similar things across. Because we don't see massive changes in the brain waves while people are sleeping. 

I will add, though, infants, when they first are born their EEG is much less mature than you see in adults. And it's through that early brain maturation when we start to see adult rhythms around six months. So sleep is helping to support brain maturation in that very early life span. And then but also growth, immune functioning, energy needs, that sort of thing.

Audra: I'm curious about infants, sleep cycles. Do they have as much REM sleep as children and adults?

Audra: Yeah, really good question. I love infant sleep, so we talk about this all day.

Justin: Just in case a for any listeners. Could you just real briefly explain REM sleep?

Kate: I would be happy to. So when we go to sleep, we actually have different stages. The one kind of umbrella is called non rapid eye movement sleep, so non REM and the other is called Rapid Eye Movements. We associate REM with dreaming typically, although we do know that you can dream and not REM, but in REM during sleep, especially when we're having those dreams, certain brain areas are turned on versus off. And so that's why we have these very emotional, very vivid dreams without any kind of higher cognitive control, saying this is not a logical dream. 

So that's what's going on during REM. We also have muscle atonia. So our bodies essentially are kind of turned off. So we can't act out our dreams during REM, but very much a safety mechanism, our bodies have figured it out. Otherwise, who knows what we would be doing. I'd probably be cooking in the kitchen a lot. 

But then so during non REM, typically what ends up happening is we have three different stages. 1) Non REM one, which is really light sleep. 2) Where you can kind of really consider yourself and sleep. And we start to see the process of non REM to supporting sleep dependent memory. So we know that the more you have it and certain features within sleep, the more of those features you have. You have better memory. And then stage three, which is our deep sleep, slow wave sleep. And that's really considered the restorative sleep as well, and also very linked to memory. 

So in terms of REM and non REM in adults, we have 90 minute cycles. So we go through all of these stages in 90 minutes, and then we'll kind of come up for a little quick second to wake up and then go back down into these 90 minute cycles. But in infancy, we actually have 50 minute cycles where we go through them. And at birth you typically are born where you're having 50 percent REM and 50% non REM sleep, which dwindles down dramatically in that first year of life. 

So at the end, we, I think we typically have about 20 to 30 percent of REM sleep alone as adults. Across a full night. Yeah, so there's a lot of theories on what's REM's doing. It's, we know it's like essentially the brain, all the sensory areas of the brain are really turned on during REM. Right. These vivid dreams, very emotional. So one way some people think about it is it's the scrimmaged to the game. It's setting all your sensory areas up and ready so that when you acquire the information during wake, you're ready to retain it and know what's going on. Really cool. 

Audra: Oh, so cool. Yeah, I'm curious about it. We both got Aura rings a few years ago just to explore our own sleep. And, you know, I don't know how accurate, you know, it really is. But what we found is that I mean, he gets like really phenomenal deep sleep at usually and not as much REM sleep. And I am the opposite. I tend to get like super amounts of REM sleep and not as much deep sleep.

Justin: Although, ok, so can you tell us, do you have an opinion on these sleep wearables? 

Audra: Yeah. Good question.

Kate: Yeah. I mean, I will say they're not EEG. So we're not, you know, checked into your brain what's exactly happening. But Aura rings are phenomenal. They're probably the best wearable right now, although I don't know if I'm allowed to say that. But yeah, I think so. And so those are great. We use them in our research as well. So we have some great finance just because they're tracking your heart rate variability. Right. And they give an insight into that.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, no. I've learned a ton at in maybe the first six months or so wearing an Aura ring. And then after that, it was more just confirmation of like, yep, I know I had two drinks of alcohol last night. And sure enough, that's exactly what happens. I have to really terrible sleep. 

So I have over the years, I took a class that did a lot of sleep science at UC Irvine. It wasn't a part of my dissertation, so I didn't do any deep dives. But then, of course, reading Matthew Walker's book and listening to a bunch of podcasts and talking with other experts, I've come to think about like the three important things that I want to think about as a parent around sleep is sleep duration. 

Like, you know, I want to make sure my kids get enough sleep or, you know, in terms of amount, but then also high quality sleep, as I've seen studies where, you know, having enough light on in the room can disrupt quality of sleep. 

So I'm thinking not just about duration, but I'm thinking about quality as well. And as you said, so, you know, quiet, dark, cool enough. So the temperature matters. And then the third one, which I've seen epidemiology. But I don't know what you think about this timing. So, you know, if like we should be getting sleep at night and that if we dramatically shift when we're getting those eight hours, that can make a difference. So duration, quality and timing, what do you think about this? I mean, am I in the ballpark?

Kate: Yeah, you're spot on. I agree with all three. I saw your pre notes about it and I was like, yep, you know it. Per the third one at least we have a circadian rhythm where our body has different phases, where things are up and things are down. And we know that there's this optimal time for us to sleep. And I think understanding what that optimal time is for our bodies and being able to react to those cues and go to bed when we need to, rather than stay awake, watch TV, watch Netflix, do things. I think that's really key as well for kids, making sure we catch them in that window. They need to go to sleep.

Justin: So could you real quick? I think I left off this key term that I love to talk about with parents, which is circadian rhythm. So if you really it could kill you. Real briefly, talk about that.

Justin: Sure. Circadian rhythm is essentially our bodies respond in certain rhythms throughout the day, across the day. And so what it just essentially means is we have this internal clock mechanism that's saying, ok, now it's time to wake up. I want my cortisol up. I want to get up and go during the morning. 

And then at night we have our melatonin come on. Melatonin hormone that tells our body it's a timing mechanism, ok, it's time to go to sleep. Let's get ready. Let's kind of calm ourselves and get ready for bed and then we go to bed. So people in general, you can kind of think of them as owls and larks. So we have a preference. And we think this preference of whether we can stay up late or go to bed early is related to our circadian rhythm. But honestly, that research still needs to be done. If the preference matches our circadian rhythm, it's not 100%. It's just, it's an idea. It's a theory right now.

Justin: Ok. Ok, so real quick, I have a little bit of a bone to pick about this owl, and lark because I've seen a couple and I don't know how trustworthy these studies are, but I've seen a couple where or maybe it's just one, but I feel like it's been more where researchers have taken people and have studied them out camping like in the woods, like no artificial light. 

This one that I think of is particularly with camping so that they could just see the effect of extended time of all they have is the sun going up and going down and then how does this… And what they found was that regardless of owl or lark, they all started to go to bed around the same time. And so I'm wondering if the owl and large thing is really just a sensitivity to artificial light and that the owls are less are maybe more sensitive to the artificial. And so our staying up later and the larks just are not. And so they're going to bed earlier. I don't know. What do you think about this?

Kate: Yeah, I think it's totally possible. I also want to point out that owl and lark is really a kind of a social term of what's your preference, right. Cognitively, what your preferences. Are you someone who likes to stay up and kind of push their boundaries also a little bit more? It could also be related to all of these things, separate from what your underlying circadian rhythm is.

Justin: But I'm thinking, though, is that the owl is stimulated more by the artificial light. And so enjoy staying, staying up. And so it is just a more enjoyable thing. Whereas the lark, like this one here is like, oh, the artificial light. I feel like it's brutal and I'm avoid that at night. And so by like 9:30pm, I'm just like done.

Audra: Yeah, but it's not just that, it's that you cannot sleep in. Even when you were a teenager, your report, you didn't sleep in. I remember having to be woken up for kindergarten, lobbying to be up late at night in kindergarten and having to be dragged out of bed like that early. And I guess I've always been phenomenal at sleeping in. But you've never been able to sleep it. I mean, could that have something to do with it? 

Kate: Yeah, I think there's a lot of questions about that. I think in general, our circadian rhythms can be trained really easily to some degree, or I should say in some people if they can be trained really easily. So if yours is trained to go to bed at night and sleep in all your stress and is trying to wake up in the morning and go to bed early, I mean, that's all a factor. And also looking at our kids sleep, because the consistency, I'll add, is the fourth thing that I would put in timing. So consistency with timing is really critical to supporting circadian rhythms and then support quality, duration of quality sleep, things like that.

Audra: So that's yeah, that that really makes sense to me, whether with our son, he I think from the time he was a baby and small child like couldn't sleep past 5:30 in the morning and then it was I couldn't sleep past six and then 6:30. And like, you know, he got to the point where he could sleep in until 7:00, but we wouldn't want him to stay up very late at all, you know, even for special occasions, because he would get up. And there is nothing that we could do about it, whereas our daughter could sleep in like she said she could, like, make that wiggle, make that change. So it is really interesting how there is, we see the difference present with us and then with our kids as well, just naturally.

Justin: All right. So the last sleep science question before we get to the practice, can you tell us a little bit about what happens to the brain? And we can specifically think about kids here when they're not getting enough sleep over time. This is not just one night, although there are studies showing, you know, the impacts of just one night of restricted sleep, but over time, if our kids aren't getting enough sleep or their sleep is disrupted. What are some of the things that are happening in the brain when that takes place?

Kate: Yeah, it's a good question. So I will say there's a lot of research that needs to be done on this area and a lot of research that needs to be very objective. It's hard to study kids and sleep and kind of look long term, because we have to rely a lot on past reports which aren't as reliable, unfortunately…

Justin: Because you're not going to be able to do a randomized controlled trial, say, ok, we're going to restrict sleep for these kids.

Kate: Yeah, that would be pretty unethical to say, you guys, we'll see what happens in a few years. We're going to look back on this. But just naturalistic kind of observations of data suggests that the next day for kids, kids are pretty resistant. They might show some more emotional reactivity that might show some attention issues. 

There's some research that shows down the line kids who are not sleeping enough, especially in early kind of toddlerhood, have increased behavioral issues and increased academic difficulties. So they're scoring a little bit lower on academic tests and they're having an increased kind of executive function behavior issues. So those that are revolving around cognitive control, attention, inhibition, inhibition of behavior, that's down the line. Usually when those studies have happened, they're kind of looking three to five years down the line. So that's directly with kids in general, with adults. We know that when we don't sleep enough, our brains are not optimized for the next day. We are much more emotionally reactive. We can even react more so to negative information and perceive it more threatening than maybe it typically would be to us. We have poor attention. 

This is why it's very dangerous to drive if we haven't slept enough. Right. And you can be about adolescents as well. They're not sleeping enough. They are more dangerous. Right. And then also our next day, we're not able to acquire the typical knowledge that we would want to. Yeah. So a lot of detrimental effects, which is why sleep is so important.

Justin: Absolutely. I mean, it is the foundation. Like we in The Family Thrive, we have these thrive pillars that we talk about nutrition and we talk about mental and emotional health and social support and exercise. But it's like none of it matters if you're not getting enough sleep. You got like start with the sleep.

Kate: Yeah. Well, none of it will kind of all come together, right. If you're not getting enough sleep, how can you stay healthy? That's the kind of key of it, right?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. All right. So now let's get into sleep practices at the very beginning. So what should parents know about optimal sleep for newborns? I know that. I mean, they're so like I mean, if you have an opinion on sleep training and these other other things, then please share. But are there some key things that you just wish every parent knew about optimal sleep for newborns? Yes.

Kate: The number one most important thing is it's all ok. You can't do anything, just survive. That is the point. If just surviving. So newborns don't have circadian rhythms, no human is born with an intrinsic circadian rhythm. So we don't know. Night is night and day is day. And it doesn't come about until about three to four months from what research studies have shown. And so it's just survival. And there's nothing wrong with whatever you got to do to get these kids to sleep. 

So we want it to be safe always. But, you know, if you're awake and you just want to hold a baby and have a contact nap while you're sleeping or babywear, do it. There's nothing wrong with that. I wore my kids frequently when they were newborns because they had great sleep while they were on me and kind of connected and close to mom. But it's just pure survival for those first few months until you you can start to get them more aware and trained in their circadian rhythm is starting to develop. There's things you can do to support them in being better sleepers, but it's survival in that beginning.

Audra: Yeah. How old are your kids now?

Kate: I've got a six month old and a three and a half year old.

Audra: Oh, how cool. You're in the middle of the child sleep version of it. Yeah. And it's like just when you get them sleeping, it seems like then they're teething again and then, you know, up again. And it's just it's a lot going through those toddler years. Yeah. Well, how do you feel about the concept of sleep training or trying to teach a child to to sell, to self soothe and to go to sleep?

Kate: Yeah. So I'll start with saying that for every family, it's what works for you is the right thing to do. There's nothing wrong with that. So some families like sleep training and some families don't feel comfortable. And that is ok. There's no wrong answer here. And I think the most important thing is supporting moms and supporting parents in general and being the best parents that they want to be. So that's my motto with all things.

Audra: I love that motto. Yes, thank you.

Kate: Yeah, it's there's no judgment. And I think there's a lot of shame around different practices. Like right now, I'm seeing a lot of anti sleep training information going around, which I'm finding really interesting. But I also think a lot of it isn't necessarily based in the research.

And so I think there's a lot of concerns about what's being presented on social media. I'll just add that. 

So from the research, there is no negative effects long term, short term to kids being sleeping trained. That doesn't mean you have to do it, but doesn't mean anyone has to do it. But there's no negative effects of it. And there's many different methods to doing it. One being kind of what the extreme one everyone thinks of is like you just shut the door and walk away, which nobody does. Nobody ever does that. And then there's very gradual ones that say, you know, I'll kind of do a little thing here and there. I don't want my kids to. 

So this spectrum, everything works. A lot of people fall in the middle at some point within the first few years of life. So they say, ok, I need to do retraining, training, because for my mental health, I need to have better sleep. I need to.

Justin: That was us.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. There's a point where I think most parents reach where they're saying, I'm not getting enough sleep, I'm not able to be that present, mindful parent. I'd like to be in the moment. And so what do I do? How do I support my child and how do I support myself? And I think it's all this important relationship.

Justin: Yeah. Do you remember that?

Audra: Oh, of course I remember that. I mean, what I think is is really beautiful about what you're saying is like I've had friends who are breastfeeding throughout the night and the baby is sleeping and doing great and they're both getting more sleep. Co-sleeping in and and moving forward that way. And then there are parents like us who I had to go back to work at three, three months, and I was up at 2:00 in the morning and he would feed and not just go back to sleep. And we had like a physio ball, you know, like a bouncing ball. I have to have him on the ball and kind of like slowly bounce him down to sleep. And then it was like, well, the Temple of Doom, like…

Justin: Oh, just laying him back down.

Audra: Yeah. I try to try. I like to have like a warm blanket down or something to lay him down. So the not like tip off the booby trap like and get him down and be like, you know, like at some point I was like, I can't function any longer. This baby is capable of falling asleep on his own and we need to help facilitate that. It's going to be painful for me as the mom, there was like that. I remember there's a TV show in the ‘90s that had a really big scene with this and the parents were waiting outside the door, you know because it's so painful for the parents, but it worked for us. So I love your motto because it's finding like what works for you. And Max is like an awesome sleeper and kind of always was after that.

Justin: Oh, yeah. Yeah. 

Kate: Yeah. I fully trained my kids as well. So, yeah, I mean, my six-month-old, I was like, instead I'm working. It's time for you to learn how to sleep. So. But, you know, again, it's where you lie on this spectrum. There are no wrong answers. And then it's how quickly or not quickly you want to do it and the kind of support you want to give your kids. But yeah, I…

Audra: So it’s all right.

Kate: It's all right. There you go. 

Audra: Follow your intuition, your path. It's not one way or the other. You were having similar debates in other areas, like with breastfeeding, you know, formula feeding, you know, and it's moving into the feed is best. And it's like that space like however, it is that you can do it with whatever combination, whatever works for you. No judgment, I want to say like sleep is best or rested is best or whatever. 

Kate: I completely agree. I think it's a lot of parallels. And I think in general, trying to create a supportive community for parents is the most important part of this puzzle piece. And every family looks different. Every cultural aspect as well changes the dynamics. And it's really important that we are supporting early parenthood.


44:29

Justin: So kids move out of infancy, toddler, young kids. What are the sleep practices that parents should start to think about to support the best sleep? Now I'm thinking, you know, the way that I grew up, my parents never gave this a single thought. It was just like go to bed and just be done with it. 

But now that I've learned enough about sleep science, like, oh, there are things that we can do to like really support optimal sleep. And I think about them not just in terms of the nighttime practices, but also daytime practices as well, to support a healthy circadian rhythm so that when we're awake, we're awake and when we're asleep we’re asleep. So could you I guess let's start with the daytime practices. What are some things during the day that parents can do to support the best sleep for their kids?

Kate: Generally, the biggest thing is keeping a similar structure and schedule both on weekdays and weekends. That's probably the biggest factor of everything, having kids wake up similar times. We usually say within an hour, this is bedtime, an hour before, an hour after. That's kind of the goal. Help support that circadian rhythm. And same with at night getting some wake light right at the very beginning. 

So going outside, if you're in beautiful California having breakfast outside or walking around a little bit before school in the sun. That also helps because light travels into our eye, hits what we call our suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is our clock in our brain, and says, ok, it's time to wake up, let's reset this and let's get going for the day. And that's really important.

Justin: Yeah. So are we talking like five minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes? What's the best amount of time?

Kate: Ok, 15 to 30 is probably pretty good. I mean, I think it depends on how strong the light is, right? If you're in Arizona, in Tucson, you don't need as much because that light is really bright. Maybe being in Seattle where you're not getting as much light with the clouds, it's going to be a little bit longer. It's really about the amount.

Audra: That's so helpful when I walk my daughter to school in the morning. And it is really, really helpful. And I think these practices translate to parents, too, right? So I one of the things that I started doing a few years ago is I basically don't use sunglasses anymore and I use them if like where I'm in somewhere with glare or whatever, like hardcore harsh light environment. But just like during the day, I stopped using sunglasses. So just going out. And then I was also aware of my contact lenses. I had one once I had a UV filter, I didn't know. And then on my glasses and such as taking all of that out. And I found it made a radical, for me, made a radical difference in just allowing the access to that light.

Kate: Yeah. Wake up light really can help, especially in that first thing in the morning. You're having similarly timed meals. It's really good and helps our systems because it keeps our circadian rhythms really trained. You know, some days things don't work out. But in general, if things are at the same time, it really helps our systems continue. If kids are napping, having them nap at the same time, having a little cool down, calm down process right before that nap can help as well. 

And then at night, also having wind downtime, we usually recommend about 45 minutes beforehand, turning down harsh lights, getting off TV, getting off phones, any video game things, all that stuff is really key to helping our bodies find this ability to kind of recenter itself and say, ok, I'm about to go to bed. It's time for me to wind down, do your bedtime routine, hop into bed. Hopefully that will help.

Justin: All right. So this gets into the nighttime practices. So I'm aware of the research around the circadian rhythm in our, with our metabolism. And so to make a long story short, it's better to eat more when the sun's up than rather when the sun's down. So what would be like an optimal time? Or let me rephrase that. When should be a time when parents should say, ok, the kitchen's closed like no more food?

Kate: Well, I think that's a tough question to answer, only because some kids have different caloric needs and intakes. And if you follow nutritionists and doctors, some doctors recommend our kids have a little snack before bed to kind of keep them going through the night. In adults it's a little easier to say that you want to have a space between dinner and bedtime. But with kids, I mean, you essentially want to have that space as well. But if your kid isn't able to do it, it's not something you should be following.

Justin: Ok, so then let's just turn to parents. When should parents, for themselves, say all right, I want to be done with what I'm eating so that I can get the best sleep?

Kate: I think the goal is typically about three hours. I think some people say two, some people say four, I say around three. So if you're having dinner at 6:00, go to bed at 9:00, have dinner at 7:00, you're ready to go to bed about 10:00.

Justin: What about exercise? Should we try to reduce exercise in the evening? Try to keep it all in the daytime?

Kate: So we used to think that you needed to exercise right in the morning, and that's the optimal time. Some recent research has just come out saying, well, if you exercise at night, it doesn't affect your body and your sleep. So I'll say the jury's still out on that. But again, keeping exercise at a similar time of day helps your circadian rhythm so that it knows it. Now, it's my exercise time, now is my eating time, now to sleep. Consistency is really key.

Justin: Ok. And then. When should we think about having the screens off in order to promote this winding down towards that time?

Kate: 45 minutes is probably the minimum.

Justin: Minimum?

Kate: Yes.

Justin: Minimum of 45 minutes.

Audra: What about...

Kate: It’s tough for kids and adults.

Audra: I mean, you're reading Twitter at night.

Justin: I love Twitter. I love Twitter. And I don't get it during the day. So like my bedtime is my Twitter time.

Kate: I will say as a clinician, I say unless it's a problem, it's not a problem. So if you don't have a job falling asleep and you're looking at Twitter right before you go to bed, it's not a problem. But if you're having a problem falling asleep or your kid's having falling asleep and you're saying something's not working, let's look at the structure, let's look at the schedule, that's when you want to start tweaking things around. So we're not going to go in there and say, let's fix everything when nothing needs to be fixed. You're getting good sleep. But in general, we do know that these things can help sleep.

Justin: Got it. 

Audra: Oh, I think that's great. That's super helpful. What about turning the lights down as the sun goes down? Is that helpful? 

Kate: I mean with winter happening, it's going to be earlier and earlier, but yeah, all of these things are important, but having lights come down, having screens up. I mean, if you think about a screen is right here and we're looking right at it. Really getting a lot of light.

Audra: So the lights don't have to, do the lights have to be off or can they just be turned down? So we're seeing them down.

Kate: Just down. Those night modes are really good right now.

Justin: Yeah, I have a visceral reaction to artificial light at night. 

Audra: It's like a campfire out front because it can. Yeah. And our neighbors are like when we first moved into where we live now in Georgia, our neighbors were like, what is happening? You have no lights on at night. 

Justin: Oh, Justin goes around and turns them off if anybody turns them on. So what about blue light blocking glasses at night? This has been a popular thing for adults who want to optimize, you know, their sleep. What do you think about these things?

Kate: Totally possible. If it works for you, it works. I mean, I think also just turning down, putting on night modes is another way to do it. So I don't think you need them, but they can help.

Justin: So like any way that you can reduce the amount of artificial light that's coming into your eyes.

Audra: Now, a lot of folks use blue light blocking glasses during the day if they're on a computer a lot.

Justin: I don't know anything about that.

Audra: Is that something that could be you? It sounds like you still want to maybe get outside and get some sunlight if you're in that situation.

Kate: Yeah. Artificial light is not going to give you that same amount that being outside will. And so that's really what it comes down to is getting that sunlight.

Justin: Do you know? So I don't know really what a lux is. But, you know, it's a way to measure how, you know, how much light is being emitted. So could you give us just or do you know the difference between indoor lights, like if you're in a classroom or an office, what the lux is compared to if you walk outside and it's a relatively sunny day.

Kate: Yeah. You know, off the top of my head, I can't. But I know it's like thousands different. Yes. Very little versus huge difference. Yeah.

Justin: All right. All right. Yeah. So that's I often think about that because I remember I'm not in an office anymore, but I when I was I would think that I need to get out, just get that sunlight for even just a couple of minutes. I don't know if it was a placebo effect, but I would feel much better.

Kate: I still do it now. Better get a little sun. 

Audra: Sunlight breaks.

Justin: Ok, so now kids are in bed sleeping. How can we arrange their environment to support optimal sleep? What are some of the things that we should be thinking about with their rooms, though?

Kate: In general, sleep hygiene is a really common term. It's not the best term probably cuz it does sound funny, but having a cooler room, having it darker as much as kids feel comfortable with certain kids, can't sleep fully in the dark. And that's ok for that kind of season of life, having them be in a comfortable bed. So, one, that they feel safe and content, warm enough, those kinds of things. Having white noise can help a lot or just in general, quiet.

Justin: So white noise. What is the consensus on white noise?

Kate: I can help block out kind of these environmental sounds, and I think that's where it really comes into play. So if you are in a noisy area or, for example, you've got other noisy kids in the house or noisy pets, it can help kind of maintain a specific level.

Justin: Quiet or white noise, dark and then cool. I have seen recommendations that like the optimal temperature should be in the high 60s. Is that right?

Kate: You know, that's what some people say. I'll say I don't sleep in that cold. Now, it's also to some degree of personal preference. Right. I mean, my infant won't sleep that bad in that cold of a room.

Audra: Yeah, I'm super glad to hear about white noise, because we definitely hear that, you know, one thing I hear from parents is what I want to make sure that I'm not inserting something in my child's sleep routine that will cause like some sort of dependency, you know, not as a chemical dependency, but like some sort of like. Does that mean they can't sleep without it? You know, and that's the challenge, right. So along similar lines, melatonin. Use of supplemental melatonin. What are your thoughts on that?

Kate: Yeah, I mean, I think it's something to discuss with pediatricians when you want to use it with kids, there's not really a lot of research on use with children and not long term research. And so in general, we know intrinsically children should be having the right amount. And melatonin itself is actually a thymine hormone. So it says, ok, now your body should go to sleep. It doesn't actually say fall asleep. It just as this is the time. Here I am, I'm high. Like with your circadian rhythm. It's time to start coming down and going to sleep. 

I know a lot of parents use it. I know especially at times it's recommended in children with certain disorders like autism to help keep them on a schedule. Because if it's a timing mechanism, if you take it at the same time, you can help, your train, your circadian rhythm or your children's circadian rhythm.

Audra: Oh, interesting. You could potentially help retrain if like you have jet lag or if you're away at camp for a week and things get changed or something like that.

Kate: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it's definitely something to discuss with the pediatrician before giving it. In general, I think for most children they shouldn't need it, especially long term. But here or there, it happens.

Justin: I want to talk briefly about parents. What about naps for adults? I just have to ask. 

Kate: There's nothing wrong with them. 

Justin: What do you think right now?

Kate: Yeah, I think there's nothing wrong with them. So naps are fantastic for you. And at different amounts they help with different things. So short ones can kind of help regenerate you. You're able to attend to better. That's that fatigue countermeasure. A little bit longer, like 20 minutes, up to 90 minutes, you can actually start to get memory benefits, have a kind of emotional reactivity reset as well. If you get a full cycle of sleep, that includes REM. So depending on the length of nap, can serve different functions. I'm a big proponent of if you need the sleep get the sleep.

Justin: Oh, awesome. Awesome.

Audra: I love that. You got to love hearing that he gets up at like 3:30, four in the morning and...

Justin: Well, yeah, I need that. I really love like a 20 minute nap. I feel like it is like 20 minutes. It's just the perfect.

Audra: It's a sort of nap where if you lay down on the couch, leave your feet on the floor and just tilt yourself over. Right. Don't get too comfortable. If you get too comfortable for me, I could end up in one of those three hour ones where you wake up thinking it's like the next day.

Kate: Yeah, that groggy sleep menercia afterwards, which doesn't feel good. It's all for depending on who you are, what you need, what your needs are.

Justin: So to start to wrap this up, I do have a curiosity around motherhood for you. How has becoming a mother changed how you think about sleep or has it had no effect?

Kate: I mean, I like it even more than I used to.

Justin: It’s now like the most important thing in your life. Yes.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. So I did my masters where I sleep deprived over a hundred undergrads. Yeah. So I've been sleep deprived. But you know how they always say like they make the jokes like teachers can't, they can't always read right away or psychologists like they always need some extra therapy or sleep researchers they never sleep. It's true, though, because all our research is around watching others.

Justin: Oh, you got to be in the lab all all night.

Kate: Right in the lab all night. So I've been sleep deprived for probably the better part of the last 15 years. But that being said, motherhood takes it to a new level.Because you don't ever get those opportunities to go back and sleep in those chunks. So when I was sleep depriving people the next day, I could sleep for five, six hours to kind of work it out. Right. So I've loved it even more than I did before. But I use my clinical skills to help support my family sleep, help support our kids. So I'm very thankful for that privilege and that knowledge.

Audra: Yeah. Yeah. That it strikes me as being really powerful that you could come into motherhood, really understanding the power of sleep and being able to probably ask for more help around you, whatever your needs are, to make sure that things are met instead of getting into that normal mom is self sacrificing mode. I'm assuming that that research is helpful and something that could help anyone going into motherhood to know how powerful sleep is and to ask for the help to get the sleep.

Kate: Yeah. And to ask and just also to be aware of. I think there's just so much shame and guilt around being that best mom and knowing that, you know, nothing is right. There's no wrong answers. Everyone is doing the best they can and everyone's child is going to turn out wonderfully. And that's the most we can hope for. Right. And so whether or not you sleep train or whether or not you do this or do that or breastfeed or foremostly, every kid is going to turn out great in the end. And so having that kind of awareness. And being able to take a step back in motherhood has helped me a lot.

Audra: Yeah, just supporting it was supporting folks and in whatever their spaces, but ever their needs are, whatever their best is. Right. Is going to be different for everyone and supporting them in their own journey, whatever that looks like.

Kate: Absolutely.

Justin: So, Kate, what is particularly exciting for you personally in your growth as a mother and just as a human being? What are you working on? Because I am just to get a little bit of context for this. This is quite the family. So The Family Thrive, you know, we're we're and we're an app and we're a platform for parents who want to dig deeper and, you know, work on themselves, work on helping themselves thrive and their families thrive. So I well…

Audra: Well the question you normally ask is, what's at your edge?

Justin: Like what is that your edge? 

Audra: Like what is just new and exciting for you or the next thing coming for your thing that you're really interested in right now, you know?

Kate: So I think for me and looking ahead, we're looking towards these next steps in my girls. And I think for me, being able to take all of the knowledge that I've gained and really look at how it unfolds every moment and also trying to be very present and mindful parent through it all has been what I've been focusing on myself. So I think a lot of parents were constantly caught up in the day to day activities, the days feel so long. But then the years feel so short and trying to really be present and mindful of these moments that I'm having in moments of watching my girls together, watching our family. That's where I am.

Audra: It's beautiful. Do you have any any strategies you've used in that? Like as a mom, I really resonate with working on presence. And for me, sometimes it's just noticing. It's like taking notice of this beautiful moment, sometimes trying to write it down or or even photograph it or stored away somewhere or something. Do you have a strategy that's helped you with that presence?

Kate: Yeah, I try to stop myself when I realize, when I'm realizing I'm not in the moment when I'm on my phone, I'm working or different things are coming to mind. And I catch myself. I try and say, ok, this is when I'm trying to be here fully as a mom. I'm going to be present in this mom moment and I'm just going to engage. And that's the strategy that I've personally been taking, is to really try to have that kind of mindset of catching myself and engaging in the moment when I'm at work, I'm full work, and then when I'm a mom, I'm trying to be full mom.

Audra: I love that. So it's really noticing, paying attention. It's it's a mindful practice, like, oh, I kind of just got caught up in something, you know, and I want to be here.

Kate: Yeah. Yeah. Recenter. It's not, it's not perfect. I'm not perfect. No one is. So I also want to say that with a grain of salt in the sense of sometimes I don't catch myself. And that's also ok. I think giving yourself a lot of grace is what's needed as a parent.

Audra: I couldn't agree with you more. And I love the, I love that you share that. It's not about perfection. And it sounds like that's what I what I like hearing about this is a practice for you, because when I hear this practice, it's sort of a daily, you know, mindful practice, something that doesn't mean you're going to be this way. I'm not going to be present 24/7. Right. And so that's why I need this practice to help with that kind of recentering, you know, in the moment when I'm with my family.

Justin: But also, the beautiful thing is that each new moment provides that opportunity to be totally present. Yeah, that's awesome. So we have three final questions that we ask every podcast guest. And so the first one is, Kate, if you could put a Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would that Post-it note say?

Kate: You're doing great. Keep going.

Justin: You're doing great. Keep going. You need to get one foot in front of the other. And is there a recent quote that has changed the way you think or feel?

Kate: Probably not. I'll be honest. I mean, I think in general, every time I see Be kind stickers, I they resonate with me. I think kindness towards others and towards our community and society is really something that we constantly need. So it's a good recheck for everyone.

Justin: Be kind. And then the final question, because it is, you know, the parenting grind is real. As you know, as you said, it's easy to get caught up in the to dos and the scheduling, that it's nice to take a step back and think about like what's so wonderful about kids. And so, Kate, what do you love most about kids?

Kate: Oh, they're the best. I mean, how can you just not love children? I think they're interesting the way they view the world. Just watching how they experience new things through the world. My three year old, for example, calls elevators, excavators. I don't ever want to correct it. It's just, you know. You know, we took her to a children's museum this weekend and they have one of the, I don't know. I've never seen it before, but they're air shoots. And so if you put what were they? They were like this fluffy ball thing. And you throw it in one and then it will shoot all around and going through it and come out and just watching her try and figure it out and understand was the highlight of my week. I mean, the joy she had in this moment of just watching this ball travel through these tubes and where would it come out? I think that that kind of joy in that momentary experience and appreciating that and really engaging with that is one of my favorite things about being a mom and being someone who works with kids. There are no bad kids in this world.

Audra: Oh, that's beautiful. Put a pin in that. There are no bad kids in this world. And then to be able to experience that pure, authentic state of being that they inhabit. Right. Like the wonder is a state of being. And it is not self-conscious. It is not like, you know, they're not like in the mode of social anxiety and what's going on and performative or anything like that. Right. It's just like wheels turning, making sense of the world. It's beautiful.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely.

Justin: Kate, thank you so much for joining us. Oh, such a pleasure. This is so enlightening. We got so much information. I'm really excited for our parents to hear this.

Audra: And thank you for your research and your commitment. And you have exciting things ahead. You know, I love how you're taking the research that you're doing now and you're going to translate it to adolescence. I hope that we can use this kind of research to help kids start school later.

Kate: Yeah, I'm running a study right now. If anyone has kids between nine and 13 and they want to do a Minecraft sleep and memory study, it’s all remote. 

Justin: It’s all remote?

Audra: We have one!

Kate: Anyone who wants to, we’ll take them.  

Audra: Nine to 13 Maesie and she plays Roblox, but close enough. We’ll talk about that.

Justin: And how long will you be recruiting for this?

Kate: Hopefully the next few years, though, it's going to be a big study. But yeah, but we're recruiting right now.

Justin: Awesome. So when this podcast airs, I think later October. All right. So…

Kate: We'll still be going. 

Justin: So we'll let you know. We'll get the information for this and we'll put it in the show notes.

Kate: That would be great. I appreciate it a lot.

Justin: Awesome, Kate.

Audra: Oh, that's so exciting.

Kate: Thank you for having me. It was wonderful.

Audra: Bye. 


Podcast Ep. 23: Using Sleep for a Happier and Healthier Family With Sleep Scientist Kate Simon, PhD

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Podcast Ep. 23: Using Sleep for a Happier and Healthier Family With Sleep Scientist Kate Simon, PhD

Sleep scientist and child psychologist Kate Simon is here to show us how we can use the latest science on sleep to boost your family's health and happiness!

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90 minutes

In this episode

Ok, if you could only focus on one health behavior and had to let all the other slide, what would it be for you? Well, here at The Family Thrive, it's sleep, without a doubt. If you're not well-rested, then you really don't have the energy, attention or motivation to do much of anything else. So we take sleep pretty seriously, which is why we couldn't wait to have on this week's guest, Kate Simon, a sleep scientist and a mom who studies how sleep affects kids of all ages. 

She's a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine, where Justin got his public health PhD. Go anteaters! And she's worked at Children's Hospital of Orange County, where Audra and Justin' son Max was treated for his brain tumor for 10 years. So we've got these cool connections that we talk about at the beginning. 

Anyway, in this episode, we get all the latest science of wisdom on optimal sleep, not only for kids but for adults as well. So if you care about the health benefits of good sleep as much as we do, then you're going to love this episode. So get a cozy blanket and some chamomile tea and settle in for a conversation that will change the way you think about sleep.

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About our guest

Kate Simon is a postdoctoral fellow at University of California, Irvine who studies sleep — specifically how it can affect people of all ages, including kids. She’s been a part of multiple sleep studies, so be sure to check those out!

Show notes

In this episode

Ok, if you could only focus on one health behavior and had to let all the other slide, what would it be for you? Well, here at The Family Thrive, it's sleep, without a doubt. If you're not well-rested, then you really don't have the energy, attention or motivation to do much of anything else. So we take sleep pretty seriously, which is why we couldn't wait to have on this week's guest, Kate Simon, a sleep scientist and a mom who studies how sleep affects kids of all ages. 

She's a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine, where Justin got his public health PhD. Go anteaters! And she's worked at Children's Hospital of Orange County, where Audra and Justin' son Max was treated for his brain tumor for 10 years. So we've got these cool connections that we talk about at the beginning. 

Anyway, in this episode, we get all the latest science of wisdom on optimal sleep, not only for kids but for adults as well. So if you care about the health benefits of good sleep as much as we do, then you're going to love this episode. So get a cozy blanket and some chamomile tea and settle in for a conversation that will change the way you think about sleep.

Listen here

About our guest

Kate Simon is a postdoctoral fellow at University of California, Irvine who studies sleep — specifically how it can affect people of all ages, including kids. She’s been a part of multiple sleep studies, so be sure to check those out!

Show notes

In this episode

Ok, if you could only focus on one health behavior and had to let all the other slide, what would it be for you? Well, here at The Family Thrive, it's sleep, without a doubt. If you're not well-rested, then you really don't have the energy, attention or motivation to do much of anything else. So we take sleep pretty seriously, which is why we couldn't wait to have on this week's guest, Kate Simon, a sleep scientist and a mom who studies how sleep affects kids of all ages. 

She's a postdoctoral fellow at the University of California, Irvine, where Justin got his public health PhD. Go anteaters! And she's worked at Children's Hospital of Orange County, where Audra and Justin' son Max was treated for his brain tumor for 10 years. So we've got these cool connections that we talk about at the beginning. 

Anyway, in this episode, we get all the latest science of wisdom on optimal sleep, not only for kids but for adults as well. So if you care about the health benefits of good sleep as much as we do, then you're going to love this episode. So get a cozy blanket and some chamomile tea and settle in for a conversation that will change the way you think about sleep.

Listen here

About our guest

Kate Simon is a postdoctoral fellow at University of California, Irvine who studies sleep — specifically how it can affect people of all ages, including kids. She’s been a part of multiple sleep studies, so be sure to check those out!

Show notes

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Transcript highlights

1:54

Justin: I wanted to know about your experience with Matthew Walker, who I've heard on a number of podcasts, and he's like, in my mind, he's like the sleep expert.

Audra: Justin’s a huge fan. Massive fan. 

Justin: Yeah. So did you know that you wanted to study sleep and then or was it that experience that got you into studying sleep?

Kate: Yeah, it's a really great question. So I was an undergrad at UC Berkeley and had devoted myself to becoming a social worker. And then towards the end of my senior year, I said, well, you know, maybe this isn't exactly what I want to do. I end up taking a science of sleep class from Matt and figured out, nope, this is what I want to do. I want to be a sleep researcher. So from there, I asked to join his lab and got the opportunity to, he had just moved to Berkeley from Harvard before that. I'm not positive. Joined his lab as a research assistant, an undergrad. So the people who do all kind of the scut work, right? 

And then joined Dr. Alison Harvey. She's also a fantastic sleep researcher at UC Berkeley. She studies adolescence and sleep and insomnia, so from the clinical domain. And so I joined both sleep labs.

Justin: Oh, yeah. She clearly needs to get onto some more podcasts. 

Kate: Yeah. Oh. So you can listen to her as well.

Justin: Yeah, exactly. So can I just ask real quick, was there when you took that class, was there an aha moment or was it a slow thing over that class or your like sleep? Man, this is cool.

Kate: You know, I don't I mean, it was probably like 16 years ago. It's been a while, but I knew I always loved working with kids is why I'd want to be like a social worker or a teacher. And the sleep, everything just kind of connected together for me in that moment, in that class, and so quickly decided I was going to change course and pursue becoming a sleep and memory and development researcher.

Audra: Wow. What a powerful moment when everything just sort of like clicks and comes together for you. I feel like it's part of the magic of college is exploring different things and having access to things that you wouldn't normally, you know, just think of.

Kate: Absolutely, I think that is the most important thing is, is also I tell this story because I truly devoted everything to being a social worker up to that point. And then I switched in the last semester. And so I like to tell the undergrads that I work with them. There's never a time you can't change course if you want to.

Audra: I think that is wonderful. It's a beautiful message. My mother went back and got a Ph.D. when I was in high school, then totally changed her career as well. And it helped me see that not everything is just about a linear, you know, kind of path forward and finishing, you know, a certain amount of time and find what you want to do that there. The journey of life can take us into new and wonderful direction. 

So, yeah, that's amazing. Does your interest in social work or your background really studying that much in social work inform your work on sleep or research or anything in any way? Because that's more like kind of society, like systems. You know, you're studying like when you're going into social work, you're learning you know, you're learning a lot about how we've constructed our society, about inequity, about all sorts of different things. And then you go into this scientific research and it's a bit different. But do you see connections?

Kate: I mean, I do. I think that it also helped me decide to add on a clinical Ph.D. So I started a program in a cognitive neuroscience and added clinical so that I could really see the person as a whole. So at research, we're really at this kind of micro level at time. So the research I do is very basic. How are these cognitive processes unfolding? What are those kind of small roles? And then I also studied at the clinical level so I could see, well, how does this actually translate to the person and kind of that navigation between those two spheres is what I love the most. And I think what helped, my background helped me support.

Justin: So the next step for you was to go to the University of Arizona. And so we both have ties there. I was born in Tucson, and although I think only a few people in my dad's family went to the U of A the entire family,

Audra: You think they all went?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Just living in Tucson. It's like that's you know, U of A football, U of A basketball, baseball, soccer. No, I like every single sport, like volleyball. It doesn't matter. Yeah. So tell us about your time in Tucson or U of A, how did this shape what you're doing today?

Kate: Yeah, so I had a fantastic time. I love Tucson. I recommend it to everybody similar to your family. So I went to graduate school there from a cognitive neuroscience Ph.D. is where I started. And I worked with doctors Lynn Nadle, Dr. Rebecca Gomez and Dr. Dick Guzman. 

And so I went in knowing I wanted to study sleep memory in kids. It has been pretty true to that since. And so Dr. Buton is a was a sleep brewer has since passed away, but really helped kind of initiate some of the initial sleep treatments. So very big in the clinical world. Dr. Lynn Nadle is a huge figure in terms of hippocampal-dependent memory. And Dr. Guzman studies development. And so I got to have all three as my mentors. I was incredibly lucky and worked with all three to really try and hone my interests and hone my understanding of these three very disparate areas, but to intersect them together and study that intersection.

Justin: So you knew going in it was sleep, memory, kids. What did this come through your work as an undergraduate researcher with Matthew Walker, or was there some other impetus for you to be interested in these three?

Kate: I think Matt’s class, I was like, this is what I want to study. And so he did sleep in memory and adults. So I got that memory and sleep component. Dr. Harvey did adolescents. And then I actually had joined a third lab in undergrad, Dr. Joseph Campos, who is a huge infant development researcher. And so kind of started getting that experience in those labs. And that is what I took with me to graduate school.

Justin: Ok. And then the next step was a clinical internship at CHOC Hospital. Of course, we are very close with CHOC Hospital, our son. 

Audra: That's when we became interested in sleep. And I think, really had no awareness other than when we had babies. And we're like, oh, my God, we need sleep. But we became very interested in sleep for our entire families, health and well-being. Once we started learning about it, having a hospitalized kid.

Justin: Oh, well, another thing and this is not, of course, unique to CHOC at all, but just being surprised. So our son was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011, and we were treated at CHOC Hospital. He was inpatient for almost a month. And we were just surprised at how little anyone seemed to care about sleep. It was like lights and beeping and just like, you know, let's do rounds and when, you know, 4:00 in the morning. 

And at the time, it was like, can we get some sleep? But then when we started to do research about how important sleep was for healing, and it was like, oh, man, how does our, why do our hospitals? And I think it's gotten better from what I've heard. But yeah. How do our hospitals care so little about sleep? Yeah.

Audra: Well, I mean, you think about it and you have clinicians are like broken into the system.

Kate: Yeah, I think I'd like to think that that message is changing a lot, both for residents and having cut hours at certain points, but also kind of older generations of doctors. But in addition, CHOC and other I think hospitals around the country have really changed in the last 10 years and really recognize how critical sleep is to the healing process.

Audra: Can you tell me about your clinical internship? I'm interested to know what that looks like at CHOC.

Kate: Yeah, I worked at CHOC for two years, so one is a clinical internship. And then I did what's called a clinical fellowship, which is similar to a residency there after as a first year postdoc. I loved it. They are a fantastic hospital. So what I did is I had brought all my child psychology experience and really learned how to work with children like your son who had health issues, either acute or chronic. 

And so I assessed them for mental health issues, either as a result of diabetes, cystic fibrosis, learned how to assess children and how to give them resources and how to provide the understanding of these are diseases that may or may not be long term. And how do we work to help you have strong mental health through your treatments? Through the ups and downs of your diseases like that.

Audra: Hmm. And how did your colleagues, you know, kind of like on the care team receive this work? I mean, because to me it seems like a wonderful progression. I know a lot of nurses who are running sleep's studies on sleep and looking to change the dynamics and change the education. So I think that there has been a wave of change. What was that like for you on the child's care team and also with the parents experiencing your work and intervention?

Kate: Yeah. So I worked on a huge team from the psychology department since I was a trainee. So I had lots of psychologists overseeing me and then continued on after I graduated. And I think at least a CHOC and I like to be at most hospitals, psychology is really respected and appreciated field, because we can offer something that the medical doctors can't. We can offer that mind body connection. We can offer different resources, coping mechanisms that potentially the doctors haven't been trained in because they have to focus on how to keep kids healthy. So I think that it's been, it was a wonderful interaction and work with them.

Justin: Awesome.

Audra: It's fantastic. I love hearing of this integration. I think, you know, especially the more we've learned, just as parents have, of the power and importance of sleep and support for mental health, physical health and beyond. It's really, really cool to hear of this. I think change really change in health care.

Kate: I agree. I think it's especially right now, it's really being focused on just wonderful.

Justin: And so to bring us up to the present day, you are now a postdoc fellow at UC Irvine. I got a Ph.D. there. So yet another connection. 

Kate: Very parallel lives.

Justin: So tell us about your work now.

Kate: Mmhmm. Yeah. So I work with Dr. Sara Mednick. She is fantastic. She is actually studying how sleep dependent memory processes change over the menstrual cycle for women, which is women in general. We do not have enough research on us. Really understanding kind of the nuances of how our bodies are different or maybe the same. But that research is lacking. And so there's four phases in a menstrual cycle for women in which hormones change dramatically between estrogen and progesterone. And at each one, we have differences in sleep. And so the idea as well then is our sleep dependent memory process is changing. Long term women are more at risk for dementia related diseases like Alzheimer's. And so we're looking to see if changes in sleep dependent memory around hormones might be a risk factor or a protective factor for later dementia related disorders.

Audra: Oh, so interesting. 

Kate: Yeah. So with this research, I'm learning the endocrinology and a whole bunch of other things that I'm then going to bring down to kids and look at puberty.

Justin: I was going to ask you, are you looking at adolescence? Yeah. Okay. Awesome. All right. So we might revisit all this stuff as we now dig into the sleep science. And so this is what we really want to know about. The Family Thrive where we’re about bringing expert science and translating it for parents so we can, as parents, use this stuff in our home, in our real lives. So before we get into any of the nitty gritty around, you know, sleep training or whatever else. Let's start at the very beginning. Why do animals even need sleep. Like this seems if, you know, you just think about it evolutionarily, wouldn't it be better if we were just on 24 hours a day so we could eat and, you know, procreate? So what I mean, evolutionarily, right. 

Audra: You know, we do spend a lot of time in sleep. 

Justin: So why do animals even need sleep?

Kate: I mean, I think it's still a 100 million dollar question. Frankly, I think we don't necessarily truly know the answer. And there's a lot of different reasons why. Right. You go from an evolutionary perspective. You can say, well, humans and many animals can't see at night we're pretty vulnerable to predators. So maybe we should go hide ourselves in a cave and keep ourselves safe if we know. And that's a perfect opportunity to sleep. I mean, that's one evolutionary perspective. 

For me, I think that sleep is critical to help our restaurant restorative function during the day. Our body incurs so much damage or so much wear and tear is maybe a better way to think about it, that we need the night to really restore those same functions that kind of bring us back to this baseline where we're ready to go the next day and ready to engage in our immune function is ready and at its peak to protect us from germs, things like that.

Justin: So it's restorative, like we should really think about, like the fundamental reason we need sleep is for this restorative. 

Audra: Is there such thing as too much, having too much sleep?

Kate: It depends on what is also accompanying it. So usually when we see people who are having too much sleep, a lot of times it's also a company with disease. So, you know, there's kind of this new shape function, right? Too little sleep is bad. Associated disease, higher mortality. Too much sleep is also bad, associated with disease and higher mortality.

 And so there's kind of this middle ground of of of kind of optimal amount of sleep for you, depending on what age you are. So that's kind of the main reason I will say. In addition, we know that sleep is critical for our cognitive processes and helps support our memory overnight, helps support us to have better attention that our emotion regulation. So there's a lot of reasons for why we sleep. 

Justin: Yeah. And I like to think about that, those cognitive reasons as related to being restorative. And we can get into that in a little bit. But while we're talking about the purpose of sleep, why do babies need so much sleep? Like they come out of the womb, like sleeping all the time and then it gets less and less and less as they get older. And so what's going on early on?

Kate: Well, I'll flip it to you and I'll say, what is going on early on in infancy? What is the baby's number one kind of function or purpose in life? It's to grow and develop. Right. And so to develop in a healthy way, we need sleep to help us get to that optimal place. So during sleep, we know that there's growth hormone secretion. 

So it's helping them grow from sleeping. We know that they're constantly taking in the knowledge of the world around them. I used to study infant sleep at the U of A as we talked about. And so we know that infants are these amazing many statisticians, and that's how they acquire language. They're constantly picking up on those statistics of language. And my work showed that. 

And over just a short nap, infants are able to retain statistical properties of language where without that short nap, they're not able to. So we know sleep is doing these important functions of helping stabilize this new knowledge at tiny little intervals moving forward.

Audra: I have a question about this. Does it matter if that nap is in a stationary location or in a car seat or in a stroller? There's, I remember there being a lot of debate around this, you know, the quality of it according to location or movement.

Kate: I think that's a really good question. I think the jury is out on terms of, you know, I only studied baby sleeping in a crib. I can't generalize my findings, but I will say sleep is sleep as long as you're doing it in a healthy and safe way. Those kind of alone on your back. Just be aware of risks and things like that. But, you know, if they're sleeping on you and you're safe and upright and awake, that sleeps probably the same as sleeping in a crib.

Justin: So just to be clear, you're saying that as far as we know, sleep in a stroller, like if I'm walking the baby down the street and it's sleeping in the stroller, just as good as if it's a lone quiet in its crib.

Kate: I mean, I think the question actually, I'll flip back to you is we know that when we sleep, we have certain brain rhythms and certain stages of sleep. And the question is, are the infants able to get the right amount of stages during the stroller nap versus at home? I don't think we've ever actually studied that question.

Audra: Well, I mean, I'm going to just assume or then sort of like extrapolate from your observations that with all of the moms around the world over time who for whom baby wearing is the norm and is the practice until, you know, the child is fairly well grown, you know, the age three, you know, from infancy. And it seems like those babies grow pretty well. 

Kate: Yeah, I’m not too worried. 

Justin: Ok, just a few more questions to lay the groundwork. Why do babies need so many naps? Why can't they get it all in just one big chunk?

Kate: Yeah, it's a good question. Babies sleep in these kind of polyphasic sleep, many throughout the day, probably rather than one consolidated nighttime chunk. And I think that the true answer is because they are taking in so much information, they're constantly having all these needs. They constantly having caloric needs too, they need to be eating around the clock as well. Eating takes a lot of energy, takes a lot of time. Right. You guys had your son many years ago, I'm sure you remember, when they fell asleep, eating is so exhausting to eat, right. 

So, you know, it takes a lot of energy. And so they need to sleep to kind of regain their energy, to be aware and be present and take in what's around them in the world, eat enough to grow.

Justin: Awesome. So is sleep serving different developmental or cognitive developmental purposes at different ages, or is it basically the same thing of, you know, consolidating memory and some of the other functions that you've already mentioned? So is it the same thing? But it's just a lot more, you know, when we're babies or are there different things going on at different ages?

Kate: I think there's probably to some degree different things going on based on where we are in our lives and our cognitive development. But in general, I think most people assume sleep is doing similar things across. Because we don't see massive changes in the brain waves while people are sleeping. 

I will add, though, infants, when they first are born their EEG is much less mature than you see in adults. And it's through that early brain maturation when we start to see adult rhythms around six months. So sleep is helping to support brain maturation in that very early life span. And then but also growth, immune functioning, energy needs, that sort of thing.

Audra: I'm curious about infants, sleep cycles. Do they have as much REM sleep as children and adults?

Audra: Yeah, really good question. I love infant sleep, so we talk about this all day.

Justin: Just in case a for any listeners. Could you just real briefly explain REM sleep?

Kate: I would be happy to. So when we go to sleep, we actually have different stages. The one kind of umbrella is called non rapid eye movement sleep, so non REM and the other is called Rapid Eye Movements. We associate REM with dreaming typically, although we do know that you can dream and not REM, but in REM during sleep, especially when we're having those dreams, certain brain areas are turned on versus off. And so that's why we have these very emotional, very vivid dreams without any kind of higher cognitive control, saying this is not a logical dream. 

So that's what's going on during REM. We also have muscle atonia. So our bodies essentially are kind of turned off. So we can't act out our dreams during REM, but very much a safety mechanism, our bodies have figured it out. Otherwise, who knows what we would be doing. I'd probably be cooking in the kitchen a lot. 

But then so during non REM, typically what ends up happening is we have three different stages. 1) Non REM one, which is really light sleep. 2) Where you can kind of really consider yourself and sleep. And we start to see the process of non REM to supporting sleep dependent memory. So we know that the more you have it and certain features within sleep, the more of those features you have. You have better memory. And then stage three, which is our deep sleep, slow wave sleep. And that's really considered the restorative sleep as well, and also very linked to memory. 

So in terms of REM and non REM in adults, we have 90 minute cycles. So we go through all of these stages in 90 minutes, and then we'll kind of come up for a little quick second to wake up and then go back down into these 90 minute cycles. But in infancy, we actually have 50 minute cycles where we go through them. And at birth you typically are born where you're having 50 percent REM and 50% non REM sleep, which dwindles down dramatically in that first year of life. 

So at the end, we, I think we typically have about 20 to 30 percent of REM sleep alone as adults. Across a full night. Yeah, so there's a lot of theories on what's REM's doing. It's, we know it's like essentially the brain, all the sensory areas of the brain are really turned on during REM. Right. These vivid dreams, very emotional. So one way some people think about it is it's the scrimmaged to the game. It's setting all your sensory areas up and ready so that when you acquire the information during wake, you're ready to retain it and know what's going on. Really cool. 

Audra: Oh, so cool. Yeah, I'm curious about it. We both got Aura rings a few years ago just to explore our own sleep. And, you know, I don't know how accurate, you know, it really is. But what we found is that I mean, he gets like really phenomenal deep sleep at usually and not as much REM sleep. And I am the opposite. I tend to get like super amounts of REM sleep and not as much deep sleep.

Justin: Although, ok, so can you tell us, do you have an opinion on these sleep wearables? 

Audra: Yeah. Good question.

Kate: Yeah. I mean, I will say they're not EEG. So we're not, you know, checked into your brain what's exactly happening. But Aura rings are phenomenal. They're probably the best wearable right now, although I don't know if I'm allowed to say that. But yeah, I think so. And so those are great. We use them in our research as well. So we have some great finance just because they're tracking your heart rate variability. Right. And they give an insight into that.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, no. I've learned a ton at in maybe the first six months or so wearing an Aura ring. And then after that, it was more just confirmation of like, yep, I know I had two drinks of alcohol last night. And sure enough, that's exactly what happens. I have to really terrible sleep. 

So I have over the years, I took a class that did a lot of sleep science at UC Irvine. It wasn't a part of my dissertation, so I didn't do any deep dives. But then, of course, reading Matthew Walker's book and listening to a bunch of podcasts and talking with other experts, I've come to think about like the three important things that I want to think about as a parent around sleep is sleep duration. 

Like, you know, I want to make sure my kids get enough sleep or, you know, in terms of amount, but then also high quality sleep, as I've seen studies where, you know, having enough light on in the room can disrupt quality of sleep. 

So I'm thinking not just about duration, but I'm thinking about quality as well. And as you said, so, you know, quiet, dark, cool enough. So the temperature matters. And then the third one, which I've seen epidemiology. But I don't know what you think about this timing. So, you know, if like we should be getting sleep at night and that if we dramatically shift when we're getting those eight hours, that can make a difference. So duration, quality and timing, what do you think about this? I mean, am I in the ballpark?

Kate: Yeah, you're spot on. I agree with all three. I saw your pre notes about it and I was like, yep, you know it. Per the third one at least we have a circadian rhythm where our body has different phases, where things are up and things are down. And we know that there's this optimal time for us to sleep. And I think understanding what that optimal time is for our bodies and being able to react to those cues and go to bed when we need to, rather than stay awake, watch TV, watch Netflix, do things. I think that's really key as well for kids, making sure we catch them in that window. They need to go to sleep.

Justin: So could you real quick? I think I left off this key term that I love to talk about with parents, which is circadian rhythm. So if you really it could kill you. Real briefly, talk about that.

Justin: Sure. Circadian rhythm is essentially our bodies respond in certain rhythms throughout the day, across the day. And so what it just essentially means is we have this internal clock mechanism that's saying, ok, now it's time to wake up. I want my cortisol up. I want to get up and go during the morning. 

And then at night we have our melatonin come on. Melatonin hormone that tells our body it's a timing mechanism, ok, it's time to go to sleep. Let's get ready. Let's kind of calm ourselves and get ready for bed and then we go to bed. So people in general, you can kind of think of them as owls and larks. So we have a preference. And we think this preference of whether we can stay up late or go to bed early is related to our circadian rhythm. But honestly, that research still needs to be done. If the preference matches our circadian rhythm, it's not 100%. It's just, it's an idea. It's a theory right now.

Justin: Ok. Ok, so real quick, I have a little bit of a bone to pick about this owl, and lark because I've seen a couple and I don't know how trustworthy these studies are, but I've seen a couple where or maybe it's just one, but I feel like it's been more where researchers have taken people and have studied them out camping like in the woods, like no artificial light. 

This one that I think of is particularly with camping so that they could just see the effect of extended time of all they have is the sun going up and going down and then how does this… And what they found was that regardless of owl or lark, they all started to go to bed around the same time. And so I'm wondering if the owl and large thing is really just a sensitivity to artificial light and that the owls are less are maybe more sensitive to the artificial. And so our staying up later and the larks just are not. And so they're going to bed earlier. I don't know. What do you think about this?

Kate: Yeah, I think it's totally possible. I also want to point out that owl and lark is really a kind of a social term of what's your preference, right. Cognitively, what your preferences. Are you someone who likes to stay up and kind of push their boundaries also a little bit more? It could also be related to all of these things, separate from what your underlying circadian rhythm is.

Justin: But I'm thinking, though, is that the owl is stimulated more by the artificial light. And so enjoy staying, staying up. And so it is just a more enjoyable thing. Whereas the lark, like this one here is like, oh, the artificial light. I feel like it's brutal and I'm avoid that at night. And so by like 9:30pm, I'm just like done.

Audra: Yeah, but it's not just that, it's that you cannot sleep in. Even when you were a teenager, your report, you didn't sleep in. I remember having to be woken up for kindergarten, lobbying to be up late at night in kindergarten and having to be dragged out of bed like that early. And I guess I've always been phenomenal at sleeping in. But you've never been able to sleep it. I mean, could that have something to do with it? 

Kate: Yeah, I think there's a lot of questions about that. I think in general, our circadian rhythms can be trained really easily to some degree, or I should say in some people if they can be trained really easily. So if yours is trained to go to bed at night and sleep in all your stress and is trying to wake up in the morning and go to bed early, I mean, that's all a factor. And also looking at our kids sleep, because the consistency, I'll add, is the fourth thing that I would put in timing. So consistency with timing is really critical to supporting circadian rhythms and then support quality, duration of quality sleep, things like that.

Audra: So that's yeah, that that really makes sense to me, whether with our son, he I think from the time he was a baby and small child like couldn't sleep past 5:30 in the morning and then it was I couldn't sleep past six and then 6:30. And like, you know, he got to the point where he could sleep in until 7:00, but we wouldn't want him to stay up very late at all, you know, even for special occasions, because he would get up. And there is nothing that we could do about it, whereas our daughter could sleep in like she said she could, like, make that wiggle, make that change. So it is really interesting how there is, we see the difference present with us and then with our kids as well, just naturally.

Justin: All right. So the last sleep science question before we get to the practice, can you tell us a little bit about what happens to the brain? And we can specifically think about kids here when they're not getting enough sleep over time. This is not just one night, although there are studies showing, you know, the impacts of just one night of restricted sleep, but over time, if our kids aren't getting enough sleep or their sleep is disrupted. What are some of the things that are happening in the brain when that takes place?

Kate: Yeah, it's a good question. So I will say there's a lot of research that needs to be done on this area and a lot of research that needs to be very objective. It's hard to study kids and sleep and kind of look long term, because we have to rely a lot on past reports which aren't as reliable, unfortunately…

Justin: Because you're not going to be able to do a randomized controlled trial, say, ok, we're going to restrict sleep for these kids.

Kate: Yeah, that would be pretty unethical to say, you guys, we'll see what happens in a few years. We're going to look back on this. But just naturalistic kind of observations of data suggests that the next day for kids, kids are pretty resistant. They might show some more emotional reactivity that might show some attention issues. 

There's some research that shows down the line kids who are not sleeping enough, especially in early kind of toddlerhood, have increased behavioral issues and increased academic difficulties. So they're scoring a little bit lower on academic tests and they're having an increased kind of executive function behavior issues. So those that are revolving around cognitive control, attention, inhibition, inhibition of behavior, that's down the line. Usually when those studies have happened, they're kind of looking three to five years down the line. So that's directly with kids in general, with adults. We know that when we don't sleep enough, our brains are not optimized for the next day. We are much more emotionally reactive. We can even react more so to negative information and perceive it more threatening than maybe it typically would be to us. We have poor attention. 

This is why it's very dangerous to drive if we haven't slept enough. Right. And you can be about adolescents as well. They're not sleeping enough. They are more dangerous. Right. And then also our next day, we're not able to acquire the typical knowledge that we would want to. Yeah. So a lot of detrimental effects, which is why sleep is so important.

Justin: Absolutely. I mean, it is the foundation. Like we in The Family Thrive, we have these thrive pillars that we talk about nutrition and we talk about mental and emotional health and social support and exercise. But it's like none of it matters if you're not getting enough sleep. You got like start with the sleep.

Kate: Yeah. Well, none of it will kind of all come together, right. If you're not getting enough sleep, how can you stay healthy? That's the kind of key of it, right?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. All right. So now let's get into sleep practices at the very beginning. So what should parents know about optimal sleep for newborns? I know that. I mean, they're so like I mean, if you have an opinion on sleep training and these other other things, then please share. But are there some key things that you just wish every parent knew about optimal sleep for newborns? Yes.

Kate: The number one most important thing is it's all ok. You can't do anything, just survive. That is the point. If just surviving. So newborns don't have circadian rhythms, no human is born with an intrinsic circadian rhythm. So we don't know. Night is night and day is day. And it doesn't come about until about three to four months from what research studies have shown. And so it's just survival. And there's nothing wrong with whatever you got to do to get these kids to sleep. 

So we want it to be safe always. But, you know, if you're awake and you just want to hold a baby and have a contact nap while you're sleeping or babywear, do it. There's nothing wrong with that. I wore my kids frequently when they were newborns because they had great sleep while they were on me and kind of connected and close to mom. But it's just pure survival for those first few months until you you can start to get them more aware and trained in their circadian rhythm is starting to develop. There's things you can do to support them in being better sleepers, but it's survival in that beginning.

Audra: Yeah. How old are your kids now?

Kate: I've got a six month old and a three and a half year old.

Audra: Oh, how cool. You're in the middle of the child sleep version of it. Yeah. And it's like just when you get them sleeping, it seems like then they're teething again and then, you know, up again. And it's just it's a lot going through those toddler years. Yeah. Well, how do you feel about the concept of sleep training or trying to teach a child to to sell, to self soothe and to go to sleep?

Kate: Yeah. So I'll start with saying that for every family, it's what works for you is the right thing to do. There's nothing wrong with that. So some families like sleep training and some families don't feel comfortable. And that is ok. There's no wrong answer here. And I think the most important thing is supporting moms and supporting parents in general and being the best parents that they want to be. So that's my motto with all things.

Audra: I love that motto. Yes, thank you.

Kate: Yeah, it's there's no judgment. And I think there's a lot of shame around different practices. Like right now, I'm seeing a lot of anti sleep training information going around, which I'm finding really interesting. But I also think a lot of it isn't necessarily based in the research.

And so I think there's a lot of concerns about what's being presented on social media. I'll just add that. 

So from the research, there is no negative effects long term, short term to kids being sleeping trained. That doesn't mean you have to do it, but doesn't mean anyone has to do it. But there's no negative effects of it. And there's many different methods to doing it. One being kind of what the extreme one everyone thinks of is like you just shut the door and walk away, which nobody does. Nobody ever does that. And then there's very gradual ones that say, you know, I'll kind of do a little thing here and there. I don't want my kids to. 

So this spectrum, everything works. A lot of people fall in the middle at some point within the first few years of life. So they say, ok, I need to do retraining, training, because for my mental health, I need to have better sleep. I need to.

Justin: That was us.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. There's a point where I think most parents reach where they're saying, I'm not getting enough sleep, I'm not able to be that present, mindful parent. I'd like to be in the moment. And so what do I do? How do I support my child and how do I support myself? And I think it's all this important relationship.

Justin: Yeah. Do you remember that?

Audra: Oh, of course I remember that. I mean, what I think is is really beautiful about what you're saying is like I've had friends who are breastfeeding throughout the night and the baby is sleeping and doing great and they're both getting more sleep. Co-sleeping in and and moving forward that way. And then there are parents like us who I had to go back to work at three, three months, and I was up at 2:00 in the morning and he would feed and not just go back to sleep. And we had like a physio ball, you know, like a bouncing ball. I have to have him on the ball and kind of like slowly bounce him down to sleep. And then it was like, well, the Temple of Doom, like…

Justin: Oh, just laying him back down.

Audra: Yeah. I try to try. I like to have like a warm blanket down or something to lay him down. So the not like tip off the booby trap like and get him down and be like, you know, like at some point I was like, I can't function any longer. This baby is capable of falling asleep on his own and we need to help facilitate that. It's going to be painful for me as the mom, there was like that. I remember there's a TV show in the ‘90s that had a really big scene with this and the parents were waiting outside the door, you know because it's so painful for the parents, but it worked for us. So I love your motto because it's finding like what works for you. And Max is like an awesome sleeper and kind of always was after that.

Justin: Oh, yeah. Yeah. 

Kate: Yeah. I fully trained my kids as well. So, yeah, I mean, my six-month-old, I was like, instead I'm working. It's time for you to learn how to sleep. So. But, you know, again, it's where you lie on this spectrum. There are no wrong answers. And then it's how quickly or not quickly you want to do it and the kind of support you want to give your kids. But yeah, I…

Audra: So it’s all right.

Kate: It's all right. There you go. 

Audra: Follow your intuition, your path. It's not one way or the other. You were having similar debates in other areas, like with breastfeeding, you know, formula feeding, you know, and it's moving into the feed is best. And it's like that space like however, it is that you can do it with whatever combination, whatever works for you. No judgment, I want to say like sleep is best or rested is best or whatever. 

Kate: I completely agree. I think it's a lot of parallels. And I think in general, trying to create a supportive community for parents is the most important part of this puzzle piece. And every family looks different. Every cultural aspect as well changes the dynamics. And it's really important that we are supporting early parenthood.


44:29

Justin: So kids move out of infancy, toddler, young kids. What are the sleep practices that parents should start to think about to support the best sleep? Now I'm thinking, you know, the way that I grew up, my parents never gave this a single thought. It was just like go to bed and just be done with it. 

But now that I've learned enough about sleep science, like, oh, there are things that we can do to like really support optimal sleep. And I think about them not just in terms of the nighttime practices, but also daytime practices as well, to support a healthy circadian rhythm so that when we're awake, we're awake and when we're asleep we’re asleep. So could you I guess let's start with the daytime practices. What are some things during the day that parents can do to support the best sleep for their kids?

Kate: Generally, the biggest thing is keeping a similar structure and schedule both on weekdays and weekends. That's probably the biggest factor of everything, having kids wake up similar times. We usually say within an hour, this is bedtime, an hour before, an hour after. That's kind of the goal. Help support that circadian rhythm. And same with at night getting some wake light right at the very beginning. 

So going outside, if you're in beautiful California having breakfast outside or walking around a little bit before school in the sun. That also helps because light travels into our eye, hits what we call our suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is our clock in our brain, and says, ok, it's time to wake up, let's reset this and let's get going for the day. And that's really important.

Justin: Yeah. So are we talking like five minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes? What's the best amount of time?

Kate: Ok, 15 to 30 is probably pretty good. I mean, I think it depends on how strong the light is, right? If you're in Arizona, in Tucson, you don't need as much because that light is really bright. Maybe being in Seattle where you're not getting as much light with the clouds, it's going to be a little bit longer. It's really about the amount.

Audra: That's so helpful when I walk my daughter to school in the morning. And it is really, really helpful. And I think these practices translate to parents, too, right? So I one of the things that I started doing a few years ago is I basically don't use sunglasses anymore and I use them if like where I'm in somewhere with glare or whatever, like hardcore harsh light environment. But just like during the day, I stopped using sunglasses. So just going out. And then I was also aware of my contact lenses. I had one once I had a UV filter, I didn't know. And then on my glasses and such as taking all of that out. And I found it made a radical, for me, made a radical difference in just allowing the access to that light.

Kate: Yeah. Wake up light really can help, especially in that first thing in the morning. You're having similarly timed meals. It's really good and helps our systems because it keeps our circadian rhythms really trained. You know, some days things don't work out. But in general, if things are at the same time, it really helps our systems continue. If kids are napping, having them nap at the same time, having a little cool down, calm down process right before that nap can help as well. 

And then at night, also having wind downtime, we usually recommend about 45 minutes beforehand, turning down harsh lights, getting off TV, getting off phones, any video game things, all that stuff is really key to helping our bodies find this ability to kind of recenter itself and say, ok, I'm about to go to bed. It's time for me to wind down, do your bedtime routine, hop into bed. Hopefully that will help.

Justin: All right. So this gets into the nighttime practices. So I'm aware of the research around the circadian rhythm in our, with our metabolism. And so to make a long story short, it's better to eat more when the sun's up than rather when the sun's down. So what would be like an optimal time? Or let me rephrase that. When should be a time when parents should say, ok, the kitchen's closed like no more food?

Kate: Well, I think that's a tough question to answer, only because some kids have different caloric needs and intakes. And if you follow nutritionists and doctors, some doctors recommend our kids have a little snack before bed to kind of keep them going through the night. In adults it's a little easier to say that you want to have a space between dinner and bedtime. But with kids, I mean, you essentially want to have that space as well. But if your kid isn't able to do it, it's not something you should be following.

Justin: Ok, so then let's just turn to parents. When should parents, for themselves, say all right, I want to be done with what I'm eating so that I can get the best sleep?

Kate: I think the goal is typically about three hours. I think some people say two, some people say four, I say around three. So if you're having dinner at 6:00, go to bed at 9:00, have dinner at 7:00, you're ready to go to bed about 10:00.

Justin: What about exercise? Should we try to reduce exercise in the evening? Try to keep it all in the daytime?

Kate: So we used to think that you needed to exercise right in the morning, and that's the optimal time. Some recent research has just come out saying, well, if you exercise at night, it doesn't affect your body and your sleep. So I'll say the jury's still out on that. But again, keeping exercise at a similar time of day helps your circadian rhythm so that it knows it. Now, it's my exercise time, now is my eating time, now to sleep. Consistency is really key.

Justin: Ok. And then. When should we think about having the screens off in order to promote this winding down towards that time?

Kate: 45 minutes is probably the minimum.

Justin: Minimum?

Kate: Yes.

Justin: Minimum of 45 minutes.

Audra: What about...

Kate: It’s tough for kids and adults.

Audra: I mean, you're reading Twitter at night.

Justin: I love Twitter. I love Twitter. And I don't get it during the day. So like my bedtime is my Twitter time.

Kate: I will say as a clinician, I say unless it's a problem, it's not a problem. So if you don't have a job falling asleep and you're looking at Twitter right before you go to bed, it's not a problem. But if you're having a problem falling asleep or your kid's having falling asleep and you're saying something's not working, let's look at the structure, let's look at the schedule, that's when you want to start tweaking things around. So we're not going to go in there and say, let's fix everything when nothing needs to be fixed. You're getting good sleep. But in general, we do know that these things can help sleep.

Justin: Got it. 

Audra: Oh, I think that's great. That's super helpful. What about turning the lights down as the sun goes down? Is that helpful? 

Kate: I mean with winter happening, it's going to be earlier and earlier, but yeah, all of these things are important, but having lights come down, having screens up. I mean, if you think about a screen is right here and we're looking right at it. Really getting a lot of light.

Audra: So the lights don't have to, do the lights have to be off or can they just be turned down? So we're seeing them down.

Kate: Just down. Those night modes are really good right now.

Justin: Yeah, I have a visceral reaction to artificial light at night. 

Audra: It's like a campfire out front because it can. Yeah. And our neighbors are like when we first moved into where we live now in Georgia, our neighbors were like, what is happening? You have no lights on at night. 

Justin: Oh, Justin goes around and turns them off if anybody turns them on. So what about blue light blocking glasses at night? This has been a popular thing for adults who want to optimize, you know, their sleep. What do you think about these things?

Kate: Totally possible. If it works for you, it works. I mean, I think also just turning down, putting on night modes is another way to do it. So I don't think you need them, but they can help.

Justin: So like any way that you can reduce the amount of artificial light that's coming into your eyes.

Audra: Now, a lot of folks use blue light blocking glasses during the day if they're on a computer a lot.

Justin: I don't know anything about that.

Audra: Is that something that could be you? It sounds like you still want to maybe get outside and get some sunlight if you're in that situation.

Kate: Yeah. Artificial light is not going to give you that same amount that being outside will. And so that's really what it comes down to is getting that sunlight.

Justin: Do you know? So I don't know really what a lux is. But, you know, it's a way to measure how, you know, how much light is being emitted. So could you give us just or do you know the difference between indoor lights, like if you're in a classroom or an office, what the lux is compared to if you walk outside and it's a relatively sunny day.

Kate: Yeah. You know, off the top of my head, I can't. But I know it's like thousands different. Yes. Very little versus huge difference. Yeah.

Justin: All right. All right. Yeah. So that's I often think about that because I remember I'm not in an office anymore, but I when I was I would think that I need to get out, just get that sunlight for even just a couple of minutes. I don't know if it was a placebo effect, but I would feel much better.

Kate: I still do it now. Better get a little sun. 

Audra: Sunlight breaks.

Justin: Ok, so now kids are in bed sleeping. How can we arrange their environment to support optimal sleep? What are some of the things that we should be thinking about with their rooms, though?

Kate: In general, sleep hygiene is a really common term. It's not the best term probably cuz it does sound funny, but having a cooler room, having it darker as much as kids feel comfortable with certain kids, can't sleep fully in the dark. And that's ok for that kind of season of life, having them be in a comfortable bed. So, one, that they feel safe and content, warm enough, those kinds of things. Having white noise can help a lot or just in general, quiet.

Justin: So white noise. What is the consensus on white noise?

Kate: I can help block out kind of these environmental sounds, and I think that's where it really comes into play. So if you are in a noisy area or, for example, you've got other noisy kids in the house or noisy pets, it can help kind of maintain a specific level.

Justin: Quiet or white noise, dark and then cool. I have seen recommendations that like the optimal temperature should be in the high 60s. Is that right?

Kate: You know, that's what some people say. I'll say I don't sleep in that cold. Now, it's also to some degree of personal preference. Right. I mean, my infant won't sleep that bad in that cold of a room.

Audra: Yeah, I'm super glad to hear about white noise, because we definitely hear that, you know, one thing I hear from parents is what I want to make sure that I'm not inserting something in my child's sleep routine that will cause like some sort of dependency, you know, not as a chemical dependency, but like some sort of like. Does that mean they can't sleep without it? You know, and that's the challenge, right. So along similar lines, melatonin. Use of supplemental melatonin. What are your thoughts on that?

Kate: Yeah, I mean, I think it's something to discuss with pediatricians when you want to use it with kids, there's not really a lot of research on use with children and not long term research. And so in general, we know intrinsically children should be having the right amount. And melatonin itself is actually a thymine hormone. So it says, ok, now your body should go to sleep. It doesn't actually say fall asleep. It just as this is the time. Here I am, I'm high. Like with your circadian rhythm. It's time to start coming down and going to sleep. 

I know a lot of parents use it. I know especially at times it's recommended in children with certain disorders like autism to help keep them on a schedule. Because if it's a timing mechanism, if you take it at the same time, you can help, your train, your circadian rhythm or your children's circadian rhythm.

Audra: Oh, interesting. You could potentially help retrain if like you have jet lag or if you're away at camp for a week and things get changed or something like that.

Kate: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it's definitely something to discuss with the pediatrician before giving it. In general, I think for most children they shouldn't need it, especially long term. But here or there, it happens.

Justin: I want to talk briefly about parents. What about naps for adults? I just have to ask. 

Kate: There's nothing wrong with them. 

Justin: What do you think right now?

Kate: Yeah, I think there's nothing wrong with them. So naps are fantastic for you. And at different amounts they help with different things. So short ones can kind of help regenerate you. You're able to attend to better. That's that fatigue countermeasure. A little bit longer, like 20 minutes, up to 90 minutes, you can actually start to get memory benefits, have a kind of emotional reactivity reset as well. If you get a full cycle of sleep, that includes REM. So depending on the length of nap, can serve different functions. I'm a big proponent of if you need the sleep get the sleep.

Justin: Oh, awesome. Awesome.

Audra: I love that. You got to love hearing that he gets up at like 3:30, four in the morning and...

Justin: Well, yeah, I need that. I really love like a 20 minute nap. I feel like it is like 20 minutes. It's just the perfect.

Audra: It's a sort of nap where if you lay down on the couch, leave your feet on the floor and just tilt yourself over. Right. Don't get too comfortable. If you get too comfortable for me, I could end up in one of those three hour ones where you wake up thinking it's like the next day.

Kate: Yeah, that groggy sleep menercia afterwards, which doesn't feel good. It's all for depending on who you are, what you need, what your needs are.

Justin: So to start to wrap this up, I do have a curiosity around motherhood for you. How has becoming a mother changed how you think about sleep or has it had no effect?

Kate: I mean, I like it even more than I used to.

Justin: It’s now like the most important thing in your life. Yes.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. So I did my masters where I sleep deprived over a hundred undergrads. Yeah. So I've been sleep deprived. But you know how they always say like they make the jokes like teachers can't, they can't always read right away or psychologists like they always need some extra therapy or sleep researchers they never sleep. It's true, though, because all our research is around watching others.

Justin: Oh, you got to be in the lab all all night.

Kate: Right in the lab all night. So I've been sleep deprived for probably the better part of the last 15 years. But that being said, motherhood takes it to a new level.Because you don't ever get those opportunities to go back and sleep in those chunks. So when I was sleep depriving people the next day, I could sleep for five, six hours to kind of work it out. Right. So I've loved it even more than I did before. But I use my clinical skills to help support my family sleep, help support our kids. So I'm very thankful for that privilege and that knowledge.

Audra: Yeah. Yeah. That it strikes me as being really powerful that you could come into motherhood, really understanding the power of sleep and being able to probably ask for more help around you, whatever your needs are, to make sure that things are met instead of getting into that normal mom is self sacrificing mode. I'm assuming that that research is helpful and something that could help anyone going into motherhood to know how powerful sleep is and to ask for the help to get the sleep.

Kate: Yeah. And to ask and just also to be aware of. I think there's just so much shame and guilt around being that best mom and knowing that, you know, nothing is right. There's no wrong answers. Everyone is doing the best they can and everyone's child is going to turn out wonderfully. And that's the most we can hope for. Right. And so whether or not you sleep train or whether or not you do this or do that or breastfeed or foremostly, every kid is going to turn out great in the end. And so having that kind of awareness. And being able to take a step back in motherhood has helped me a lot.

Audra: Yeah, just supporting it was supporting folks and in whatever their spaces, but ever their needs are, whatever their best is. Right. Is going to be different for everyone and supporting them in their own journey, whatever that looks like.

Kate: Absolutely.

Justin: So, Kate, what is particularly exciting for you personally in your growth as a mother and just as a human being? What are you working on? Because I am just to get a little bit of context for this. This is quite the family. So The Family Thrive, you know, we're we're and we're an app and we're a platform for parents who want to dig deeper and, you know, work on themselves, work on helping themselves thrive and their families thrive. So I well…

Audra: Well the question you normally ask is, what's at your edge?

Justin: Like what is that your edge? 

Audra: Like what is just new and exciting for you or the next thing coming for your thing that you're really interested in right now, you know?

Kate: So I think for me and looking ahead, we're looking towards these next steps in my girls. And I think for me, being able to take all of the knowledge that I've gained and really look at how it unfolds every moment and also trying to be very present and mindful parent through it all has been what I've been focusing on myself. So I think a lot of parents were constantly caught up in the day to day activities, the days feel so long. But then the years feel so short and trying to really be present and mindful of these moments that I'm having in moments of watching my girls together, watching our family. That's where I am.

Audra: It's beautiful. Do you have any any strategies you've used in that? Like as a mom, I really resonate with working on presence. And for me, sometimes it's just noticing. It's like taking notice of this beautiful moment, sometimes trying to write it down or or even photograph it or stored away somewhere or something. Do you have a strategy that's helped you with that presence?

Kate: Yeah, I try to stop myself when I realize, when I'm realizing I'm not in the moment when I'm on my phone, I'm working or different things are coming to mind. And I catch myself. I try and say, ok, this is when I'm trying to be here fully as a mom. I'm going to be present in this mom moment and I'm just going to engage. And that's the strategy that I've personally been taking, is to really try to have that kind of mindset of catching myself and engaging in the moment when I'm at work, I'm full work, and then when I'm a mom, I'm trying to be full mom.

Audra: I love that. So it's really noticing, paying attention. It's it's a mindful practice, like, oh, I kind of just got caught up in something, you know, and I want to be here.

Kate: Yeah. Yeah. Recenter. It's not, it's not perfect. I'm not perfect. No one is. So I also want to say that with a grain of salt in the sense of sometimes I don't catch myself. And that's also ok. I think giving yourself a lot of grace is what's needed as a parent.

Audra: I couldn't agree with you more. And I love the, I love that you share that. It's not about perfection. And it sounds like that's what I what I like hearing about this is a practice for you, because when I hear this practice, it's sort of a daily, you know, mindful practice, something that doesn't mean you're going to be this way. I'm not going to be present 24/7. Right. And so that's why I need this practice to help with that kind of recentering, you know, in the moment when I'm with my family.

Justin: But also, the beautiful thing is that each new moment provides that opportunity to be totally present. Yeah, that's awesome. So we have three final questions that we ask every podcast guest. And so the first one is, Kate, if you could put a Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would that Post-it note say?

Kate: You're doing great. Keep going.

Justin: You're doing great. Keep going. You need to get one foot in front of the other. And is there a recent quote that has changed the way you think or feel?

Kate: Probably not. I'll be honest. I mean, I think in general, every time I see Be kind stickers, I they resonate with me. I think kindness towards others and towards our community and society is really something that we constantly need. So it's a good recheck for everyone.

Justin: Be kind. And then the final question, because it is, you know, the parenting grind is real. As you know, as you said, it's easy to get caught up in the to dos and the scheduling, that it's nice to take a step back and think about like what's so wonderful about kids. And so, Kate, what do you love most about kids?

Kate: Oh, they're the best. I mean, how can you just not love children? I think they're interesting the way they view the world. Just watching how they experience new things through the world. My three year old, for example, calls elevators, excavators. I don't ever want to correct it. It's just, you know. You know, we took her to a children's museum this weekend and they have one of the, I don't know. I've never seen it before, but they're air shoots. And so if you put what were they? They were like this fluffy ball thing. And you throw it in one and then it will shoot all around and going through it and come out and just watching her try and figure it out and understand was the highlight of my week. I mean, the joy she had in this moment of just watching this ball travel through these tubes and where would it come out? I think that that kind of joy in that momentary experience and appreciating that and really engaging with that is one of my favorite things about being a mom and being someone who works with kids. There are no bad kids in this world.

Audra: Oh, that's beautiful. Put a pin in that. There are no bad kids in this world. And then to be able to experience that pure, authentic state of being that they inhabit. Right. Like the wonder is a state of being. And it is not self-conscious. It is not like, you know, they're not like in the mode of social anxiety and what's going on and performative or anything like that. Right. It's just like wheels turning, making sense of the world. It's beautiful.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely.

Justin: Kate, thank you so much for joining us. Oh, such a pleasure. This is so enlightening. We got so much information. I'm really excited for our parents to hear this.

Audra: And thank you for your research and your commitment. And you have exciting things ahead. You know, I love how you're taking the research that you're doing now and you're going to translate it to adolescence. I hope that we can use this kind of research to help kids start school later.

Kate: Yeah, I'm running a study right now. If anyone has kids between nine and 13 and they want to do a Minecraft sleep and memory study, it’s all remote. 

Justin: It’s all remote?

Audra: We have one!

Kate: Anyone who wants to, we’ll take them.  

Audra: Nine to 13 Maesie and she plays Roblox, but close enough. We’ll talk about that.

Justin: And how long will you be recruiting for this?

Kate: Hopefully the next few years, though, it's going to be a big study. But yeah, but we're recruiting right now.

Justin: Awesome. So when this podcast airs, I think later October. All right. So…

Kate: We'll still be going. 

Justin: So we'll let you know. We'll get the information for this and we'll put it in the show notes.

Kate: That would be great. I appreciate it a lot.

Justin: Awesome, Kate.

Audra: Oh, that's so exciting.

Kate: Thank you for having me. It was wonderful.

Audra: Bye. 


Transcript highlights

1:54

Justin: I wanted to know about your experience with Matthew Walker, who I've heard on a number of podcasts, and he's like, in my mind, he's like the sleep expert.

Audra: Justin’s a huge fan. Massive fan. 

Justin: Yeah. So did you know that you wanted to study sleep and then or was it that experience that got you into studying sleep?

Kate: Yeah, it's a really great question. So I was an undergrad at UC Berkeley and had devoted myself to becoming a social worker. And then towards the end of my senior year, I said, well, you know, maybe this isn't exactly what I want to do. I end up taking a science of sleep class from Matt and figured out, nope, this is what I want to do. I want to be a sleep researcher. So from there, I asked to join his lab and got the opportunity to, he had just moved to Berkeley from Harvard before that. I'm not positive. Joined his lab as a research assistant, an undergrad. So the people who do all kind of the scut work, right? 

And then joined Dr. Alison Harvey. She's also a fantastic sleep researcher at UC Berkeley. She studies adolescence and sleep and insomnia, so from the clinical domain. And so I joined both sleep labs.

Justin: Oh, yeah. She clearly needs to get onto some more podcasts. 

Kate: Yeah. Oh. So you can listen to her as well.

Justin: Yeah, exactly. So can I just ask real quick, was there when you took that class, was there an aha moment or was it a slow thing over that class or your like sleep? Man, this is cool.

Kate: You know, I don't I mean, it was probably like 16 years ago. It's been a while, but I knew I always loved working with kids is why I'd want to be like a social worker or a teacher. And the sleep, everything just kind of connected together for me in that moment, in that class, and so quickly decided I was going to change course and pursue becoming a sleep and memory and development researcher.

Audra: Wow. What a powerful moment when everything just sort of like clicks and comes together for you. I feel like it's part of the magic of college is exploring different things and having access to things that you wouldn't normally, you know, just think of.

Kate: Absolutely, I think that is the most important thing is, is also I tell this story because I truly devoted everything to being a social worker up to that point. And then I switched in the last semester. And so I like to tell the undergrads that I work with them. There's never a time you can't change course if you want to.

Audra: I think that is wonderful. It's a beautiful message. My mother went back and got a Ph.D. when I was in high school, then totally changed her career as well. And it helped me see that not everything is just about a linear, you know, kind of path forward and finishing, you know, a certain amount of time and find what you want to do that there. The journey of life can take us into new and wonderful direction. 

So, yeah, that's amazing. Does your interest in social work or your background really studying that much in social work inform your work on sleep or research or anything in any way? Because that's more like kind of society, like systems. You know, you're studying like when you're going into social work, you're learning you know, you're learning a lot about how we've constructed our society, about inequity, about all sorts of different things. And then you go into this scientific research and it's a bit different. But do you see connections?

Kate: I mean, I do. I think that it also helped me decide to add on a clinical Ph.D. So I started a program in a cognitive neuroscience and added clinical so that I could really see the person as a whole. So at research, we're really at this kind of micro level at time. So the research I do is very basic. How are these cognitive processes unfolding? What are those kind of small roles? And then I also studied at the clinical level so I could see, well, how does this actually translate to the person and kind of that navigation between those two spheres is what I love the most. And I think what helped, my background helped me support.

Justin: So the next step for you was to go to the University of Arizona. And so we both have ties there. I was born in Tucson, and although I think only a few people in my dad's family went to the U of A the entire family,

Audra: You think they all went?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Just living in Tucson. It's like that's you know, U of A football, U of A basketball, baseball, soccer. No, I like every single sport, like volleyball. It doesn't matter. Yeah. So tell us about your time in Tucson or U of A, how did this shape what you're doing today?

Kate: Yeah, so I had a fantastic time. I love Tucson. I recommend it to everybody similar to your family. So I went to graduate school there from a cognitive neuroscience Ph.D. is where I started. And I worked with doctors Lynn Nadle, Dr. Rebecca Gomez and Dr. Dick Guzman. 

And so I went in knowing I wanted to study sleep memory in kids. It has been pretty true to that since. And so Dr. Buton is a was a sleep brewer has since passed away, but really helped kind of initiate some of the initial sleep treatments. So very big in the clinical world. Dr. Lynn Nadle is a huge figure in terms of hippocampal-dependent memory. And Dr. Guzman studies development. And so I got to have all three as my mentors. I was incredibly lucky and worked with all three to really try and hone my interests and hone my understanding of these three very disparate areas, but to intersect them together and study that intersection.

Justin: So you knew going in it was sleep, memory, kids. What did this come through your work as an undergraduate researcher with Matthew Walker, or was there some other impetus for you to be interested in these three?

Kate: I think Matt’s class, I was like, this is what I want to study. And so he did sleep in memory and adults. So I got that memory and sleep component. Dr. Harvey did adolescents. And then I actually had joined a third lab in undergrad, Dr. Joseph Campos, who is a huge infant development researcher. And so kind of started getting that experience in those labs. And that is what I took with me to graduate school.

Justin: Ok. And then the next step was a clinical internship at CHOC Hospital. Of course, we are very close with CHOC Hospital, our son. 

Audra: That's when we became interested in sleep. And I think, really had no awareness other than when we had babies. And we're like, oh, my God, we need sleep. But we became very interested in sleep for our entire families, health and well-being. Once we started learning about it, having a hospitalized kid.

Justin: Oh, well, another thing and this is not, of course, unique to CHOC at all, but just being surprised. So our son was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011, and we were treated at CHOC Hospital. He was inpatient for almost a month. And we were just surprised at how little anyone seemed to care about sleep. It was like lights and beeping and just like, you know, let's do rounds and when, you know, 4:00 in the morning. 

And at the time, it was like, can we get some sleep? But then when we started to do research about how important sleep was for healing, and it was like, oh, man, how does our, why do our hospitals? And I think it's gotten better from what I've heard. But yeah. How do our hospitals care so little about sleep? Yeah.

Audra: Well, I mean, you think about it and you have clinicians are like broken into the system.

Kate: Yeah, I think I'd like to think that that message is changing a lot, both for residents and having cut hours at certain points, but also kind of older generations of doctors. But in addition, CHOC and other I think hospitals around the country have really changed in the last 10 years and really recognize how critical sleep is to the healing process.

Audra: Can you tell me about your clinical internship? I'm interested to know what that looks like at CHOC.

Kate: Yeah, I worked at CHOC for two years, so one is a clinical internship. And then I did what's called a clinical fellowship, which is similar to a residency there after as a first year postdoc. I loved it. They are a fantastic hospital. So what I did is I had brought all my child psychology experience and really learned how to work with children like your son who had health issues, either acute or chronic. 

And so I assessed them for mental health issues, either as a result of diabetes, cystic fibrosis, learned how to assess children and how to give them resources and how to provide the understanding of these are diseases that may or may not be long term. And how do we work to help you have strong mental health through your treatments? Through the ups and downs of your diseases like that.

Audra: Hmm. And how did your colleagues, you know, kind of like on the care team receive this work? I mean, because to me it seems like a wonderful progression. I know a lot of nurses who are running sleep's studies on sleep and looking to change the dynamics and change the education. So I think that there has been a wave of change. What was that like for you on the child's care team and also with the parents experiencing your work and intervention?

Kate: Yeah. So I worked on a huge team from the psychology department since I was a trainee. So I had lots of psychologists overseeing me and then continued on after I graduated. And I think at least a CHOC and I like to be at most hospitals, psychology is really respected and appreciated field, because we can offer something that the medical doctors can't. We can offer that mind body connection. We can offer different resources, coping mechanisms that potentially the doctors haven't been trained in because they have to focus on how to keep kids healthy. So I think that it's been, it was a wonderful interaction and work with them.

Justin: Awesome.

Audra: It's fantastic. I love hearing of this integration. I think, you know, especially the more we've learned, just as parents have, of the power and importance of sleep and support for mental health, physical health and beyond. It's really, really cool to hear of this. I think change really change in health care.

Kate: I agree. I think it's especially right now, it's really being focused on just wonderful.

Justin: And so to bring us up to the present day, you are now a postdoc fellow at UC Irvine. I got a Ph.D. there. So yet another connection. 

Kate: Very parallel lives.

Justin: So tell us about your work now.

Kate: Mmhmm. Yeah. So I work with Dr. Sara Mednick. She is fantastic. She is actually studying how sleep dependent memory processes change over the menstrual cycle for women, which is women in general. We do not have enough research on us. Really understanding kind of the nuances of how our bodies are different or maybe the same. But that research is lacking. And so there's four phases in a menstrual cycle for women in which hormones change dramatically between estrogen and progesterone. And at each one, we have differences in sleep. And so the idea as well then is our sleep dependent memory process is changing. Long term women are more at risk for dementia related diseases like Alzheimer's. And so we're looking to see if changes in sleep dependent memory around hormones might be a risk factor or a protective factor for later dementia related disorders.

Audra: Oh, so interesting. 

Kate: Yeah. So with this research, I'm learning the endocrinology and a whole bunch of other things that I'm then going to bring down to kids and look at puberty.

Justin: I was going to ask you, are you looking at adolescence? Yeah. Okay. Awesome. All right. So we might revisit all this stuff as we now dig into the sleep science. And so this is what we really want to know about. The Family Thrive where we’re about bringing expert science and translating it for parents so we can, as parents, use this stuff in our home, in our real lives. So before we get into any of the nitty gritty around, you know, sleep training or whatever else. Let's start at the very beginning. Why do animals even need sleep. Like this seems if, you know, you just think about it evolutionarily, wouldn't it be better if we were just on 24 hours a day so we could eat and, you know, procreate? So what I mean, evolutionarily, right. 

Audra: You know, we do spend a lot of time in sleep. 

Justin: So why do animals even need sleep?

Kate: I mean, I think it's still a 100 million dollar question. Frankly, I think we don't necessarily truly know the answer. And there's a lot of different reasons why. Right. You go from an evolutionary perspective. You can say, well, humans and many animals can't see at night we're pretty vulnerable to predators. So maybe we should go hide ourselves in a cave and keep ourselves safe if we know. And that's a perfect opportunity to sleep. I mean, that's one evolutionary perspective. 

For me, I think that sleep is critical to help our restaurant restorative function during the day. Our body incurs so much damage or so much wear and tear is maybe a better way to think about it, that we need the night to really restore those same functions that kind of bring us back to this baseline where we're ready to go the next day and ready to engage in our immune function is ready and at its peak to protect us from germs, things like that.

Justin: So it's restorative, like we should really think about, like the fundamental reason we need sleep is for this restorative. 

Audra: Is there such thing as too much, having too much sleep?

Kate: It depends on what is also accompanying it. So usually when we see people who are having too much sleep, a lot of times it's also a company with disease. So, you know, there's kind of this new shape function, right? Too little sleep is bad. Associated disease, higher mortality. Too much sleep is also bad, associated with disease and higher mortality.

 And so there's kind of this middle ground of of of kind of optimal amount of sleep for you, depending on what age you are. So that's kind of the main reason I will say. In addition, we know that sleep is critical for our cognitive processes and helps support our memory overnight, helps support us to have better attention that our emotion regulation. So there's a lot of reasons for why we sleep. 

Justin: Yeah. And I like to think about that, those cognitive reasons as related to being restorative. And we can get into that in a little bit. But while we're talking about the purpose of sleep, why do babies need so much sleep? Like they come out of the womb, like sleeping all the time and then it gets less and less and less as they get older. And so what's going on early on?

Kate: Well, I'll flip it to you and I'll say, what is going on early on in infancy? What is the baby's number one kind of function or purpose in life? It's to grow and develop. Right. And so to develop in a healthy way, we need sleep to help us get to that optimal place. So during sleep, we know that there's growth hormone secretion. 

So it's helping them grow from sleeping. We know that they're constantly taking in the knowledge of the world around them. I used to study infant sleep at the U of A as we talked about. And so we know that infants are these amazing many statisticians, and that's how they acquire language. They're constantly picking up on those statistics of language. And my work showed that. 

And over just a short nap, infants are able to retain statistical properties of language where without that short nap, they're not able to. So we know sleep is doing these important functions of helping stabilize this new knowledge at tiny little intervals moving forward.

Audra: I have a question about this. Does it matter if that nap is in a stationary location or in a car seat or in a stroller? There's, I remember there being a lot of debate around this, you know, the quality of it according to location or movement.

Kate: I think that's a really good question. I think the jury is out on terms of, you know, I only studied baby sleeping in a crib. I can't generalize my findings, but I will say sleep is sleep as long as you're doing it in a healthy and safe way. Those kind of alone on your back. Just be aware of risks and things like that. But, you know, if they're sleeping on you and you're safe and upright and awake, that sleeps probably the same as sleeping in a crib.

Justin: So just to be clear, you're saying that as far as we know, sleep in a stroller, like if I'm walking the baby down the street and it's sleeping in the stroller, just as good as if it's a lone quiet in its crib.

Kate: I mean, I think the question actually, I'll flip back to you is we know that when we sleep, we have certain brain rhythms and certain stages of sleep. And the question is, are the infants able to get the right amount of stages during the stroller nap versus at home? I don't think we've ever actually studied that question.

Audra: Well, I mean, I'm going to just assume or then sort of like extrapolate from your observations that with all of the moms around the world over time who for whom baby wearing is the norm and is the practice until, you know, the child is fairly well grown, you know, the age three, you know, from infancy. And it seems like those babies grow pretty well. 

Kate: Yeah, I’m not too worried. 

Justin: Ok, just a few more questions to lay the groundwork. Why do babies need so many naps? Why can't they get it all in just one big chunk?

Kate: Yeah, it's a good question. Babies sleep in these kind of polyphasic sleep, many throughout the day, probably rather than one consolidated nighttime chunk. And I think that the true answer is because they are taking in so much information, they're constantly having all these needs. They constantly having caloric needs too, they need to be eating around the clock as well. Eating takes a lot of energy, takes a lot of time. Right. You guys had your son many years ago, I'm sure you remember, when they fell asleep, eating is so exhausting to eat, right. 

So, you know, it takes a lot of energy. And so they need to sleep to kind of regain their energy, to be aware and be present and take in what's around them in the world, eat enough to grow.

Justin: Awesome. So is sleep serving different developmental or cognitive developmental purposes at different ages, or is it basically the same thing of, you know, consolidating memory and some of the other functions that you've already mentioned? So is it the same thing? But it's just a lot more, you know, when we're babies or are there different things going on at different ages?

Kate: I think there's probably to some degree different things going on based on where we are in our lives and our cognitive development. But in general, I think most people assume sleep is doing similar things across. Because we don't see massive changes in the brain waves while people are sleeping. 

I will add, though, infants, when they first are born their EEG is much less mature than you see in adults. And it's through that early brain maturation when we start to see adult rhythms around six months. So sleep is helping to support brain maturation in that very early life span. And then but also growth, immune functioning, energy needs, that sort of thing.

Audra: I'm curious about infants, sleep cycles. Do they have as much REM sleep as children and adults?

Audra: Yeah, really good question. I love infant sleep, so we talk about this all day.

Justin: Just in case a for any listeners. Could you just real briefly explain REM sleep?

Kate: I would be happy to. So when we go to sleep, we actually have different stages. The one kind of umbrella is called non rapid eye movement sleep, so non REM and the other is called Rapid Eye Movements. We associate REM with dreaming typically, although we do know that you can dream and not REM, but in REM during sleep, especially when we're having those dreams, certain brain areas are turned on versus off. And so that's why we have these very emotional, very vivid dreams without any kind of higher cognitive control, saying this is not a logical dream. 

So that's what's going on during REM. We also have muscle atonia. So our bodies essentially are kind of turned off. So we can't act out our dreams during REM, but very much a safety mechanism, our bodies have figured it out. Otherwise, who knows what we would be doing. I'd probably be cooking in the kitchen a lot. 

But then so during non REM, typically what ends up happening is we have three different stages. 1) Non REM one, which is really light sleep. 2) Where you can kind of really consider yourself and sleep. And we start to see the process of non REM to supporting sleep dependent memory. So we know that the more you have it and certain features within sleep, the more of those features you have. You have better memory. And then stage three, which is our deep sleep, slow wave sleep. And that's really considered the restorative sleep as well, and also very linked to memory. 

So in terms of REM and non REM in adults, we have 90 minute cycles. So we go through all of these stages in 90 minutes, and then we'll kind of come up for a little quick second to wake up and then go back down into these 90 minute cycles. But in infancy, we actually have 50 minute cycles where we go through them. And at birth you typically are born where you're having 50 percent REM and 50% non REM sleep, which dwindles down dramatically in that first year of life. 

So at the end, we, I think we typically have about 20 to 30 percent of REM sleep alone as adults. Across a full night. Yeah, so there's a lot of theories on what's REM's doing. It's, we know it's like essentially the brain, all the sensory areas of the brain are really turned on during REM. Right. These vivid dreams, very emotional. So one way some people think about it is it's the scrimmaged to the game. It's setting all your sensory areas up and ready so that when you acquire the information during wake, you're ready to retain it and know what's going on. Really cool. 

Audra: Oh, so cool. Yeah, I'm curious about it. We both got Aura rings a few years ago just to explore our own sleep. And, you know, I don't know how accurate, you know, it really is. But what we found is that I mean, he gets like really phenomenal deep sleep at usually and not as much REM sleep. And I am the opposite. I tend to get like super amounts of REM sleep and not as much deep sleep.

Justin: Although, ok, so can you tell us, do you have an opinion on these sleep wearables? 

Audra: Yeah. Good question.

Kate: Yeah. I mean, I will say they're not EEG. So we're not, you know, checked into your brain what's exactly happening. But Aura rings are phenomenal. They're probably the best wearable right now, although I don't know if I'm allowed to say that. But yeah, I think so. And so those are great. We use them in our research as well. So we have some great finance just because they're tracking your heart rate variability. Right. And they give an insight into that.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, no. I've learned a ton at in maybe the first six months or so wearing an Aura ring. And then after that, it was more just confirmation of like, yep, I know I had two drinks of alcohol last night. And sure enough, that's exactly what happens. I have to really terrible sleep. 

So I have over the years, I took a class that did a lot of sleep science at UC Irvine. It wasn't a part of my dissertation, so I didn't do any deep dives. But then, of course, reading Matthew Walker's book and listening to a bunch of podcasts and talking with other experts, I've come to think about like the three important things that I want to think about as a parent around sleep is sleep duration. 

Like, you know, I want to make sure my kids get enough sleep or, you know, in terms of amount, but then also high quality sleep, as I've seen studies where, you know, having enough light on in the room can disrupt quality of sleep. 

So I'm thinking not just about duration, but I'm thinking about quality as well. And as you said, so, you know, quiet, dark, cool enough. So the temperature matters. And then the third one, which I've seen epidemiology. But I don't know what you think about this timing. So, you know, if like we should be getting sleep at night and that if we dramatically shift when we're getting those eight hours, that can make a difference. So duration, quality and timing, what do you think about this? I mean, am I in the ballpark?

Kate: Yeah, you're spot on. I agree with all three. I saw your pre notes about it and I was like, yep, you know it. Per the third one at least we have a circadian rhythm where our body has different phases, where things are up and things are down. And we know that there's this optimal time for us to sleep. And I think understanding what that optimal time is for our bodies and being able to react to those cues and go to bed when we need to, rather than stay awake, watch TV, watch Netflix, do things. I think that's really key as well for kids, making sure we catch them in that window. They need to go to sleep.

Justin: So could you real quick? I think I left off this key term that I love to talk about with parents, which is circadian rhythm. So if you really it could kill you. Real briefly, talk about that.

Justin: Sure. Circadian rhythm is essentially our bodies respond in certain rhythms throughout the day, across the day. And so what it just essentially means is we have this internal clock mechanism that's saying, ok, now it's time to wake up. I want my cortisol up. I want to get up and go during the morning. 

And then at night we have our melatonin come on. Melatonin hormone that tells our body it's a timing mechanism, ok, it's time to go to sleep. Let's get ready. Let's kind of calm ourselves and get ready for bed and then we go to bed. So people in general, you can kind of think of them as owls and larks. So we have a preference. And we think this preference of whether we can stay up late or go to bed early is related to our circadian rhythm. But honestly, that research still needs to be done. If the preference matches our circadian rhythm, it's not 100%. It's just, it's an idea. It's a theory right now.

Justin: Ok. Ok, so real quick, I have a little bit of a bone to pick about this owl, and lark because I've seen a couple and I don't know how trustworthy these studies are, but I've seen a couple where or maybe it's just one, but I feel like it's been more where researchers have taken people and have studied them out camping like in the woods, like no artificial light. 

This one that I think of is particularly with camping so that they could just see the effect of extended time of all they have is the sun going up and going down and then how does this… And what they found was that regardless of owl or lark, they all started to go to bed around the same time. And so I'm wondering if the owl and large thing is really just a sensitivity to artificial light and that the owls are less are maybe more sensitive to the artificial. And so our staying up later and the larks just are not. And so they're going to bed earlier. I don't know. What do you think about this?

Kate: Yeah, I think it's totally possible. I also want to point out that owl and lark is really a kind of a social term of what's your preference, right. Cognitively, what your preferences. Are you someone who likes to stay up and kind of push their boundaries also a little bit more? It could also be related to all of these things, separate from what your underlying circadian rhythm is.

Justin: But I'm thinking, though, is that the owl is stimulated more by the artificial light. And so enjoy staying, staying up. And so it is just a more enjoyable thing. Whereas the lark, like this one here is like, oh, the artificial light. I feel like it's brutal and I'm avoid that at night. And so by like 9:30pm, I'm just like done.

Audra: Yeah, but it's not just that, it's that you cannot sleep in. Even when you were a teenager, your report, you didn't sleep in. I remember having to be woken up for kindergarten, lobbying to be up late at night in kindergarten and having to be dragged out of bed like that early. And I guess I've always been phenomenal at sleeping in. But you've never been able to sleep it. I mean, could that have something to do with it? 

Kate: Yeah, I think there's a lot of questions about that. I think in general, our circadian rhythms can be trained really easily to some degree, or I should say in some people if they can be trained really easily. So if yours is trained to go to bed at night and sleep in all your stress and is trying to wake up in the morning and go to bed early, I mean, that's all a factor. And also looking at our kids sleep, because the consistency, I'll add, is the fourth thing that I would put in timing. So consistency with timing is really critical to supporting circadian rhythms and then support quality, duration of quality sleep, things like that.

Audra: So that's yeah, that that really makes sense to me, whether with our son, he I think from the time he was a baby and small child like couldn't sleep past 5:30 in the morning and then it was I couldn't sleep past six and then 6:30. And like, you know, he got to the point where he could sleep in until 7:00, but we wouldn't want him to stay up very late at all, you know, even for special occasions, because he would get up. And there is nothing that we could do about it, whereas our daughter could sleep in like she said she could, like, make that wiggle, make that change. So it is really interesting how there is, we see the difference present with us and then with our kids as well, just naturally.

Justin: All right. So the last sleep science question before we get to the practice, can you tell us a little bit about what happens to the brain? And we can specifically think about kids here when they're not getting enough sleep over time. This is not just one night, although there are studies showing, you know, the impacts of just one night of restricted sleep, but over time, if our kids aren't getting enough sleep or their sleep is disrupted. What are some of the things that are happening in the brain when that takes place?

Kate: Yeah, it's a good question. So I will say there's a lot of research that needs to be done on this area and a lot of research that needs to be very objective. It's hard to study kids and sleep and kind of look long term, because we have to rely a lot on past reports which aren't as reliable, unfortunately…

Justin: Because you're not going to be able to do a randomized controlled trial, say, ok, we're going to restrict sleep for these kids.

Kate: Yeah, that would be pretty unethical to say, you guys, we'll see what happens in a few years. We're going to look back on this. But just naturalistic kind of observations of data suggests that the next day for kids, kids are pretty resistant. They might show some more emotional reactivity that might show some attention issues. 

There's some research that shows down the line kids who are not sleeping enough, especially in early kind of toddlerhood, have increased behavioral issues and increased academic difficulties. So they're scoring a little bit lower on academic tests and they're having an increased kind of executive function behavior issues. So those that are revolving around cognitive control, attention, inhibition, inhibition of behavior, that's down the line. Usually when those studies have happened, they're kind of looking three to five years down the line. So that's directly with kids in general, with adults. We know that when we don't sleep enough, our brains are not optimized for the next day. We are much more emotionally reactive. We can even react more so to negative information and perceive it more threatening than maybe it typically would be to us. We have poor attention. 

This is why it's very dangerous to drive if we haven't slept enough. Right. And you can be about adolescents as well. They're not sleeping enough. They are more dangerous. Right. And then also our next day, we're not able to acquire the typical knowledge that we would want to. Yeah. So a lot of detrimental effects, which is why sleep is so important.

Justin: Absolutely. I mean, it is the foundation. Like we in The Family Thrive, we have these thrive pillars that we talk about nutrition and we talk about mental and emotional health and social support and exercise. But it's like none of it matters if you're not getting enough sleep. You got like start with the sleep.

Kate: Yeah. Well, none of it will kind of all come together, right. If you're not getting enough sleep, how can you stay healthy? That's the kind of key of it, right?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. All right. So now let's get into sleep practices at the very beginning. So what should parents know about optimal sleep for newborns? I know that. I mean, they're so like I mean, if you have an opinion on sleep training and these other other things, then please share. But are there some key things that you just wish every parent knew about optimal sleep for newborns? Yes.

Kate: The number one most important thing is it's all ok. You can't do anything, just survive. That is the point. If just surviving. So newborns don't have circadian rhythms, no human is born with an intrinsic circadian rhythm. So we don't know. Night is night and day is day. And it doesn't come about until about three to four months from what research studies have shown. And so it's just survival. And there's nothing wrong with whatever you got to do to get these kids to sleep. 

So we want it to be safe always. But, you know, if you're awake and you just want to hold a baby and have a contact nap while you're sleeping or babywear, do it. There's nothing wrong with that. I wore my kids frequently when they were newborns because they had great sleep while they were on me and kind of connected and close to mom. But it's just pure survival for those first few months until you you can start to get them more aware and trained in their circadian rhythm is starting to develop. There's things you can do to support them in being better sleepers, but it's survival in that beginning.

Audra: Yeah. How old are your kids now?

Kate: I've got a six month old and a three and a half year old.

Audra: Oh, how cool. You're in the middle of the child sleep version of it. Yeah. And it's like just when you get them sleeping, it seems like then they're teething again and then, you know, up again. And it's just it's a lot going through those toddler years. Yeah. Well, how do you feel about the concept of sleep training or trying to teach a child to to sell, to self soothe and to go to sleep?

Kate: Yeah. So I'll start with saying that for every family, it's what works for you is the right thing to do. There's nothing wrong with that. So some families like sleep training and some families don't feel comfortable. And that is ok. There's no wrong answer here. And I think the most important thing is supporting moms and supporting parents in general and being the best parents that they want to be. So that's my motto with all things.

Audra: I love that motto. Yes, thank you.

Kate: Yeah, it's there's no judgment. And I think there's a lot of shame around different practices. Like right now, I'm seeing a lot of anti sleep training information going around, which I'm finding really interesting. But I also think a lot of it isn't necessarily based in the research.

And so I think there's a lot of concerns about what's being presented on social media. I'll just add that. 

So from the research, there is no negative effects long term, short term to kids being sleeping trained. That doesn't mean you have to do it, but doesn't mean anyone has to do it. But there's no negative effects of it. And there's many different methods to doing it. One being kind of what the extreme one everyone thinks of is like you just shut the door and walk away, which nobody does. Nobody ever does that. And then there's very gradual ones that say, you know, I'll kind of do a little thing here and there. I don't want my kids to. 

So this spectrum, everything works. A lot of people fall in the middle at some point within the first few years of life. So they say, ok, I need to do retraining, training, because for my mental health, I need to have better sleep. I need to.

Justin: That was us.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. There's a point where I think most parents reach where they're saying, I'm not getting enough sleep, I'm not able to be that present, mindful parent. I'd like to be in the moment. And so what do I do? How do I support my child and how do I support myself? And I think it's all this important relationship.

Justin: Yeah. Do you remember that?

Audra: Oh, of course I remember that. I mean, what I think is is really beautiful about what you're saying is like I've had friends who are breastfeeding throughout the night and the baby is sleeping and doing great and they're both getting more sleep. Co-sleeping in and and moving forward that way. And then there are parents like us who I had to go back to work at three, three months, and I was up at 2:00 in the morning and he would feed and not just go back to sleep. And we had like a physio ball, you know, like a bouncing ball. I have to have him on the ball and kind of like slowly bounce him down to sleep. And then it was like, well, the Temple of Doom, like…

Justin: Oh, just laying him back down.

Audra: Yeah. I try to try. I like to have like a warm blanket down or something to lay him down. So the not like tip off the booby trap like and get him down and be like, you know, like at some point I was like, I can't function any longer. This baby is capable of falling asleep on his own and we need to help facilitate that. It's going to be painful for me as the mom, there was like that. I remember there's a TV show in the ‘90s that had a really big scene with this and the parents were waiting outside the door, you know because it's so painful for the parents, but it worked for us. So I love your motto because it's finding like what works for you. And Max is like an awesome sleeper and kind of always was after that.

Justin: Oh, yeah. Yeah. 

Kate: Yeah. I fully trained my kids as well. So, yeah, I mean, my six-month-old, I was like, instead I'm working. It's time for you to learn how to sleep. So. But, you know, again, it's where you lie on this spectrum. There are no wrong answers. And then it's how quickly or not quickly you want to do it and the kind of support you want to give your kids. But yeah, I…

Audra: So it’s all right.

Kate: It's all right. There you go. 

Audra: Follow your intuition, your path. It's not one way or the other. You were having similar debates in other areas, like with breastfeeding, you know, formula feeding, you know, and it's moving into the feed is best. And it's like that space like however, it is that you can do it with whatever combination, whatever works for you. No judgment, I want to say like sleep is best or rested is best or whatever. 

Kate: I completely agree. I think it's a lot of parallels. And I think in general, trying to create a supportive community for parents is the most important part of this puzzle piece. And every family looks different. Every cultural aspect as well changes the dynamics. And it's really important that we are supporting early parenthood.


44:29

Justin: So kids move out of infancy, toddler, young kids. What are the sleep practices that parents should start to think about to support the best sleep? Now I'm thinking, you know, the way that I grew up, my parents never gave this a single thought. It was just like go to bed and just be done with it. 

But now that I've learned enough about sleep science, like, oh, there are things that we can do to like really support optimal sleep. And I think about them not just in terms of the nighttime practices, but also daytime practices as well, to support a healthy circadian rhythm so that when we're awake, we're awake and when we're asleep we’re asleep. So could you I guess let's start with the daytime practices. What are some things during the day that parents can do to support the best sleep for their kids?

Kate: Generally, the biggest thing is keeping a similar structure and schedule both on weekdays and weekends. That's probably the biggest factor of everything, having kids wake up similar times. We usually say within an hour, this is bedtime, an hour before, an hour after. That's kind of the goal. Help support that circadian rhythm. And same with at night getting some wake light right at the very beginning. 

So going outside, if you're in beautiful California having breakfast outside or walking around a little bit before school in the sun. That also helps because light travels into our eye, hits what we call our suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is our clock in our brain, and says, ok, it's time to wake up, let's reset this and let's get going for the day. And that's really important.

Justin: Yeah. So are we talking like five minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes? What's the best amount of time?

Kate: Ok, 15 to 30 is probably pretty good. I mean, I think it depends on how strong the light is, right? If you're in Arizona, in Tucson, you don't need as much because that light is really bright. Maybe being in Seattle where you're not getting as much light with the clouds, it's going to be a little bit longer. It's really about the amount.

Audra: That's so helpful when I walk my daughter to school in the morning. And it is really, really helpful. And I think these practices translate to parents, too, right? So I one of the things that I started doing a few years ago is I basically don't use sunglasses anymore and I use them if like where I'm in somewhere with glare or whatever, like hardcore harsh light environment. But just like during the day, I stopped using sunglasses. So just going out. And then I was also aware of my contact lenses. I had one once I had a UV filter, I didn't know. And then on my glasses and such as taking all of that out. And I found it made a radical, for me, made a radical difference in just allowing the access to that light.

Kate: Yeah. Wake up light really can help, especially in that first thing in the morning. You're having similarly timed meals. It's really good and helps our systems because it keeps our circadian rhythms really trained. You know, some days things don't work out. But in general, if things are at the same time, it really helps our systems continue. If kids are napping, having them nap at the same time, having a little cool down, calm down process right before that nap can help as well. 

And then at night, also having wind downtime, we usually recommend about 45 minutes beforehand, turning down harsh lights, getting off TV, getting off phones, any video game things, all that stuff is really key to helping our bodies find this ability to kind of recenter itself and say, ok, I'm about to go to bed. It's time for me to wind down, do your bedtime routine, hop into bed. Hopefully that will help.

Justin: All right. So this gets into the nighttime practices. So I'm aware of the research around the circadian rhythm in our, with our metabolism. And so to make a long story short, it's better to eat more when the sun's up than rather when the sun's down. So what would be like an optimal time? Or let me rephrase that. When should be a time when parents should say, ok, the kitchen's closed like no more food?

Kate: Well, I think that's a tough question to answer, only because some kids have different caloric needs and intakes. And if you follow nutritionists and doctors, some doctors recommend our kids have a little snack before bed to kind of keep them going through the night. In adults it's a little easier to say that you want to have a space between dinner and bedtime. But with kids, I mean, you essentially want to have that space as well. But if your kid isn't able to do it, it's not something you should be following.

Justin: Ok, so then let's just turn to parents. When should parents, for themselves, say all right, I want to be done with what I'm eating so that I can get the best sleep?

Kate: I think the goal is typically about three hours. I think some people say two, some people say four, I say around three. So if you're having dinner at 6:00, go to bed at 9:00, have dinner at 7:00, you're ready to go to bed about 10:00.

Justin: What about exercise? Should we try to reduce exercise in the evening? Try to keep it all in the daytime?

Kate: So we used to think that you needed to exercise right in the morning, and that's the optimal time. Some recent research has just come out saying, well, if you exercise at night, it doesn't affect your body and your sleep. So I'll say the jury's still out on that. But again, keeping exercise at a similar time of day helps your circadian rhythm so that it knows it. Now, it's my exercise time, now is my eating time, now to sleep. Consistency is really key.

Justin: Ok. And then. When should we think about having the screens off in order to promote this winding down towards that time?

Kate: 45 minutes is probably the minimum.

Justin: Minimum?

Kate: Yes.

Justin: Minimum of 45 minutes.

Audra: What about...

Kate: It’s tough for kids and adults.

Audra: I mean, you're reading Twitter at night.

Justin: I love Twitter. I love Twitter. And I don't get it during the day. So like my bedtime is my Twitter time.

Kate: I will say as a clinician, I say unless it's a problem, it's not a problem. So if you don't have a job falling asleep and you're looking at Twitter right before you go to bed, it's not a problem. But if you're having a problem falling asleep or your kid's having falling asleep and you're saying something's not working, let's look at the structure, let's look at the schedule, that's when you want to start tweaking things around. So we're not going to go in there and say, let's fix everything when nothing needs to be fixed. You're getting good sleep. But in general, we do know that these things can help sleep.

Justin: Got it. 

Audra: Oh, I think that's great. That's super helpful. What about turning the lights down as the sun goes down? Is that helpful? 

Kate: I mean with winter happening, it's going to be earlier and earlier, but yeah, all of these things are important, but having lights come down, having screens up. I mean, if you think about a screen is right here and we're looking right at it. Really getting a lot of light.

Audra: So the lights don't have to, do the lights have to be off or can they just be turned down? So we're seeing them down.

Kate: Just down. Those night modes are really good right now.

Justin: Yeah, I have a visceral reaction to artificial light at night. 

Audra: It's like a campfire out front because it can. Yeah. And our neighbors are like when we first moved into where we live now in Georgia, our neighbors were like, what is happening? You have no lights on at night. 

Justin: Oh, Justin goes around and turns them off if anybody turns them on. So what about blue light blocking glasses at night? This has been a popular thing for adults who want to optimize, you know, their sleep. What do you think about these things?

Kate: Totally possible. If it works for you, it works. I mean, I think also just turning down, putting on night modes is another way to do it. So I don't think you need them, but they can help.

Justin: So like any way that you can reduce the amount of artificial light that's coming into your eyes.

Audra: Now, a lot of folks use blue light blocking glasses during the day if they're on a computer a lot.

Justin: I don't know anything about that.

Audra: Is that something that could be you? It sounds like you still want to maybe get outside and get some sunlight if you're in that situation.

Kate: Yeah. Artificial light is not going to give you that same amount that being outside will. And so that's really what it comes down to is getting that sunlight.

Justin: Do you know? So I don't know really what a lux is. But, you know, it's a way to measure how, you know, how much light is being emitted. So could you give us just or do you know the difference between indoor lights, like if you're in a classroom or an office, what the lux is compared to if you walk outside and it's a relatively sunny day.

Kate: Yeah. You know, off the top of my head, I can't. But I know it's like thousands different. Yes. Very little versus huge difference. Yeah.

Justin: All right. All right. Yeah. So that's I often think about that because I remember I'm not in an office anymore, but I when I was I would think that I need to get out, just get that sunlight for even just a couple of minutes. I don't know if it was a placebo effect, but I would feel much better.

Kate: I still do it now. Better get a little sun. 

Audra: Sunlight breaks.

Justin: Ok, so now kids are in bed sleeping. How can we arrange their environment to support optimal sleep? What are some of the things that we should be thinking about with their rooms, though?

Kate: In general, sleep hygiene is a really common term. It's not the best term probably cuz it does sound funny, but having a cooler room, having it darker as much as kids feel comfortable with certain kids, can't sleep fully in the dark. And that's ok for that kind of season of life, having them be in a comfortable bed. So, one, that they feel safe and content, warm enough, those kinds of things. Having white noise can help a lot or just in general, quiet.

Justin: So white noise. What is the consensus on white noise?

Kate: I can help block out kind of these environmental sounds, and I think that's where it really comes into play. So if you are in a noisy area or, for example, you've got other noisy kids in the house or noisy pets, it can help kind of maintain a specific level.

Justin: Quiet or white noise, dark and then cool. I have seen recommendations that like the optimal temperature should be in the high 60s. Is that right?

Kate: You know, that's what some people say. I'll say I don't sleep in that cold. Now, it's also to some degree of personal preference. Right. I mean, my infant won't sleep that bad in that cold of a room.

Audra: Yeah, I'm super glad to hear about white noise, because we definitely hear that, you know, one thing I hear from parents is what I want to make sure that I'm not inserting something in my child's sleep routine that will cause like some sort of dependency, you know, not as a chemical dependency, but like some sort of like. Does that mean they can't sleep without it? You know, and that's the challenge, right. So along similar lines, melatonin. Use of supplemental melatonin. What are your thoughts on that?

Kate: Yeah, I mean, I think it's something to discuss with pediatricians when you want to use it with kids, there's not really a lot of research on use with children and not long term research. And so in general, we know intrinsically children should be having the right amount. And melatonin itself is actually a thymine hormone. So it says, ok, now your body should go to sleep. It doesn't actually say fall asleep. It just as this is the time. Here I am, I'm high. Like with your circadian rhythm. It's time to start coming down and going to sleep. 

I know a lot of parents use it. I know especially at times it's recommended in children with certain disorders like autism to help keep them on a schedule. Because if it's a timing mechanism, if you take it at the same time, you can help, your train, your circadian rhythm or your children's circadian rhythm.

Audra: Oh, interesting. You could potentially help retrain if like you have jet lag or if you're away at camp for a week and things get changed or something like that.

Kate: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it's definitely something to discuss with the pediatrician before giving it. In general, I think for most children they shouldn't need it, especially long term. But here or there, it happens.

Justin: I want to talk briefly about parents. What about naps for adults? I just have to ask. 

Kate: There's nothing wrong with them. 

Justin: What do you think right now?

Kate: Yeah, I think there's nothing wrong with them. So naps are fantastic for you. And at different amounts they help with different things. So short ones can kind of help regenerate you. You're able to attend to better. That's that fatigue countermeasure. A little bit longer, like 20 minutes, up to 90 minutes, you can actually start to get memory benefits, have a kind of emotional reactivity reset as well. If you get a full cycle of sleep, that includes REM. So depending on the length of nap, can serve different functions. I'm a big proponent of if you need the sleep get the sleep.

Justin: Oh, awesome. Awesome.

Audra: I love that. You got to love hearing that he gets up at like 3:30, four in the morning and...

Justin: Well, yeah, I need that. I really love like a 20 minute nap. I feel like it is like 20 minutes. It's just the perfect.

Audra: It's a sort of nap where if you lay down on the couch, leave your feet on the floor and just tilt yourself over. Right. Don't get too comfortable. If you get too comfortable for me, I could end up in one of those three hour ones where you wake up thinking it's like the next day.

Kate: Yeah, that groggy sleep menercia afterwards, which doesn't feel good. It's all for depending on who you are, what you need, what your needs are.

Justin: So to start to wrap this up, I do have a curiosity around motherhood for you. How has becoming a mother changed how you think about sleep or has it had no effect?

Kate: I mean, I like it even more than I used to.

Justin: It’s now like the most important thing in your life. Yes.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. So I did my masters where I sleep deprived over a hundred undergrads. Yeah. So I've been sleep deprived. But you know how they always say like they make the jokes like teachers can't, they can't always read right away or psychologists like they always need some extra therapy or sleep researchers they never sleep. It's true, though, because all our research is around watching others.

Justin: Oh, you got to be in the lab all all night.

Kate: Right in the lab all night. So I've been sleep deprived for probably the better part of the last 15 years. But that being said, motherhood takes it to a new level.Because you don't ever get those opportunities to go back and sleep in those chunks. So when I was sleep depriving people the next day, I could sleep for five, six hours to kind of work it out. Right. So I've loved it even more than I did before. But I use my clinical skills to help support my family sleep, help support our kids. So I'm very thankful for that privilege and that knowledge.

Audra: Yeah. Yeah. That it strikes me as being really powerful that you could come into motherhood, really understanding the power of sleep and being able to probably ask for more help around you, whatever your needs are, to make sure that things are met instead of getting into that normal mom is self sacrificing mode. I'm assuming that that research is helpful and something that could help anyone going into motherhood to know how powerful sleep is and to ask for the help to get the sleep.

Kate: Yeah. And to ask and just also to be aware of. I think there's just so much shame and guilt around being that best mom and knowing that, you know, nothing is right. There's no wrong answers. Everyone is doing the best they can and everyone's child is going to turn out wonderfully. And that's the most we can hope for. Right. And so whether or not you sleep train or whether or not you do this or do that or breastfeed or foremostly, every kid is going to turn out great in the end. And so having that kind of awareness. And being able to take a step back in motherhood has helped me a lot.

Audra: Yeah, just supporting it was supporting folks and in whatever their spaces, but ever their needs are, whatever their best is. Right. Is going to be different for everyone and supporting them in their own journey, whatever that looks like.

Kate: Absolutely.

Justin: So, Kate, what is particularly exciting for you personally in your growth as a mother and just as a human being? What are you working on? Because I am just to get a little bit of context for this. This is quite the family. So The Family Thrive, you know, we're we're and we're an app and we're a platform for parents who want to dig deeper and, you know, work on themselves, work on helping themselves thrive and their families thrive. So I well…

Audra: Well the question you normally ask is, what's at your edge?

Justin: Like what is that your edge? 

Audra: Like what is just new and exciting for you or the next thing coming for your thing that you're really interested in right now, you know?

Kate: So I think for me and looking ahead, we're looking towards these next steps in my girls. And I think for me, being able to take all of the knowledge that I've gained and really look at how it unfolds every moment and also trying to be very present and mindful parent through it all has been what I've been focusing on myself. So I think a lot of parents were constantly caught up in the day to day activities, the days feel so long. But then the years feel so short and trying to really be present and mindful of these moments that I'm having in moments of watching my girls together, watching our family. That's where I am.

Audra: It's beautiful. Do you have any any strategies you've used in that? Like as a mom, I really resonate with working on presence. And for me, sometimes it's just noticing. It's like taking notice of this beautiful moment, sometimes trying to write it down or or even photograph it or stored away somewhere or something. Do you have a strategy that's helped you with that presence?

Kate: Yeah, I try to stop myself when I realize, when I'm realizing I'm not in the moment when I'm on my phone, I'm working or different things are coming to mind. And I catch myself. I try and say, ok, this is when I'm trying to be here fully as a mom. I'm going to be present in this mom moment and I'm just going to engage. And that's the strategy that I've personally been taking, is to really try to have that kind of mindset of catching myself and engaging in the moment when I'm at work, I'm full work, and then when I'm a mom, I'm trying to be full mom.

Audra: I love that. So it's really noticing, paying attention. It's it's a mindful practice, like, oh, I kind of just got caught up in something, you know, and I want to be here.

Kate: Yeah. Yeah. Recenter. It's not, it's not perfect. I'm not perfect. No one is. So I also want to say that with a grain of salt in the sense of sometimes I don't catch myself. And that's also ok. I think giving yourself a lot of grace is what's needed as a parent.

Audra: I couldn't agree with you more. And I love the, I love that you share that. It's not about perfection. And it sounds like that's what I what I like hearing about this is a practice for you, because when I hear this practice, it's sort of a daily, you know, mindful practice, something that doesn't mean you're going to be this way. I'm not going to be present 24/7. Right. And so that's why I need this practice to help with that kind of recentering, you know, in the moment when I'm with my family.

Justin: But also, the beautiful thing is that each new moment provides that opportunity to be totally present. Yeah, that's awesome. So we have three final questions that we ask every podcast guest. And so the first one is, Kate, if you could put a Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would that Post-it note say?

Kate: You're doing great. Keep going.

Justin: You're doing great. Keep going. You need to get one foot in front of the other. And is there a recent quote that has changed the way you think or feel?

Kate: Probably not. I'll be honest. I mean, I think in general, every time I see Be kind stickers, I they resonate with me. I think kindness towards others and towards our community and society is really something that we constantly need. So it's a good recheck for everyone.

Justin: Be kind. And then the final question, because it is, you know, the parenting grind is real. As you know, as you said, it's easy to get caught up in the to dos and the scheduling, that it's nice to take a step back and think about like what's so wonderful about kids. And so, Kate, what do you love most about kids?

Kate: Oh, they're the best. I mean, how can you just not love children? I think they're interesting the way they view the world. Just watching how they experience new things through the world. My three year old, for example, calls elevators, excavators. I don't ever want to correct it. It's just, you know. You know, we took her to a children's museum this weekend and they have one of the, I don't know. I've never seen it before, but they're air shoots. And so if you put what were they? They were like this fluffy ball thing. And you throw it in one and then it will shoot all around and going through it and come out and just watching her try and figure it out and understand was the highlight of my week. I mean, the joy she had in this moment of just watching this ball travel through these tubes and where would it come out? I think that that kind of joy in that momentary experience and appreciating that and really engaging with that is one of my favorite things about being a mom and being someone who works with kids. There are no bad kids in this world.

Audra: Oh, that's beautiful. Put a pin in that. There are no bad kids in this world. And then to be able to experience that pure, authentic state of being that they inhabit. Right. Like the wonder is a state of being. And it is not self-conscious. It is not like, you know, they're not like in the mode of social anxiety and what's going on and performative or anything like that. Right. It's just like wheels turning, making sense of the world. It's beautiful.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely.

Justin: Kate, thank you so much for joining us. Oh, such a pleasure. This is so enlightening. We got so much information. I'm really excited for our parents to hear this.

Audra: And thank you for your research and your commitment. And you have exciting things ahead. You know, I love how you're taking the research that you're doing now and you're going to translate it to adolescence. I hope that we can use this kind of research to help kids start school later.

Kate: Yeah, I'm running a study right now. If anyone has kids between nine and 13 and they want to do a Minecraft sleep and memory study, it’s all remote. 

Justin: It’s all remote?

Audra: We have one!

Kate: Anyone who wants to, we’ll take them.  

Audra: Nine to 13 Maesie and she plays Roblox, but close enough. We’ll talk about that.

Justin: And how long will you be recruiting for this?

Kate: Hopefully the next few years, though, it's going to be a big study. But yeah, but we're recruiting right now.

Justin: Awesome. So when this podcast airs, I think later October. All right. So…

Kate: We'll still be going. 

Justin: So we'll let you know. We'll get the information for this and we'll put it in the show notes.

Kate: That would be great. I appreciate it a lot.

Justin: Awesome, Kate.

Audra: Oh, that's so exciting.

Kate: Thank you for having me. It was wonderful.

Audra: Bye. 


Transcript highlights

1:54

Justin: I wanted to know about your experience with Matthew Walker, who I've heard on a number of podcasts, and he's like, in my mind, he's like the sleep expert.

Audra: Justin’s a huge fan. Massive fan. 

Justin: Yeah. So did you know that you wanted to study sleep and then or was it that experience that got you into studying sleep?

Kate: Yeah, it's a really great question. So I was an undergrad at UC Berkeley and had devoted myself to becoming a social worker. And then towards the end of my senior year, I said, well, you know, maybe this isn't exactly what I want to do. I end up taking a science of sleep class from Matt and figured out, nope, this is what I want to do. I want to be a sleep researcher. So from there, I asked to join his lab and got the opportunity to, he had just moved to Berkeley from Harvard before that. I'm not positive. Joined his lab as a research assistant, an undergrad. So the people who do all kind of the scut work, right? 

And then joined Dr. Alison Harvey. She's also a fantastic sleep researcher at UC Berkeley. She studies adolescence and sleep and insomnia, so from the clinical domain. And so I joined both sleep labs.

Justin: Oh, yeah. She clearly needs to get onto some more podcasts. 

Kate: Yeah. Oh. So you can listen to her as well.

Justin: Yeah, exactly. So can I just ask real quick, was there when you took that class, was there an aha moment or was it a slow thing over that class or your like sleep? Man, this is cool.

Kate: You know, I don't I mean, it was probably like 16 years ago. It's been a while, but I knew I always loved working with kids is why I'd want to be like a social worker or a teacher. And the sleep, everything just kind of connected together for me in that moment, in that class, and so quickly decided I was going to change course and pursue becoming a sleep and memory and development researcher.

Audra: Wow. What a powerful moment when everything just sort of like clicks and comes together for you. I feel like it's part of the magic of college is exploring different things and having access to things that you wouldn't normally, you know, just think of.

Kate: Absolutely, I think that is the most important thing is, is also I tell this story because I truly devoted everything to being a social worker up to that point. And then I switched in the last semester. And so I like to tell the undergrads that I work with them. There's never a time you can't change course if you want to.

Audra: I think that is wonderful. It's a beautiful message. My mother went back and got a Ph.D. when I was in high school, then totally changed her career as well. And it helped me see that not everything is just about a linear, you know, kind of path forward and finishing, you know, a certain amount of time and find what you want to do that there. The journey of life can take us into new and wonderful direction. 

So, yeah, that's amazing. Does your interest in social work or your background really studying that much in social work inform your work on sleep or research or anything in any way? Because that's more like kind of society, like systems. You know, you're studying like when you're going into social work, you're learning you know, you're learning a lot about how we've constructed our society, about inequity, about all sorts of different things. And then you go into this scientific research and it's a bit different. But do you see connections?

Kate: I mean, I do. I think that it also helped me decide to add on a clinical Ph.D. So I started a program in a cognitive neuroscience and added clinical so that I could really see the person as a whole. So at research, we're really at this kind of micro level at time. So the research I do is very basic. How are these cognitive processes unfolding? What are those kind of small roles? And then I also studied at the clinical level so I could see, well, how does this actually translate to the person and kind of that navigation between those two spheres is what I love the most. And I think what helped, my background helped me support.

Justin: So the next step for you was to go to the University of Arizona. And so we both have ties there. I was born in Tucson, and although I think only a few people in my dad's family went to the U of A the entire family,

Audra: You think they all went?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Just living in Tucson. It's like that's you know, U of A football, U of A basketball, baseball, soccer. No, I like every single sport, like volleyball. It doesn't matter. Yeah. So tell us about your time in Tucson or U of A, how did this shape what you're doing today?

Kate: Yeah, so I had a fantastic time. I love Tucson. I recommend it to everybody similar to your family. So I went to graduate school there from a cognitive neuroscience Ph.D. is where I started. And I worked with doctors Lynn Nadle, Dr. Rebecca Gomez and Dr. Dick Guzman. 

And so I went in knowing I wanted to study sleep memory in kids. It has been pretty true to that since. And so Dr. Buton is a was a sleep brewer has since passed away, but really helped kind of initiate some of the initial sleep treatments. So very big in the clinical world. Dr. Lynn Nadle is a huge figure in terms of hippocampal-dependent memory. And Dr. Guzman studies development. And so I got to have all three as my mentors. I was incredibly lucky and worked with all three to really try and hone my interests and hone my understanding of these three very disparate areas, but to intersect them together and study that intersection.

Justin: So you knew going in it was sleep, memory, kids. What did this come through your work as an undergraduate researcher with Matthew Walker, or was there some other impetus for you to be interested in these three?

Kate: I think Matt’s class, I was like, this is what I want to study. And so he did sleep in memory and adults. So I got that memory and sleep component. Dr. Harvey did adolescents. And then I actually had joined a third lab in undergrad, Dr. Joseph Campos, who is a huge infant development researcher. And so kind of started getting that experience in those labs. And that is what I took with me to graduate school.

Justin: Ok. And then the next step was a clinical internship at CHOC Hospital. Of course, we are very close with CHOC Hospital, our son. 

Audra: That's when we became interested in sleep. And I think, really had no awareness other than when we had babies. And we're like, oh, my God, we need sleep. But we became very interested in sleep for our entire families, health and well-being. Once we started learning about it, having a hospitalized kid.

Justin: Oh, well, another thing and this is not, of course, unique to CHOC at all, but just being surprised. So our son was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011, and we were treated at CHOC Hospital. He was inpatient for almost a month. And we were just surprised at how little anyone seemed to care about sleep. It was like lights and beeping and just like, you know, let's do rounds and when, you know, 4:00 in the morning. 

And at the time, it was like, can we get some sleep? But then when we started to do research about how important sleep was for healing, and it was like, oh, man, how does our, why do our hospitals? And I think it's gotten better from what I've heard. But yeah. How do our hospitals care so little about sleep? Yeah.

Audra: Well, I mean, you think about it and you have clinicians are like broken into the system.

Kate: Yeah, I think I'd like to think that that message is changing a lot, both for residents and having cut hours at certain points, but also kind of older generations of doctors. But in addition, CHOC and other I think hospitals around the country have really changed in the last 10 years and really recognize how critical sleep is to the healing process.

Audra: Can you tell me about your clinical internship? I'm interested to know what that looks like at CHOC.

Kate: Yeah, I worked at CHOC for two years, so one is a clinical internship. And then I did what's called a clinical fellowship, which is similar to a residency there after as a first year postdoc. I loved it. They are a fantastic hospital. So what I did is I had brought all my child psychology experience and really learned how to work with children like your son who had health issues, either acute or chronic. 

And so I assessed them for mental health issues, either as a result of diabetes, cystic fibrosis, learned how to assess children and how to give them resources and how to provide the understanding of these are diseases that may or may not be long term. And how do we work to help you have strong mental health through your treatments? Through the ups and downs of your diseases like that.

Audra: Hmm. And how did your colleagues, you know, kind of like on the care team receive this work? I mean, because to me it seems like a wonderful progression. I know a lot of nurses who are running sleep's studies on sleep and looking to change the dynamics and change the education. So I think that there has been a wave of change. What was that like for you on the child's care team and also with the parents experiencing your work and intervention?

Kate: Yeah. So I worked on a huge team from the psychology department since I was a trainee. So I had lots of psychologists overseeing me and then continued on after I graduated. And I think at least a CHOC and I like to be at most hospitals, psychology is really respected and appreciated field, because we can offer something that the medical doctors can't. We can offer that mind body connection. We can offer different resources, coping mechanisms that potentially the doctors haven't been trained in because they have to focus on how to keep kids healthy. So I think that it's been, it was a wonderful interaction and work with them.

Justin: Awesome.

Audra: It's fantastic. I love hearing of this integration. I think, you know, especially the more we've learned, just as parents have, of the power and importance of sleep and support for mental health, physical health and beyond. It's really, really cool to hear of this. I think change really change in health care.

Kate: I agree. I think it's especially right now, it's really being focused on just wonderful.

Justin: And so to bring us up to the present day, you are now a postdoc fellow at UC Irvine. I got a Ph.D. there. So yet another connection. 

Kate: Very parallel lives.

Justin: So tell us about your work now.

Kate: Mmhmm. Yeah. So I work with Dr. Sara Mednick. She is fantastic. She is actually studying how sleep dependent memory processes change over the menstrual cycle for women, which is women in general. We do not have enough research on us. Really understanding kind of the nuances of how our bodies are different or maybe the same. But that research is lacking. And so there's four phases in a menstrual cycle for women in which hormones change dramatically between estrogen and progesterone. And at each one, we have differences in sleep. And so the idea as well then is our sleep dependent memory process is changing. Long term women are more at risk for dementia related diseases like Alzheimer's. And so we're looking to see if changes in sleep dependent memory around hormones might be a risk factor or a protective factor for later dementia related disorders.

Audra: Oh, so interesting. 

Kate: Yeah. So with this research, I'm learning the endocrinology and a whole bunch of other things that I'm then going to bring down to kids and look at puberty.

Justin: I was going to ask you, are you looking at adolescence? Yeah. Okay. Awesome. All right. So we might revisit all this stuff as we now dig into the sleep science. And so this is what we really want to know about. The Family Thrive where we’re about bringing expert science and translating it for parents so we can, as parents, use this stuff in our home, in our real lives. So before we get into any of the nitty gritty around, you know, sleep training or whatever else. Let's start at the very beginning. Why do animals even need sleep. Like this seems if, you know, you just think about it evolutionarily, wouldn't it be better if we were just on 24 hours a day so we could eat and, you know, procreate? So what I mean, evolutionarily, right. 

Audra: You know, we do spend a lot of time in sleep. 

Justin: So why do animals even need sleep?

Kate: I mean, I think it's still a 100 million dollar question. Frankly, I think we don't necessarily truly know the answer. And there's a lot of different reasons why. Right. You go from an evolutionary perspective. You can say, well, humans and many animals can't see at night we're pretty vulnerable to predators. So maybe we should go hide ourselves in a cave and keep ourselves safe if we know. And that's a perfect opportunity to sleep. I mean, that's one evolutionary perspective. 

For me, I think that sleep is critical to help our restaurant restorative function during the day. Our body incurs so much damage or so much wear and tear is maybe a better way to think about it, that we need the night to really restore those same functions that kind of bring us back to this baseline where we're ready to go the next day and ready to engage in our immune function is ready and at its peak to protect us from germs, things like that.

Justin: So it's restorative, like we should really think about, like the fundamental reason we need sleep is for this restorative. 

Audra: Is there such thing as too much, having too much sleep?

Kate: It depends on what is also accompanying it. So usually when we see people who are having too much sleep, a lot of times it's also a company with disease. So, you know, there's kind of this new shape function, right? Too little sleep is bad. Associated disease, higher mortality. Too much sleep is also bad, associated with disease and higher mortality.

 And so there's kind of this middle ground of of of kind of optimal amount of sleep for you, depending on what age you are. So that's kind of the main reason I will say. In addition, we know that sleep is critical for our cognitive processes and helps support our memory overnight, helps support us to have better attention that our emotion regulation. So there's a lot of reasons for why we sleep. 

Justin: Yeah. And I like to think about that, those cognitive reasons as related to being restorative. And we can get into that in a little bit. But while we're talking about the purpose of sleep, why do babies need so much sleep? Like they come out of the womb, like sleeping all the time and then it gets less and less and less as they get older. And so what's going on early on?

Kate: Well, I'll flip it to you and I'll say, what is going on early on in infancy? What is the baby's number one kind of function or purpose in life? It's to grow and develop. Right. And so to develop in a healthy way, we need sleep to help us get to that optimal place. So during sleep, we know that there's growth hormone secretion. 

So it's helping them grow from sleeping. We know that they're constantly taking in the knowledge of the world around them. I used to study infant sleep at the U of A as we talked about. And so we know that infants are these amazing many statisticians, and that's how they acquire language. They're constantly picking up on those statistics of language. And my work showed that. 

And over just a short nap, infants are able to retain statistical properties of language where without that short nap, they're not able to. So we know sleep is doing these important functions of helping stabilize this new knowledge at tiny little intervals moving forward.

Audra: I have a question about this. Does it matter if that nap is in a stationary location or in a car seat or in a stroller? There's, I remember there being a lot of debate around this, you know, the quality of it according to location or movement.

Kate: I think that's a really good question. I think the jury is out on terms of, you know, I only studied baby sleeping in a crib. I can't generalize my findings, but I will say sleep is sleep as long as you're doing it in a healthy and safe way. Those kind of alone on your back. Just be aware of risks and things like that. But, you know, if they're sleeping on you and you're safe and upright and awake, that sleeps probably the same as sleeping in a crib.

Justin: So just to be clear, you're saying that as far as we know, sleep in a stroller, like if I'm walking the baby down the street and it's sleeping in the stroller, just as good as if it's a lone quiet in its crib.

Kate: I mean, I think the question actually, I'll flip back to you is we know that when we sleep, we have certain brain rhythms and certain stages of sleep. And the question is, are the infants able to get the right amount of stages during the stroller nap versus at home? I don't think we've ever actually studied that question.

Audra: Well, I mean, I'm going to just assume or then sort of like extrapolate from your observations that with all of the moms around the world over time who for whom baby wearing is the norm and is the practice until, you know, the child is fairly well grown, you know, the age three, you know, from infancy. And it seems like those babies grow pretty well. 

Kate: Yeah, I’m not too worried. 

Justin: Ok, just a few more questions to lay the groundwork. Why do babies need so many naps? Why can't they get it all in just one big chunk?

Kate: Yeah, it's a good question. Babies sleep in these kind of polyphasic sleep, many throughout the day, probably rather than one consolidated nighttime chunk. And I think that the true answer is because they are taking in so much information, they're constantly having all these needs. They constantly having caloric needs too, they need to be eating around the clock as well. Eating takes a lot of energy, takes a lot of time. Right. You guys had your son many years ago, I'm sure you remember, when they fell asleep, eating is so exhausting to eat, right. 

So, you know, it takes a lot of energy. And so they need to sleep to kind of regain their energy, to be aware and be present and take in what's around them in the world, eat enough to grow.

Justin: Awesome. So is sleep serving different developmental or cognitive developmental purposes at different ages, or is it basically the same thing of, you know, consolidating memory and some of the other functions that you've already mentioned? So is it the same thing? But it's just a lot more, you know, when we're babies or are there different things going on at different ages?

Kate: I think there's probably to some degree different things going on based on where we are in our lives and our cognitive development. But in general, I think most people assume sleep is doing similar things across. Because we don't see massive changes in the brain waves while people are sleeping. 

I will add, though, infants, when they first are born their EEG is much less mature than you see in adults. And it's through that early brain maturation when we start to see adult rhythms around six months. So sleep is helping to support brain maturation in that very early life span. And then but also growth, immune functioning, energy needs, that sort of thing.

Audra: I'm curious about infants, sleep cycles. Do they have as much REM sleep as children and adults?

Audra: Yeah, really good question. I love infant sleep, so we talk about this all day.

Justin: Just in case a for any listeners. Could you just real briefly explain REM sleep?

Kate: I would be happy to. So when we go to sleep, we actually have different stages. The one kind of umbrella is called non rapid eye movement sleep, so non REM and the other is called Rapid Eye Movements. We associate REM with dreaming typically, although we do know that you can dream and not REM, but in REM during sleep, especially when we're having those dreams, certain brain areas are turned on versus off. And so that's why we have these very emotional, very vivid dreams without any kind of higher cognitive control, saying this is not a logical dream. 

So that's what's going on during REM. We also have muscle atonia. So our bodies essentially are kind of turned off. So we can't act out our dreams during REM, but very much a safety mechanism, our bodies have figured it out. Otherwise, who knows what we would be doing. I'd probably be cooking in the kitchen a lot. 

But then so during non REM, typically what ends up happening is we have three different stages. 1) Non REM one, which is really light sleep. 2) Where you can kind of really consider yourself and sleep. And we start to see the process of non REM to supporting sleep dependent memory. So we know that the more you have it and certain features within sleep, the more of those features you have. You have better memory. And then stage three, which is our deep sleep, slow wave sleep. And that's really considered the restorative sleep as well, and also very linked to memory. 

So in terms of REM and non REM in adults, we have 90 minute cycles. So we go through all of these stages in 90 minutes, and then we'll kind of come up for a little quick second to wake up and then go back down into these 90 minute cycles. But in infancy, we actually have 50 minute cycles where we go through them. And at birth you typically are born where you're having 50 percent REM and 50% non REM sleep, which dwindles down dramatically in that first year of life. 

So at the end, we, I think we typically have about 20 to 30 percent of REM sleep alone as adults. Across a full night. Yeah, so there's a lot of theories on what's REM's doing. It's, we know it's like essentially the brain, all the sensory areas of the brain are really turned on during REM. Right. These vivid dreams, very emotional. So one way some people think about it is it's the scrimmaged to the game. It's setting all your sensory areas up and ready so that when you acquire the information during wake, you're ready to retain it and know what's going on. Really cool. 

Audra: Oh, so cool. Yeah, I'm curious about it. We both got Aura rings a few years ago just to explore our own sleep. And, you know, I don't know how accurate, you know, it really is. But what we found is that I mean, he gets like really phenomenal deep sleep at usually and not as much REM sleep. And I am the opposite. I tend to get like super amounts of REM sleep and not as much deep sleep.

Justin: Although, ok, so can you tell us, do you have an opinion on these sleep wearables? 

Audra: Yeah. Good question.

Kate: Yeah. I mean, I will say they're not EEG. So we're not, you know, checked into your brain what's exactly happening. But Aura rings are phenomenal. They're probably the best wearable right now, although I don't know if I'm allowed to say that. But yeah, I think so. And so those are great. We use them in our research as well. So we have some great finance just because they're tracking your heart rate variability. Right. And they give an insight into that.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, no. I've learned a ton at in maybe the first six months or so wearing an Aura ring. And then after that, it was more just confirmation of like, yep, I know I had two drinks of alcohol last night. And sure enough, that's exactly what happens. I have to really terrible sleep. 

So I have over the years, I took a class that did a lot of sleep science at UC Irvine. It wasn't a part of my dissertation, so I didn't do any deep dives. But then, of course, reading Matthew Walker's book and listening to a bunch of podcasts and talking with other experts, I've come to think about like the three important things that I want to think about as a parent around sleep is sleep duration. 

Like, you know, I want to make sure my kids get enough sleep or, you know, in terms of amount, but then also high quality sleep, as I've seen studies where, you know, having enough light on in the room can disrupt quality of sleep. 

So I'm thinking not just about duration, but I'm thinking about quality as well. And as you said, so, you know, quiet, dark, cool enough. So the temperature matters. And then the third one, which I've seen epidemiology. But I don't know what you think about this timing. So, you know, if like we should be getting sleep at night and that if we dramatically shift when we're getting those eight hours, that can make a difference. So duration, quality and timing, what do you think about this? I mean, am I in the ballpark?

Kate: Yeah, you're spot on. I agree with all three. I saw your pre notes about it and I was like, yep, you know it. Per the third one at least we have a circadian rhythm where our body has different phases, where things are up and things are down. And we know that there's this optimal time for us to sleep. And I think understanding what that optimal time is for our bodies and being able to react to those cues and go to bed when we need to, rather than stay awake, watch TV, watch Netflix, do things. I think that's really key as well for kids, making sure we catch them in that window. They need to go to sleep.

Justin: So could you real quick? I think I left off this key term that I love to talk about with parents, which is circadian rhythm. So if you really it could kill you. Real briefly, talk about that.

Justin: Sure. Circadian rhythm is essentially our bodies respond in certain rhythms throughout the day, across the day. And so what it just essentially means is we have this internal clock mechanism that's saying, ok, now it's time to wake up. I want my cortisol up. I want to get up and go during the morning. 

And then at night we have our melatonin come on. Melatonin hormone that tells our body it's a timing mechanism, ok, it's time to go to sleep. Let's get ready. Let's kind of calm ourselves and get ready for bed and then we go to bed. So people in general, you can kind of think of them as owls and larks. So we have a preference. And we think this preference of whether we can stay up late or go to bed early is related to our circadian rhythm. But honestly, that research still needs to be done. If the preference matches our circadian rhythm, it's not 100%. It's just, it's an idea. It's a theory right now.

Justin: Ok. Ok, so real quick, I have a little bit of a bone to pick about this owl, and lark because I've seen a couple and I don't know how trustworthy these studies are, but I've seen a couple where or maybe it's just one, but I feel like it's been more where researchers have taken people and have studied them out camping like in the woods, like no artificial light. 

This one that I think of is particularly with camping so that they could just see the effect of extended time of all they have is the sun going up and going down and then how does this… And what they found was that regardless of owl or lark, they all started to go to bed around the same time. And so I'm wondering if the owl and large thing is really just a sensitivity to artificial light and that the owls are less are maybe more sensitive to the artificial. And so our staying up later and the larks just are not. And so they're going to bed earlier. I don't know. What do you think about this?

Kate: Yeah, I think it's totally possible. I also want to point out that owl and lark is really a kind of a social term of what's your preference, right. Cognitively, what your preferences. Are you someone who likes to stay up and kind of push their boundaries also a little bit more? It could also be related to all of these things, separate from what your underlying circadian rhythm is.

Justin: But I'm thinking, though, is that the owl is stimulated more by the artificial light. And so enjoy staying, staying up. And so it is just a more enjoyable thing. Whereas the lark, like this one here is like, oh, the artificial light. I feel like it's brutal and I'm avoid that at night. And so by like 9:30pm, I'm just like done.

Audra: Yeah, but it's not just that, it's that you cannot sleep in. Even when you were a teenager, your report, you didn't sleep in. I remember having to be woken up for kindergarten, lobbying to be up late at night in kindergarten and having to be dragged out of bed like that early. And I guess I've always been phenomenal at sleeping in. But you've never been able to sleep it. I mean, could that have something to do with it? 

Kate: Yeah, I think there's a lot of questions about that. I think in general, our circadian rhythms can be trained really easily to some degree, or I should say in some people if they can be trained really easily. So if yours is trained to go to bed at night and sleep in all your stress and is trying to wake up in the morning and go to bed early, I mean, that's all a factor. And also looking at our kids sleep, because the consistency, I'll add, is the fourth thing that I would put in timing. So consistency with timing is really critical to supporting circadian rhythms and then support quality, duration of quality sleep, things like that.

Audra: So that's yeah, that that really makes sense to me, whether with our son, he I think from the time he was a baby and small child like couldn't sleep past 5:30 in the morning and then it was I couldn't sleep past six and then 6:30. And like, you know, he got to the point where he could sleep in until 7:00, but we wouldn't want him to stay up very late at all, you know, even for special occasions, because he would get up. And there is nothing that we could do about it, whereas our daughter could sleep in like she said she could, like, make that wiggle, make that change. So it is really interesting how there is, we see the difference present with us and then with our kids as well, just naturally.

Justin: All right. So the last sleep science question before we get to the practice, can you tell us a little bit about what happens to the brain? And we can specifically think about kids here when they're not getting enough sleep over time. This is not just one night, although there are studies showing, you know, the impacts of just one night of restricted sleep, but over time, if our kids aren't getting enough sleep or their sleep is disrupted. What are some of the things that are happening in the brain when that takes place?

Kate: Yeah, it's a good question. So I will say there's a lot of research that needs to be done on this area and a lot of research that needs to be very objective. It's hard to study kids and sleep and kind of look long term, because we have to rely a lot on past reports which aren't as reliable, unfortunately…

Justin: Because you're not going to be able to do a randomized controlled trial, say, ok, we're going to restrict sleep for these kids.

Kate: Yeah, that would be pretty unethical to say, you guys, we'll see what happens in a few years. We're going to look back on this. But just naturalistic kind of observations of data suggests that the next day for kids, kids are pretty resistant. They might show some more emotional reactivity that might show some attention issues. 

There's some research that shows down the line kids who are not sleeping enough, especially in early kind of toddlerhood, have increased behavioral issues and increased academic difficulties. So they're scoring a little bit lower on academic tests and they're having an increased kind of executive function behavior issues. So those that are revolving around cognitive control, attention, inhibition, inhibition of behavior, that's down the line. Usually when those studies have happened, they're kind of looking three to five years down the line. So that's directly with kids in general, with adults. We know that when we don't sleep enough, our brains are not optimized for the next day. We are much more emotionally reactive. We can even react more so to negative information and perceive it more threatening than maybe it typically would be to us. We have poor attention. 

This is why it's very dangerous to drive if we haven't slept enough. Right. And you can be about adolescents as well. They're not sleeping enough. They are more dangerous. Right. And then also our next day, we're not able to acquire the typical knowledge that we would want to. Yeah. So a lot of detrimental effects, which is why sleep is so important.

Justin: Absolutely. I mean, it is the foundation. Like we in The Family Thrive, we have these thrive pillars that we talk about nutrition and we talk about mental and emotional health and social support and exercise. But it's like none of it matters if you're not getting enough sleep. You got like start with the sleep.

Kate: Yeah. Well, none of it will kind of all come together, right. If you're not getting enough sleep, how can you stay healthy? That's the kind of key of it, right?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. All right. So now let's get into sleep practices at the very beginning. So what should parents know about optimal sleep for newborns? I know that. I mean, they're so like I mean, if you have an opinion on sleep training and these other other things, then please share. But are there some key things that you just wish every parent knew about optimal sleep for newborns? Yes.

Kate: The number one most important thing is it's all ok. You can't do anything, just survive. That is the point. If just surviving. So newborns don't have circadian rhythms, no human is born with an intrinsic circadian rhythm. So we don't know. Night is night and day is day. And it doesn't come about until about three to four months from what research studies have shown. And so it's just survival. And there's nothing wrong with whatever you got to do to get these kids to sleep. 

So we want it to be safe always. But, you know, if you're awake and you just want to hold a baby and have a contact nap while you're sleeping or babywear, do it. There's nothing wrong with that. I wore my kids frequently when they were newborns because they had great sleep while they were on me and kind of connected and close to mom. But it's just pure survival for those first few months until you you can start to get them more aware and trained in their circadian rhythm is starting to develop. There's things you can do to support them in being better sleepers, but it's survival in that beginning.

Audra: Yeah. How old are your kids now?

Kate: I've got a six month old and a three and a half year old.

Audra: Oh, how cool. You're in the middle of the child sleep version of it. Yeah. And it's like just when you get them sleeping, it seems like then they're teething again and then, you know, up again. And it's just it's a lot going through those toddler years. Yeah. Well, how do you feel about the concept of sleep training or trying to teach a child to to sell, to self soothe and to go to sleep?

Kate: Yeah. So I'll start with saying that for every family, it's what works for you is the right thing to do. There's nothing wrong with that. So some families like sleep training and some families don't feel comfortable. And that is ok. There's no wrong answer here. And I think the most important thing is supporting moms and supporting parents in general and being the best parents that they want to be. So that's my motto with all things.

Audra: I love that motto. Yes, thank you.

Kate: Yeah, it's there's no judgment. And I think there's a lot of shame around different practices. Like right now, I'm seeing a lot of anti sleep training information going around, which I'm finding really interesting. But I also think a lot of it isn't necessarily based in the research.

And so I think there's a lot of concerns about what's being presented on social media. I'll just add that. 

So from the research, there is no negative effects long term, short term to kids being sleeping trained. That doesn't mean you have to do it, but doesn't mean anyone has to do it. But there's no negative effects of it. And there's many different methods to doing it. One being kind of what the extreme one everyone thinks of is like you just shut the door and walk away, which nobody does. Nobody ever does that. And then there's very gradual ones that say, you know, I'll kind of do a little thing here and there. I don't want my kids to. 

So this spectrum, everything works. A lot of people fall in the middle at some point within the first few years of life. So they say, ok, I need to do retraining, training, because for my mental health, I need to have better sleep. I need to.

Justin: That was us.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. There's a point where I think most parents reach where they're saying, I'm not getting enough sleep, I'm not able to be that present, mindful parent. I'd like to be in the moment. And so what do I do? How do I support my child and how do I support myself? And I think it's all this important relationship.

Justin: Yeah. Do you remember that?

Audra: Oh, of course I remember that. I mean, what I think is is really beautiful about what you're saying is like I've had friends who are breastfeeding throughout the night and the baby is sleeping and doing great and they're both getting more sleep. Co-sleeping in and and moving forward that way. And then there are parents like us who I had to go back to work at three, three months, and I was up at 2:00 in the morning and he would feed and not just go back to sleep. And we had like a physio ball, you know, like a bouncing ball. I have to have him on the ball and kind of like slowly bounce him down to sleep. And then it was like, well, the Temple of Doom, like…

Justin: Oh, just laying him back down.

Audra: Yeah. I try to try. I like to have like a warm blanket down or something to lay him down. So the not like tip off the booby trap like and get him down and be like, you know, like at some point I was like, I can't function any longer. This baby is capable of falling asleep on his own and we need to help facilitate that. It's going to be painful for me as the mom, there was like that. I remember there's a TV show in the ‘90s that had a really big scene with this and the parents were waiting outside the door, you know because it's so painful for the parents, but it worked for us. So I love your motto because it's finding like what works for you. And Max is like an awesome sleeper and kind of always was after that.

Justin: Oh, yeah. Yeah. 

Kate: Yeah. I fully trained my kids as well. So, yeah, I mean, my six-month-old, I was like, instead I'm working. It's time for you to learn how to sleep. So. But, you know, again, it's where you lie on this spectrum. There are no wrong answers. And then it's how quickly or not quickly you want to do it and the kind of support you want to give your kids. But yeah, I…

Audra: So it’s all right.

Kate: It's all right. There you go. 

Audra: Follow your intuition, your path. It's not one way or the other. You were having similar debates in other areas, like with breastfeeding, you know, formula feeding, you know, and it's moving into the feed is best. And it's like that space like however, it is that you can do it with whatever combination, whatever works for you. No judgment, I want to say like sleep is best or rested is best or whatever. 

Kate: I completely agree. I think it's a lot of parallels. And I think in general, trying to create a supportive community for parents is the most important part of this puzzle piece. And every family looks different. Every cultural aspect as well changes the dynamics. And it's really important that we are supporting early parenthood.


44:29

Justin: So kids move out of infancy, toddler, young kids. What are the sleep practices that parents should start to think about to support the best sleep? Now I'm thinking, you know, the way that I grew up, my parents never gave this a single thought. It was just like go to bed and just be done with it. 

But now that I've learned enough about sleep science, like, oh, there are things that we can do to like really support optimal sleep. And I think about them not just in terms of the nighttime practices, but also daytime practices as well, to support a healthy circadian rhythm so that when we're awake, we're awake and when we're asleep we’re asleep. So could you I guess let's start with the daytime practices. What are some things during the day that parents can do to support the best sleep for their kids?

Kate: Generally, the biggest thing is keeping a similar structure and schedule both on weekdays and weekends. That's probably the biggest factor of everything, having kids wake up similar times. We usually say within an hour, this is bedtime, an hour before, an hour after. That's kind of the goal. Help support that circadian rhythm. And same with at night getting some wake light right at the very beginning. 

So going outside, if you're in beautiful California having breakfast outside or walking around a little bit before school in the sun. That also helps because light travels into our eye, hits what we call our suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is our clock in our brain, and says, ok, it's time to wake up, let's reset this and let's get going for the day. And that's really important.

Justin: Yeah. So are we talking like five minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes? What's the best amount of time?

Kate: Ok, 15 to 30 is probably pretty good. I mean, I think it depends on how strong the light is, right? If you're in Arizona, in Tucson, you don't need as much because that light is really bright. Maybe being in Seattle where you're not getting as much light with the clouds, it's going to be a little bit longer. It's really about the amount.

Audra: That's so helpful when I walk my daughter to school in the morning. And it is really, really helpful. And I think these practices translate to parents, too, right? So I one of the things that I started doing a few years ago is I basically don't use sunglasses anymore and I use them if like where I'm in somewhere with glare or whatever, like hardcore harsh light environment. But just like during the day, I stopped using sunglasses. So just going out. And then I was also aware of my contact lenses. I had one once I had a UV filter, I didn't know. And then on my glasses and such as taking all of that out. And I found it made a radical, for me, made a radical difference in just allowing the access to that light.

Kate: Yeah. Wake up light really can help, especially in that first thing in the morning. You're having similarly timed meals. It's really good and helps our systems because it keeps our circadian rhythms really trained. You know, some days things don't work out. But in general, if things are at the same time, it really helps our systems continue. If kids are napping, having them nap at the same time, having a little cool down, calm down process right before that nap can help as well. 

And then at night, also having wind downtime, we usually recommend about 45 minutes beforehand, turning down harsh lights, getting off TV, getting off phones, any video game things, all that stuff is really key to helping our bodies find this ability to kind of recenter itself and say, ok, I'm about to go to bed. It's time for me to wind down, do your bedtime routine, hop into bed. Hopefully that will help.

Justin: All right. So this gets into the nighttime practices. So I'm aware of the research around the circadian rhythm in our, with our metabolism. And so to make a long story short, it's better to eat more when the sun's up than rather when the sun's down. So what would be like an optimal time? Or let me rephrase that. When should be a time when parents should say, ok, the kitchen's closed like no more food?

Kate: Well, I think that's a tough question to answer, only because some kids have different caloric needs and intakes. And if you follow nutritionists and doctors, some doctors recommend our kids have a little snack before bed to kind of keep them going through the night. In adults it's a little easier to say that you want to have a space between dinner and bedtime. But with kids, I mean, you essentially want to have that space as well. But if your kid isn't able to do it, it's not something you should be following.

Justin: Ok, so then let's just turn to parents. When should parents, for themselves, say all right, I want to be done with what I'm eating so that I can get the best sleep?

Kate: I think the goal is typically about three hours. I think some people say two, some people say four, I say around three. So if you're having dinner at 6:00, go to bed at 9:00, have dinner at 7:00, you're ready to go to bed about 10:00.

Justin: What about exercise? Should we try to reduce exercise in the evening? Try to keep it all in the daytime?

Kate: So we used to think that you needed to exercise right in the morning, and that's the optimal time. Some recent research has just come out saying, well, if you exercise at night, it doesn't affect your body and your sleep. So I'll say the jury's still out on that. But again, keeping exercise at a similar time of day helps your circadian rhythm so that it knows it. Now, it's my exercise time, now is my eating time, now to sleep. Consistency is really key.

Justin: Ok. And then. When should we think about having the screens off in order to promote this winding down towards that time?

Kate: 45 minutes is probably the minimum.

Justin: Minimum?

Kate: Yes.

Justin: Minimum of 45 minutes.

Audra: What about...

Kate: It’s tough for kids and adults.

Audra: I mean, you're reading Twitter at night.

Justin: I love Twitter. I love Twitter. And I don't get it during the day. So like my bedtime is my Twitter time.

Kate: I will say as a clinician, I say unless it's a problem, it's not a problem. So if you don't have a job falling asleep and you're looking at Twitter right before you go to bed, it's not a problem. But if you're having a problem falling asleep or your kid's having falling asleep and you're saying something's not working, let's look at the structure, let's look at the schedule, that's when you want to start tweaking things around. So we're not going to go in there and say, let's fix everything when nothing needs to be fixed. You're getting good sleep. But in general, we do know that these things can help sleep.

Justin: Got it. 

Audra: Oh, I think that's great. That's super helpful. What about turning the lights down as the sun goes down? Is that helpful? 

Kate: I mean with winter happening, it's going to be earlier and earlier, but yeah, all of these things are important, but having lights come down, having screens up. I mean, if you think about a screen is right here and we're looking right at it. Really getting a lot of light.

Audra: So the lights don't have to, do the lights have to be off or can they just be turned down? So we're seeing them down.

Kate: Just down. Those night modes are really good right now.

Justin: Yeah, I have a visceral reaction to artificial light at night. 

Audra: It's like a campfire out front because it can. Yeah. And our neighbors are like when we first moved into where we live now in Georgia, our neighbors were like, what is happening? You have no lights on at night. 

Justin: Oh, Justin goes around and turns them off if anybody turns them on. So what about blue light blocking glasses at night? This has been a popular thing for adults who want to optimize, you know, their sleep. What do you think about these things?

Kate: Totally possible. If it works for you, it works. I mean, I think also just turning down, putting on night modes is another way to do it. So I don't think you need them, but they can help.

Justin: So like any way that you can reduce the amount of artificial light that's coming into your eyes.

Audra: Now, a lot of folks use blue light blocking glasses during the day if they're on a computer a lot.

Justin: I don't know anything about that.

Audra: Is that something that could be you? It sounds like you still want to maybe get outside and get some sunlight if you're in that situation.

Kate: Yeah. Artificial light is not going to give you that same amount that being outside will. And so that's really what it comes down to is getting that sunlight.

Justin: Do you know? So I don't know really what a lux is. But, you know, it's a way to measure how, you know, how much light is being emitted. So could you give us just or do you know the difference between indoor lights, like if you're in a classroom or an office, what the lux is compared to if you walk outside and it's a relatively sunny day.

Kate: Yeah. You know, off the top of my head, I can't. But I know it's like thousands different. Yes. Very little versus huge difference. Yeah.

Justin: All right. All right. Yeah. So that's I often think about that because I remember I'm not in an office anymore, but I when I was I would think that I need to get out, just get that sunlight for even just a couple of minutes. I don't know if it was a placebo effect, but I would feel much better.

Kate: I still do it now. Better get a little sun. 

Audra: Sunlight breaks.

Justin: Ok, so now kids are in bed sleeping. How can we arrange their environment to support optimal sleep? What are some of the things that we should be thinking about with their rooms, though?

Kate: In general, sleep hygiene is a really common term. It's not the best term probably cuz it does sound funny, but having a cooler room, having it darker as much as kids feel comfortable with certain kids, can't sleep fully in the dark. And that's ok for that kind of season of life, having them be in a comfortable bed. So, one, that they feel safe and content, warm enough, those kinds of things. Having white noise can help a lot or just in general, quiet.

Justin: So white noise. What is the consensus on white noise?

Kate: I can help block out kind of these environmental sounds, and I think that's where it really comes into play. So if you are in a noisy area or, for example, you've got other noisy kids in the house or noisy pets, it can help kind of maintain a specific level.

Justin: Quiet or white noise, dark and then cool. I have seen recommendations that like the optimal temperature should be in the high 60s. Is that right?

Kate: You know, that's what some people say. I'll say I don't sleep in that cold. Now, it's also to some degree of personal preference. Right. I mean, my infant won't sleep that bad in that cold of a room.

Audra: Yeah, I'm super glad to hear about white noise, because we definitely hear that, you know, one thing I hear from parents is what I want to make sure that I'm not inserting something in my child's sleep routine that will cause like some sort of dependency, you know, not as a chemical dependency, but like some sort of like. Does that mean they can't sleep without it? You know, and that's the challenge, right. So along similar lines, melatonin. Use of supplemental melatonin. What are your thoughts on that?

Kate: Yeah, I mean, I think it's something to discuss with pediatricians when you want to use it with kids, there's not really a lot of research on use with children and not long term research. And so in general, we know intrinsically children should be having the right amount. And melatonin itself is actually a thymine hormone. So it says, ok, now your body should go to sleep. It doesn't actually say fall asleep. It just as this is the time. Here I am, I'm high. Like with your circadian rhythm. It's time to start coming down and going to sleep. 

I know a lot of parents use it. I know especially at times it's recommended in children with certain disorders like autism to help keep them on a schedule. Because if it's a timing mechanism, if you take it at the same time, you can help, your train, your circadian rhythm or your children's circadian rhythm.

Audra: Oh, interesting. You could potentially help retrain if like you have jet lag or if you're away at camp for a week and things get changed or something like that.

Kate: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it's definitely something to discuss with the pediatrician before giving it. In general, I think for most children they shouldn't need it, especially long term. But here or there, it happens.

Justin: I want to talk briefly about parents. What about naps for adults? I just have to ask. 

Kate: There's nothing wrong with them. 

Justin: What do you think right now?

Kate: Yeah, I think there's nothing wrong with them. So naps are fantastic for you. And at different amounts they help with different things. So short ones can kind of help regenerate you. You're able to attend to better. That's that fatigue countermeasure. A little bit longer, like 20 minutes, up to 90 minutes, you can actually start to get memory benefits, have a kind of emotional reactivity reset as well. If you get a full cycle of sleep, that includes REM. So depending on the length of nap, can serve different functions. I'm a big proponent of if you need the sleep get the sleep.

Justin: Oh, awesome. Awesome.

Audra: I love that. You got to love hearing that he gets up at like 3:30, four in the morning and...

Justin: Well, yeah, I need that. I really love like a 20 minute nap. I feel like it is like 20 minutes. It's just the perfect.

Audra: It's a sort of nap where if you lay down on the couch, leave your feet on the floor and just tilt yourself over. Right. Don't get too comfortable. If you get too comfortable for me, I could end up in one of those three hour ones where you wake up thinking it's like the next day.

Kate: Yeah, that groggy sleep menercia afterwards, which doesn't feel good. It's all for depending on who you are, what you need, what your needs are.

Justin: So to start to wrap this up, I do have a curiosity around motherhood for you. How has becoming a mother changed how you think about sleep or has it had no effect?

Kate: I mean, I like it even more than I used to.

Justin: It’s now like the most important thing in your life. Yes.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. So I did my masters where I sleep deprived over a hundred undergrads. Yeah. So I've been sleep deprived. But you know how they always say like they make the jokes like teachers can't, they can't always read right away or psychologists like they always need some extra therapy or sleep researchers they never sleep. It's true, though, because all our research is around watching others.

Justin: Oh, you got to be in the lab all all night.

Kate: Right in the lab all night. So I've been sleep deprived for probably the better part of the last 15 years. But that being said, motherhood takes it to a new level.Because you don't ever get those opportunities to go back and sleep in those chunks. So when I was sleep depriving people the next day, I could sleep for five, six hours to kind of work it out. Right. So I've loved it even more than I did before. But I use my clinical skills to help support my family sleep, help support our kids. So I'm very thankful for that privilege and that knowledge.

Audra: Yeah. Yeah. That it strikes me as being really powerful that you could come into motherhood, really understanding the power of sleep and being able to probably ask for more help around you, whatever your needs are, to make sure that things are met instead of getting into that normal mom is self sacrificing mode. I'm assuming that that research is helpful and something that could help anyone going into motherhood to know how powerful sleep is and to ask for the help to get the sleep.

Kate: Yeah. And to ask and just also to be aware of. I think there's just so much shame and guilt around being that best mom and knowing that, you know, nothing is right. There's no wrong answers. Everyone is doing the best they can and everyone's child is going to turn out wonderfully. And that's the most we can hope for. Right. And so whether or not you sleep train or whether or not you do this or do that or breastfeed or foremostly, every kid is going to turn out great in the end. And so having that kind of awareness. And being able to take a step back in motherhood has helped me a lot.

Audra: Yeah, just supporting it was supporting folks and in whatever their spaces, but ever their needs are, whatever their best is. Right. Is going to be different for everyone and supporting them in their own journey, whatever that looks like.

Kate: Absolutely.

Justin: So, Kate, what is particularly exciting for you personally in your growth as a mother and just as a human being? What are you working on? Because I am just to get a little bit of context for this. This is quite the family. So The Family Thrive, you know, we're we're and we're an app and we're a platform for parents who want to dig deeper and, you know, work on themselves, work on helping themselves thrive and their families thrive. So I well…

Audra: Well the question you normally ask is, what's at your edge?

Justin: Like what is that your edge? 

Audra: Like what is just new and exciting for you or the next thing coming for your thing that you're really interested in right now, you know?

Kate: So I think for me and looking ahead, we're looking towards these next steps in my girls. And I think for me, being able to take all of the knowledge that I've gained and really look at how it unfolds every moment and also trying to be very present and mindful parent through it all has been what I've been focusing on myself. So I think a lot of parents were constantly caught up in the day to day activities, the days feel so long. But then the years feel so short and trying to really be present and mindful of these moments that I'm having in moments of watching my girls together, watching our family. That's where I am.

Audra: It's beautiful. Do you have any any strategies you've used in that? Like as a mom, I really resonate with working on presence. And for me, sometimes it's just noticing. It's like taking notice of this beautiful moment, sometimes trying to write it down or or even photograph it or stored away somewhere or something. Do you have a strategy that's helped you with that presence?

Kate: Yeah, I try to stop myself when I realize, when I'm realizing I'm not in the moment when I'm on my phone, I'm working or different things are coming to mind. And I catch myself. I try and say, ok, this is when I'm trying to be here fully as a mom. I'm going to be present in this mom moment and I'm just going to engage. And that's the strategy that I've personally been taking, is to really try to have that kind of mindset of catching myself and engaging in the moment when I'm at work, I'm full work, and then when I'm a mom, I'm trying to be full mom.

Audra: I love that. So it's really noticing, paying attention. It's it's a mindful practice, like, oh, I kind of just got caught up in something, you know, and I want to be here.

Kate: Yeah. Yeah. Recenter. It's not, it's not perfect. I'm not perfect. No one is. So I also want to say that with a grain of salt in the sense of sometimes I don't catch myself. And that's also ok. I think giving yourself a lot of grace is what's needed as a parent.

Audra: I couldn't agree with you more. And I love the, I love that you share that. It's not about perfection. And it sounds like that's what I what I like hearing about this is a practice for you, because when I hear this practice, it's sort of a daily, you know, mindful practice, something that doesn't mean you're going to be this way. I'm not going to be present 24/7. Right. And so that's why I need this practice to help with that kind of recentering, you know, in the moment when I'm with my family.

Justin: But also, the beautiful thing is that each new moment provides that opportunity to be totally present. Yeah, that's awesome. So we have three final questions that we ask every podcast guest. And so the first one is, Kate, if you could put a Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would that Post-it note say?

Kate: You're doing great. Keep going.

Justin: You're doing great. Keep going. You need to get one foot in front of the other. And is there a recent quote that has changed the way you think or feel?

Kate: Probably not. I'll be honest. I mean, I think in general, every time I see Be kind stickers, I they resonate with me. I think kindness towards others and towards our community and society is really something that we constantly need. So it's a good recheck for everyone.

Justin: Be kind. And then the final question, because it is, you know, the parenting grind is real. As you know, as you said, it's easy to get caught up in the to dos and the scheduling, that it's nice to take a step back and think about like what's so wonderful about kids. And so, Kate, what do you love most about kids?

Kate: Oh, they're the best. I mean, how can you just not love children? I think they're interesting the way they view the world. Just watching how they experience new things through the world. My three year old, for example, calls elevators, excavators. I don't ever want to correct it. It's just, you know. You know, we took her to a children's museum this weekend and they have one of the, I don't know. I've never seen it before, but they're air shoots. And so if you put what were they? They were like this fluffy ball thing. And you throw it in one and then it will shoot all around and going through it and come out and just watching her try and figure it out and understand was the highlight of my week. I mean, the joy she had in this moment of just watching this ball travel through these tubes and where would it come out? I think that that kind of joy in that momentary experience and appreciating that and really engaging with that is one of my favorite things about being a mom and being someone who works with kids. There are no bad kids in this world.

Audra: Oh, that's beautiful. Put a pin in that. There are no bad kids in this world. And then to be able to experience that pure, authentic state of being that they inhabit. Right. Like the wonder is a state of being. And it is not self-conscious. It is not like, you know, they're not like in the mode of social anxiety and what's going on and performative or anything like that. Right. It's just like wheels turning, making sense of the world. It's beautiful.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely.

Justin: Kate, thank you so much for joining us. Oh, such a pleasure. This is so enlightening. We got so much information. I'm really excited for our parents to hear this.

Audra: And thank you for your research and your commitment. And you have exciting things ahead. You know, I love how you're taking the research that you're doing now and you're going to translate it to adolescence. I hope that we can use this kind of research to help kids start school later.

Kate: Yeah, I'm running a study right now. If anyone has kids between nine and 13 and they want to do a Minecraft sleep and memory study, it’s all remote. 

Justin: It’s all remote?

Audra: We have one!

Kate: Anyone who wants to, we’ll take them.  

Audra: Nine to 13 Maesie and she plays Roblox, but close enough. We’ll talk about that.

Justin: And how long will you be recruiting for this?

Kate: Hopefully the next few years, though, it's going to be a big study. But yeah, but we're recruiting right now.

Justin: Awesome. So when this podcast airs, I think later October. All right. So…

Kate: We'll still be going. 

Justin: So we'll let you know. We'll get the information for this and we'll put it in the show notes.

Kate: That would be great. I appreciate it a lot.

Justin: Awesome, Kate.

Audra: Oh, that's so exciting.

Kate: Thank you for having me. It was wonderful.

Audra: Bye. 


Transcript highlights

1:54

Justin: I wanted to know about your experience with Matthew Walker, who I've heard on a number of podcasts, and he's like, in my mind, he's like the sleep expert.

Audra: Justin’s a huge fan. Massive fan. 

Justin: Yeah. So did you know that you wanted to study sleep and then or was it that experience that got you into studying sleep?

Kate: Yeah, it's a really great question. So I was an undergrad at UC Berkeley and had devoted myself to becoming a social worker. And then towards the end of my senior year, I said, well, you know, maybe this isn't exactly what I want to do. I end up taking a science of sleep class from Matt and figured out, nope, this is what I want to do. I want to be a sleep researcher. So from there, I asked to join his lab and got the opportunity to, he had just moved to Berkeley from Harvard before that. I'm not positive. Joined his lab as a research assistant, an undergrad. So the people who do all kind of the scut work, right? 

And then joined Dr. Alison Harvey. She's also a fantastic sleep researcher at UC Berkeley. She studies adolescence and sleep and insomnia, so from the clinical domain. And so I joined both sleep labs.

Justin: Oh, yeah. She clearly needs to get onto some more podcasts. 

Kate: Yeah. Oh. So you can listen to her as well.

Justin: Yeah, exactly. So can I just ask real quick, was there when you took that class, was there an aha moment or was it a slow thing over that class or your like sleep? Man, this is cool.

Kate: You know, I don't I mean, it was probably like 16 years ago. It's been a while, but I knew I always loved working with kids is why I'd want to be like a social worker or a teacher. And the sleep, everything just kind of connected together for me in that moment, in that class, and so quickly decided I was going to change course and pursue becoming a sleep and memory and development researcher.

Audra: Wow. What a powerful moment when everything just sort of like clicks and comes together for you. I feel like it's part of the magic of college is exploring different things and having access to things that you wouldn't normally, you know, just think of.

Kate: Absolutely, I think that is the most important thing is, is also I tell this story because I truly devoted everything to being a social worker up to that point. And then I switched in the last semester. And so I like to tell the undergrads that I work with them. There's never a time you can't change course if you want to.

Audra: I think that is wonderful. It's a beautiful message. My mother went back and got a Ph.D. when I was in high school, then totally changed her career as well. And it helped me see that not everything is just about a linear, you know, kind of path forward and finishing, you know, a certain amount of time and find what you want to do that there. The journey of life can take us into new and wonderful direction. 

So, yeah, that's amazing. Does your interest in social work or your background really studying that much in social work inform your work on sleep or research or anything in any way? Because that's more like kind of society, like systems. You know, you're studying like when you're going into social work, you're learning you know, you're learning a lot about how we've constructed our society, about inequity, about all sorts of different things. And then you go into this scientific research and it's a bit different. But do you see connections?

Kate: I mean, I do. I think that it also helped me decide to add on a clinical Ph.D. So I started a program in a cognitive neuroscience and added clinical so that I could really see the person as a whole. So at research, we're really at this kind of micro level at time. So the research I do is very basic. How are these cognitive processes unfolding? What are those kind of small roles? And then I also studied at the clinical level so I could see, well, how does this actually translate to the person and kind of that navigation between those two spheres is what I love the most. And I think what helped, my background helped me support.

Justin: So the next step for you was to go to the University of Arizona. And so we both have ties there. I was born in Tucson, and although I think only a few people in my dad's family went to the U of A the entire family,

Audra: You think they all went?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Just living in Tucson. It's like that's you know, U of A football, U of A basketball, baseball, soccer. No, I like every single sport, like volleyball. It doesn't matter. Yeah. So tell us about your time in Tucson or U of A, how did this shape what you're doing today?

Kate: Yeah, so I had a fantastic time. I love Tucson. I recommend it to everybody similar to your family. So I went to graduate school there from a cognitive neuroscience Ph.D. is where I started. And I worked with doctors Lynn Nadle, Dr. Rebecca Gomez and Dr. Dick Guzman. 

And so I went in knowing I wanted to study sleep memory in kids. It has been pretty true to that since. And so Dr. Buton is a was a sleep brewer has since passed away, but really helped kind of initiate some of the initial sleep treatments. So very big in the clinical world. Dr. Lynn Nadle is a huge figure in terms of hippocampal-dependent memory. And Dr. Guzman studies development. And so I got to have all three as my mentors. I was incredibly lucky and worked with all three to really try and hone my interests and hone my understanding of these three very disparate areas, but to intersect them together and study that intersection.

Justin: So you knew going in it was sleep, memory, kids. What did this come through your work as an undergraduate researcher with Matthew Walker, or was there some other impetus for you to be interested in these three?

Kate: I think Matt’s class, I was like, this is what I want to study. And so he did sleep in memory and adults. So I got that memory and sleep component. Dr. Harvey did adolescents. And then I actually had joined a third lab in undergrad, Dr. Joseph Campos, who is a huge infant development researcher. And so kind of started getting that experience in those labs. And that is what I took with me to graduate school.

Justin: Ok. And then the next step was a clinical internship at CHOC Hospital. Of course, we are very close with CHOC Hospital, our son. 

Audra: That's when we became interested in sleep. And I think, really had no awareness other than when we had babies. And we're like, oh, my God, we need sleep. But we became very interested in sleep for our entire families, health and well-being. Once we started learning about it, having a hospitalized kid.

Justin: Oh, well, another thing and this is not, of course, unique to CHOC at all, but just being surprised. So our son was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2011, and we were treated at CHOC Hospital. He was inpatient for almost a month. And we were just surprised at how little anyone seemed to care about sleep. It was like lights and beeping and just like, you know, let's do rounds and when, you know, 4:00 in the morning. 

And at the time, it was like, can we get some sleep? But then when we started to do research about how important sleep was for healing, and it was like, oh, man, how does our, why do our hospitals? And I think it's gotten better from what I've heard. But yeah. How do our hospitals care so little about sleep? Yeah.

Audra: Well, I mean, you think about it and you have clinicians are like broken into the system.

Kate: Yeah, I think I'd like to think that that message is changing a lot, both for residents and having cut hours at certain points, but also kind of older generations of doctors. But in addition, CHOC and other I think hospitals around the country have really changed in the last 10 years and really recognize how critical sleep is to the healing process.

Audra: Can you tell me about your clinical internship? I'm interested to know what that looks like at CHOC.

Kate: Yeah, I worked at CHOC for two years, so one is a clinical internship. And then I did what's called a clinical fellowship, which is similar to a residency there after as a first year postdoc. I loved it. They are a fantastic hospital. So what I did is I had brought all my child psychology experience and really learned how to work with children like your son who had health issues, either acute or chronic. 

And so I assessed them for mental health issues, either as a result of diabetes, cystic fibrosis, learned how to assess children and how to give them resources and how to provide the understanding of these are diseases that may or may not be long term. And how do we work to help you have strong mental health through your treatments? Through the ups and downs of your diseases like that.

Audra: Hmm. And how did your colleagues, you know, kind of like on the care team receive this work? I mean, because to me it seems like a wonderful progression. I know a lot of nurses who are running sleep's studies on sleep and looking to change the dynamics and change the education. So I think that there has been a wave of change. What was that like for you on the child's care team and also with the parents experiencing your work and intervention?

Kate: Yeah. So I worked on a huge team from the psychology department since I was a trainee. So I had lots of psychologists overseeing me and then continued on after I graduated. And I think at least a CHOC and I like to be at most hospitals, psychology is really respected and appreciated field, because we can offer something that the medical doctors can't. We can offer that mind body connection. We can offer different resources, coping mechanisms that potentially the doctors haven't been trained in because they have to focus on how to keep kids healthy. So I think that it's been, it was a wonderful interaction and work with them.

Justin: Awesome.

Audra: It's fantastic. I love hearing of this integration. I think, you know, especially the more we've learned, just as parents have, of the power and importance of sleep and support for mental health, physical health and beyond. It's really, really cool to hear of this. I think change really change in health care.

Kate: I agree. I think it's especially right now, it's really being focused on just wonderful.

Justin: And so to bring us up to the present day, you are now a postdoc fellow at UC Irvine. I got a Ph.D. there. So yet another connection. 

Kate: Very parallel lives.

Justin: So tell us about your work now.

Kate: Mmhmm. Yeah. So I work with Dr. Sara Mednick. She is fantastic. She is actually studying how sleep dependent memory processes change over the menstrual cycle for women, which is women in general. We do not have enough research on us. Really understanding kind of the nuances of how our bodies are different or maybe the same. But that research is lacking. And so there's four phases in a menstrual cycle for women in which hormones change dramatically between estrogen and progesterone. And at each one, we have differences in sleep. And so the idea as well then is our sleep dependent memory process is changing. Long term women are more at risk for dementia related diseases like Alzheimer's. And so we're looking to see if changes in sleep dependent memory around hormones might be a risk factor or a protective factor for later dementia related disorders.

Audra: Oh, so interesting. 

Kate: Yeah. So with this research, I'm learning the endocrinology and a whole bunch of other things that I'm then going to bring down to kids and look at puberty.

Justin: I was going to ask you, are you looking at adolescence? Yeah. Okay. Awesome. All right. So we might revisit all this stuff as we now dig into the sleep science. And so this is what we really want to know about. The Family Thrive where we’re about bringing expert science and translating it for parents so we can, as parents, use this stuff in our home, in our real lives. So before we get into any of the nitty gritty around, you know, sleep training or whatever else. Let's start at the very beginning. Why do animals even need sleep. Like this seems if, you know, you just think about it evolutionarily, wouldn't it be better if we were just on 24 hours a day so we could eat and, you know, procreate? So what I mean, evolutionarily, right. 

Audra: You know, we do spend a lot of time in sleep. 

Justin: So why do animals even need sleep?

Kate: I mean, I think it's still a 100 million dollar question. Frankly, I think we don't necessarily truly know the answer. And there's a lot of different reasons why. Right. You go from an evolutionary perspective. You can say, well, humans and many animals can't see at night we're pretty vulnerable to predators. So maybe we should go hide ourselves in a cave and keep ourselves safe if we know. And that's a perfect opportunity to sleep. I mean, that's one evolutionary perspective. 

For me, I think that sleep is critical to help our restaurant restorative function during the day. Our body incurs so much damage or so much wear and tear is maybe a better way to think about it, that we need the night to really restore those same functions that kind of bring us back to this baseline where we're ready to go the next day and ready to engage in our immune function is ready and at its peak to protect us from germs, things like that.

Justin: So it's restorative, like we should really think about, like the fundamental reason we need sleep is for this restorative. 

Audra: Is there such thing as too much, having too much sleep?

Kate: It depends on what is also accompanying it. So usually when we see people who are having too much sleep, a lot of times it's also a company with disease. So, you know, there's kind of this new shape function, right? Too little sleep is bad. Associated disease, higher mortality. Too much sleep is also bad, associated with disease and higher mortality.

 And so there's kind of this middle ground of of of kind of optimal amount of sleep for you, depending on what age you are. So that's kind of the main reason I will say. In addition, we know that sleep is critical for our cognitive processes and helps support our memory overnight, helps support us to have better attention that our emotion regulation. So there's a lot of reasons for why we sleep. 

Justin: Yeah. And I like to think about that, those cognitive reasons as related to being restorative. And we can get into that in a little bit. But while we're talking about the purpose of sleep, why do babies need so much sleep? Like they come out of the womb, like sleeping all the time and then it gets less and less and less as they get older. And so what's going on early on?

Kate: Well, I'll flip it to you and I'll say, what is going on early on in infancy? What is the baby's number one kind of function or purpose in life? It's to grow and develop. Right. And so to develop in a healthy way, we need sleep to help us get to that optimal place. So during sleep, we know that there's growth hormone secretion. 

So it's helping them grow from sleeping. We know that they're constantly taking in the knowledge of the world around them. I used to study infant sleep at the U of A as we talked about. And so we know that infants are these amazing many statisticians, and that's how they acquire language. They're constantly picking up on those statistics of language. And my work showed that. 

And over just a short nap, infants are able to retain statistical properties of language where without that short nap, they're not able to. So we know sleep is doing these important functions of helping stabilize this new knowledge at tiny little intervals moving forward.

Audra: I have a question about this. Does it matter if that nap is in a stationary location or in a car seat or in a stroller? There's, I remember there being a lot of debate around this, you know, the quality of it according to location or movement.

Kate: I think that's a really good question. I think the jury is out on terms of, you know, I only studied baby sleeping in a crib. I can't generalize my findings, but I will say sleep is sleep as long as you're doing it in a healthy and safe way. Those kind of alone on your back. Just be aware of risks and things like that. But, you know, if they're sleeping on you and you're safe and upright and awake, that sleeps probably the same as sleeping in a crib.

Justin: So just to be clear, you're saying that as far as we know, sleep in a stroller, like if I'm walking the baby down the street and it's sleeping in the stroller, just as good as if it's a lone quiet in its crib.

Kate: I mean, I think the question actually, I'll flip back to you is we know that when we sleep, we have certain brain rhythms and certain stages of sleep. And the question is, are the infants able to get the right amount of stages during the stroller nap versus at home? I don't think we've ever actually studied that question.

Audra: Well, I mean, I'm going to just assume or then sort of like extrapolate from your observations that with all of the moms around the world over time who for whom baby wearing is the norm and is the practice until, you know, the child is fairly well grown, you know, the age three, you know, from infancy. And it seems like those babies grow pretty well. 

Kate: Yeah, I’m not too worried. 

Justin: Ok, just a few more questions to lay the groundwork. Why do babies need so many naps? Why can't they get it all in just one big chunk?

Kate: Yeah, it's a good question. Babies sleep in these kind of polyphasic sleep, many throughout the day, probably rather than one consolidated nighttime chunk. And I think that the true answer is because they are taking in so much information, they're constantly having all these needs. They constantly having caloric needs too, they need to be eating around the clock as well. Eating takes a lot of energy, takes a lot of time. Right. You guys had your son many years ago, I'm sure you remember, when they fell asleep, eating is so exhausting to eat, right. 

So, you know, it takes a lot of energy. And so they need to sleep to kind of regain their energy, to be aware and be present and take in what's around them in the world, eat enough to grow.

Justin: Awesome. So is sleep serving different developmental or cognitive developmental purposes at different ages, or is it basically the same thing of, you know, consolidating memory and some of the other functions that you've already mentioned? So is it the same thing? But it's just a lot more, you know, when we're babies or are there different things going on at different ages?

Kate: I think there's probably to some degree different things going on based on where we are in our lives and our cognitive development. But in general, I think most people assume sleep is doing similar things across. Because we don't see massive changes in the brain waves while people are sleeping. 

I will add, though, infants, when they first are born their EEG is much less mature than you see in adults. And it's through that early brain maturation when we start to see adult rhythms around six months. So sleep is helping to support brain maturation in that very early life span. And then but also growth, immune functioning, energy needs, that sort of thing.

Audra: I'm curious about infants, sleep cycles. Do they have as much REM sleep as children and adults?

Audra: Yeah, really good question. I love infant sleep, so we talk about this all day.

Justin: Just in case a for any listeners. Could you just real briefly explain REM sleep?

Kate: I would be happy to. So when we go to sleep, we actually have different stages. The one kind of umbrella is called non rapid eye movement sleep, so non REM and the other is called Rapid Eye Movements. We associate REM with dreaming typically, although we do know that you can dream and not REM, but in REM during sleep, especially when we're having those dreams, certain brain areas are turned on versus off. And so that's why we have these very emotional, very vivid dreams without any kind of higher cognitive control, saying this is not a logical dream. 

So that's what's going on during REM. We also have muscle atonia. So our bodies essentially are kind of turned off. So we can't act out our dreams during REM, but very much a safety mechanism, our bodies have figured it out. Otherwise, who knows what we would be doing. I'd probably be cooking in the kitchen a lot. 

But then so during non REM, typically what ends up happening is we have three different stages. 1) Non REM one, which is really light sleep. 2) Where you can kind of really consider yourself and sleep. And we start to see the process of non REM to supporting sleep dependent memory. So we know that the more you have it and certain features within sleep, the more of those features you have. You have better memory. And then stage three, which is our deep sleep, slow wave sleep. And that's really considered the restorative sleep as well, and also very linked to memory. 

So in terms of REM and non REM in adults, we have 90 minute cycles. So we go through all of these stages in 90 minutes, and then we'll kind of come up for a little quick second to wake up and then go back down into these 90 minute cycles. But in infancy, we actually have 50 minute cycles where we go through them. And at birth you typically are born where you're having 50 percent REM and 50% non REM sleep, which dwindles down dramatically in that first year of life. 

So at the end, we, I think we typically have about 20 to 30 percent of REM sleep alone as adults. Across a full night. Yeah, so there's a lot of theories on what's REM's doing. It's, we know it's like essentially the brain, all the sensory areas of the brain are really turned on during REM. Right. These vivid dreams, very emotional. So one way some people think about it is it's the scrimmaged to the game. It's setting all your sensory areas up and ready so that when you acquire the information during wake, you're ready to retain it and know what's going on. Really cool. 

Audra: Oh, so cool. Yeah, I'm curious about it. We both got Aura rings a few years ago just to explore our own sleep. And, you know, I don't know how accurate, you know, it really is. But what we found is that I mean, he gets like really phenomenal deep sleep at usually and not as much REM sleep. And I am the opposite. I tend to get like super amounts of REM sleep and not as much deep sleep.

Justin: Although, ok, so can you tell us, do you have an opinion on these sleep wearables? 

Audra: Yeah. Good question.

Kate: Yeah. I mean, I will say they're not EEG. So we're not, you know, checked into your brain what's exactly happening. But Aura rings are phenomenal. They're probably the best wearable right now, although I don't know if I'm allowed to say that. But yeah, I think so. And so those are great. We use them in our research as well. So we have some great finance just because they're tracking your heart rate variability. Right. And they give an insight into that.

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. Oh, no. I've learned a ton at in maybe the first six months or so wearing an Aura ring. And then after that, it was more just confirmation of like, yep, I know I had two drinks of alcohol last night. And sure enough, that's exactly what happens. I have to really terrible sleep. 

So I have over the years, I took a class that did a lot of sleep science at UC Irvine. It wasn't a part of my dissertation, so I didn't do any deep dives. But then, of course, reading Matthew Walker's book and listening to a bunch of podcasts and talking with other experts, I've come to think about like the three important things that I want to think about as a parent around sleep is sleep duration. 

Like, you know, I want to make sure my kids get enough sleep or, you know, in terms of amount, but then also high quality sleep, as I've seen studies where, you know, having enough light on in the room can disrupt quality of sleep. 

So I'm thinking not just about duration, but I'm thinking about quality as well. And as you said, so, you know, quiet, dark, cool enough. So the temperature matters. And then the third one, which I've seen epidemiology. But I don't know what you think about this timing. So, you know, if like we should be getting sleep at night and that if we dramatically shift when we're getting those eight hours, that can make a difference. So duration, quality and timing, what do you think about this? I mean, am I in the ballpark?

Kate: Yeah, you're spot on. I agree with all three. I saw your pre notes about it and I was like, yep, you know it. Per the third one at least we have a circadian rhythm where our body has different phases, where things are up and things are down. And we know that there's this optimal time for us to sleep. And I think understanding what that optimal time is for our bodies and being able to react to those cues and go to bed when we need to, rather than stay awake, watch TV, watch Netflix, do things. I think that's really key as well for kids, making sure we catch them in that window. They need to go to sleep.

Justin: So could you real quick? I think I left off this key term that I love to talk about with parents, which is circadian rhythm. So if you really it could kill you. Real briefly, talk about that.

Justin: Sure. Circadian rhythm is essentially our bodies respond in certain rhythms throughout the day, across the day. And so what it just essentially means is we have this internal clock mechanism that's saying, ok, now it's time to wake up. I want my cortisol up. I want to get up and go during the morning. 

And then at night we have our melatonin come on. Melatonin hormone that tells our body it's a timing mechanism, ok, it's time to go to sleep. Let's get ready. Let's kind of calm ourselves and get ready for bed and then we go to bed. So people in general, you can kind of think of them as owls and larks. So we have a preference. And we think this preference of whether we can stay up late or go to bed early is related to our circadian rhythm. But honestly, that research still needs to be done. If the preference matches our circadian rhythm, it's not 100%. It's just, it's an idea. It's a theory right now.

Justin: Ok. Ok, so real quick, I have a little bit of a bone to pick about this owl, and lark because I've seen a couple and I don't know how trustworthy these studies are, but I've seen a couple where or maybe it's just one, but I feel like it's been more where researchers have taken people and have studied them out camping like in the woods, like no artificial light. 

This one that I think of is particularly with camping so that they could just see the effect of extended time of all they have is the sun going up and going down and then how does this… And what they found was that regardless of owl or lark, they all started to go to bed around the same time. And so I'm wondering if the owl and large thing is really just a sensitivity to artificial light and that the owls are less are maybe more sensitive to the artificial. And so our staying up later and the larks just are not. And so they're going to bed earlier. I don't know. What do you think about this?

Kate: Yeah, I think it's totally possible. I also want to point out that owl and lark is really a kind of a social term of what's your preference, right. Cognitively, what your preferences. Are you someone who likes to stay up and kind of push their boundaries also a little bit more? It could also be related to all of these things, separate from what your underlying circadian rhythm is.

Justin: But I'm thinking, though, is that the owl is stimulated more by the artificial light. And so enjoy staying, staying up. And so it is just a more enjoyable thing. Whereas the lark, like this one here is like, oh, the artificial light. I feel like it's brutal and I'm avoid that at night. And so by like 9:30pm, I'm just like done.

Audra: Yeah, but it's not just that, it's that you cannot sleep in. Even when you were a teenager, your report, you didn't sleep in. I remember having to be woken up for kindergarten, lobbying to be up late at night in kindergarten and having to be dragged out of bed like that early. And I guess I've always been phenomenal at sleeping in. But you've never been able to sleep it. I mean, could that have something to do with it? 

Kate: Yeah, I think there's a lot of questions about that. I think in general, our circadian rhythms can be trained really easily to some degree, or I should say in some people if they can be trained really easily. So if yours is trained to go to bed at night and sleep in all your stress and is trying to wake up in the morning and go to bed early, I mean, that's all a factor. And also looking at our kids sleep, because the consistency, I'll add, is the fourth thing that I would put in timing. So consistency with timing is really critical to supporting circadian rhythms and then support quality, duration of quality sleep, things like that.

Audra: So that's yeah, that that really makes sense to me, whether with our son, he I think from the time he was a baby and small child like couldn't sleep past 5:30 in the morning and then it was I couldn't sleep past six and then 6:30. And like, you know, he got to the point where he could sleep in until 7:00, but we wouldn't want him to stay up very late at all, you know, even for special occasions, because he would get up. And there is nothing that we could do about it, whereas our daughter could sleep in like she said she could, like, make that wiggle, make that change. So it is really interesting how there is, we see the difference present with us and then with our kids as well, just naturally.

Justin: All right. So the last sleep science question before we get to the practice, can you tell us a little bit about what happens to the brain? And we can specifically think about kids here when they're not getting enough sleep over time. This is not just one night, although there are studies showing, you know, the impacts of just one night of restricted sleep, but over time, if our kids aren't getting enough sleep or their sleep is disrupted. What are some of the things that are happening in the brain when that takes place?

Kate: Yeah, it's a good question. So I will say there's a lot of research that needs to be done on this area and a lot of research that needs to be very objective. It's hard to study kids and sleep and kind of look long term, because we have to rely a lot on past reports which aren't as reliable, unfortunately…

Justin: Because you're not going to be able to do a randomized controlled trial, say, ok, we're going to restrict sleep for these kids.

Kate: Yeah, that would be pretty unethical to say, you guys, we'll see what happens in a few years. We're going to look back on this. But just naturalistic kind of observations of data suggests that the next day for kids, kids are pretty resistant. They might show some more emotional reactivity that might show some attention issues. 

There's some research that shows down the line kids who are not sleeping enough, especially in early kind of toddlerhood, have increased behavioral issues and increased academic difficulties. So they're scoring a little bit lower on academic tests and they're having an increased kind of executive function behavior issues. So those that are revolving around cognitive control, attention, inhibition, inhibition of behavior, that's down the line. Usually when those studies have happened, they're kind of looking three to five years down the line. So that's directly with kids in general, with adults. We know that when we don't sleep enough, our brains are not optimized for the next day. We are much more emotionally reactive. We can even react more so to negative information and perceive it more threatening than maybe it typically would be to us. We have poor attention. 

This is why it's very dangerous to drive if we haven't slept enough. Right. And you can be about adolescents as well. They're not sleeping enough. They are more dangerous. Right. And then also our next day, we're not able to acquire the typical knowledge that we would want to. Yeah. So a lot of detrimental effects, which is why sleep is so important.

Justin: Absolutely. I mean, it is the foundation. Like we in The Family Thrive, we have these thrive pillars that we talk about nutrition and we talk about mental and emotional health and social support and exercise. But it's like none of it matters if you're not getting enough sleep. You got like start with the sleep.

Kate: Yeah. Well, none of it will kind of all come together, right. If you're not getting enough sleep, how can you stay healthy? That's the kind of key of it, right?

Justin: Yeah. Yeah. All right. So now let's get into sleep practices at the very beginning. So what should parents know about optimal sleep for newborns? I know that. I mean, they're so like I mean, if you have an opinion on sleep training and these other other things, then please share. But are there some key things that you just wish every parent knew about optimal sleep for newborns? Yes.

Kate: The number one most important thing is it's all ok. You can't do anything, just survive. That is the point. If just surviving. So newborns don't have circadian rhythms, no human is born with an intrinsic circadian rhythm. So we don't know. Night is night and day is day. And it doesn't come about until about three to four months from what research studies have shown. And so it's just survival. And there's nothing wrong with whatever you got to do to get these kids to sleep. 

So we want it to be safe always. But, you know, if you're awake and you just want to hold a baby and have a contact nap while you're sleeping or babywear, do it. There's nothing wrong with that. I wore my kids frequently when they were newborns because they had great sleep while they were on me and kind of connected and close to mom. But it's just pure survival for those first few months until you you can start to get them more aware and trained in their circadian rhythm is starting to develop. There's things you can do to support them in being better sleepers, but it's survival in that beginning.

Audra: Yeah. How old are your kids now?

Kate: I've got a six month old and a three and a half year old.

Audra: Oh, how cool. You're in the middle of the child sleep version of it. Yeah. And it's like just when you get them sleeping, it seems like then they're teething again and then, you know, up again. And it's just it's a lot going through those toddler years. Yeah. Well, how do you feel about the concept of sleep training or trying to teach a child to to sell, to self soothe and to go to sleep?

Kate: Yeah. So I'll start with saying that for every family, it's what works for you is the right thing to do. There's nothing wrong with that. So some families like sleep training and some families don't feel comfortable. And that is ok. There's no wrong answer here. And I think the most important thing is supporting moms and supporting parents in general and being the best parents that they want to be. So that's my motto with all things.

Audra: I love that motto. Yes, thank you.

Kate: Yeah, it's there's no judgment. And I think there's a lot of shame around different practices. Like right now, I'm seeing a lot of anti sleep training information going around, which I'm finding really interesting. But I also think a lot of it isn't necessarily based in the research.

And so I think there's a lot of concerns about what's being presented on social media. I'll just add that. 

So from the research, there is no negative effects long term, short term to kids being sleeping trained. That doesn't mean you have to do it, but doesn't mean anyone has to do it. But there's no negative effects of it. And there's many different methods to doing it. One being kind of what the extreme one everyone thinks of is like you just shut the door and walk away, which nobody does. Nobody ever does that. And then there's very gradual ones that say, you know, I'll kind of do a little thing here and there. I don't want my kids to. 

So this spectrum, everything works. A lot of people fall in the middle at some point within the first few years of life. So they say, ok, I need to do retraining, training, because for my mental health, I need to have better sleep. I need to.

Justin: That was us.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. There's a point where I think most parents reach where they're saying, I'm not getting enough sleep, I'm not able to be that present, mindful parent. I'd like to be in the moment. And so what do I do? How do I support my child and how do I support myself? And I think it's all this important relationship.

Justin: Yeah. Do you remember that?

Audra: Oh, of course I remember that. I mean, what I think is is really beautiful about what you're saying is like I've had friends who are breastfeeding throughout the night and the baby is sleeping and doing great and they're both getting more sleep. Co-sleeping in and and moving forward that way. And then there are parents like us who I had to go back to work at three, three months, and I was up at 2:00 in the morning and he would feed and not just go back to sleep. And we had like a physio ball, you know, like a bouncing ball. I have to have him on the ball and kind of like slowly bounce him down to sleep. And then it was like, well, the Temple of Doom, like…

Justin: Oh, just laying him back down.

Audra: Yeah. I try to try. I like to have like a warm blanket down or something to lay him down. So the not like tip off the booby trap like and get him down and be like, you know, like at some point I was like, I can't function any longer. This baby is capable of falling asleep on his own and we need to help facilitate that. It's going to be painful for me as the mom, there was like that. I remember there's a TV show in the ‘90s that had a really big scene with this and the parents were waiting outside the door, you know because it's so painful for the parents, but it worked for us. So I love your motto because it's finding like what works for you. And Max is like an awesome sleeper and kind of always was after that.

Justin: Oh, yeah. Yeah. 

Kate: Yeah. I fully trained my kids as well. So, yeah, I mean, my six-month-old, I was like, instead I'm working. It's time for you to learn how to sleep. So. But, you know, again, it's where you lie on this spectrum. There are no wrong answers. And then it's how quickly or not quickly you want to do it and the kind of support you want to give your kids. But yeah, I…

Audra: So it’s all right.

Kate: It's all right. There you go. 

Audra: Follow your intuition, your path. It's not one way or the other. You were having similar debates in other areas, like with breastfeeding, you know, formula feeding, you know, and it's moving into the feed is best. And it's like that space like however, it is that you can do it with whatever combination, whatever works for you. No judgment, I want to say like sleep is best or rested is best or whatever. 

Kate: I completely agree. I think it's a lot of parallels. And I think in general, trying to create a supportive community for parents is the most important part of this puzzle piece. And every family looks different. Every cultural aspect as well changes the dynamics. And it's really important that we are supporting early parenthood.


44:29

Justin: So kids move out of infancy, toddler, young kids. What are the sleep practices that parents should start to think about to support the best sleep? Now I'm thinking, you know, the way that I grew up, my parents never gave this a single thought. It was just like go to bed and just be done with it. 

But now that I've learned enough about sleep science, like, oh, there are things that we can do to like really support optimal sleep. And I think about them not just in terms of the nighttime practices, but also daytime practices as well, to support a healthy circadian rhythm so that when we're awake, we're awake and when we're asleep we’re asleep. So could you I guess let's start with the daytime practices. What are some things during the day that parents can do to support the best sleep for their kids?

Kate: Generally, the biggest thing is keeping a similar structure and schedule both on weekdays and weekends. That's probably the biggest factor of everything, having kids wake up similar times. We usually say within an hour, this is bedtime, an hour before, an hour after. That's kind of the goal. Help support that circadian rhythm. And same with at night getting some wake light right at the very beginning. 

So going outside, if you're in beautiful California having breakfast outside or walking around a little bit before school in the sun. That also helps because light travels into our eye, hits what we call our suprachiasmatic nucleus, which is our clock in our brain, and says, ok, it's time to wake up, let's reset this and let's get going for the day. And that's really important.

Justin: Yeah. So are we talking like five minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes? What's the best amount of time?

Kate: Ok, 15 to 30 is probably pretty good. I mean, I think it depends on how strong the light is, right? If you're in Arizona, in Tucson, you don't need as much because that light is really bright. Maybe being in Seattle where you're not getting as much light with the clouds, it's going to be a little bit longer. It's really about the amount.

Audra: That's so helpful when I walk my daughter to school in the morning. And it is really, really helpful. And I think these practices translate to parents, too, right? So I one of the things that I started doing a few years ago is I basically don't use sunglasses anymore and I use them if like where I'm in somewhere with glare or whatever, like hardcore harsh light environment. But just like during the day, I stopped using sunglasses. So just going out. And then I was also aware of my contact lenses. I had one once I had a UV filter, I didn't know. And then on my glasses and such as taking all of that out. And I found it made a radical, for me, made a radical difference in just allowing the access to that light.

Kate: Yeah. Wake up light really can help, especially in that first thing in the morning. You're having similarly timed meals. It's really good and helps our systems because it keeps our circadian rhythms really trained. You know, some days things don't work out. But in general, if things are at the same time, it really helps our systems continue. If kids are napping, having them nap at the same time, having a little cool down, calm down process right before that nap can help as well. 

And then at night, also having wind downtime, we usually recommend about 45 minutes beforehand, turning down harsh lights, getting off TV, getting off phones, any video game things, all that stuff is really key to helping our bodies find this ability to kind of recenter itself and say, ok, I'm about to go to bed. It's time for me to wind down, do your bedtime routine, hop into bed. Hopefully that will help.

Justin: All right. So this gets into the nighttime practices. So I'm aware of the research around the circadian rhythm in our, with our metabolism. And so to make a long story short, it's better to eat more when the sun's up than rather when the sun's down. So what would be like an optimal time? Or let me rephrase that. When should be a time when parents should say, ok, the kitchen's closed like no more food?

Kate: Well, I think that's a tough question to answer, only because some kids have different caloric needs and intakes. And if you follow nutritionists and doctors, some doctors recommend our kids have a little snack before bed to kind of keep them going through the night. In adults it's a little easier to say that you want to have a space between dinner and bedtime. But with kids, I mean, you essentially want to have that space as well. But if your kid isn't able to do it, it's not something you should be following.

Justin: Ok, so then let's just turn to parents. When should parents, for themselves, say all right, I want to be done with what I'm eating so that I can get the best sleep?

Kate: I think the goal is typically about three hours. I think some people say two, some people say four, I say around three. So if you're having dinner at 6:00, go to bed at 9:00, have dinner at 7:00, you're ready to go to bed about 10:00.

Justin: What about exercise? Should we try to reduce exercise in the evening? Try to keep it all in the daytime?

Kate: So we used to think that you needed to exercise right in the morning, and that's the optimal time. Some recent research has just come out saying, well, if you exercise at night, it doesn't affect your body and your sleep. So I'll say the jury's still out on that. But again, keeping exercise at a similar time of day helps your circadian rhythm so that it knows it. Now, it's my exercise time, now is my eating time, now to sleep. Consistency is really key.

Justin: Ok. And then. When should we think about having the screens off in order to promote this winding down towards that time?

Kate: 45 minutes is probably the minimum.

Justin: Minimum?

Kate: Yes.

Justin: Minimum of 45 minutes.

Audra: What about...

Kate: It’s tough for kids and adults.

Audra: I mean, you're reading Twitter at night.

Justin: I love Twitter. I love Twitter. And I don't get it during the day. So like my bedtime is my Twitter time.

Kate: I will say as a clinician, I say unless it's a problem, it's not a problem. So if you don't have a job falling asleep and you're looking at Twitter right before you go to bed, it's not a problem. But if you're having a problem falling asleep or your kid's having falling asleep and you're saying something's not working, let's look at the structure, let's look at the schedule, that's when you want to start tweaking things around. So we're not going to go in there and say, let's fix everything when nothing needs to be fixed. You're getting good sleep. But in general, we do know that these things can help sleep.

Justin: Got it. 

Audra: Oh, I think that's great. That's super helpful. What about turning the lights down as the sun goes down? Is that helpful? 

Kate: I mean with winter happening, it's going to be earlier and earlier, but yeah, all of these things are important, but having lights come down, having screens up. I mean, if you think about a screen is right here and we're looking right at it. Really getting a lot of light.

Audra: So the lights don't have to, do the lights have to be off or can they just be turned down? So we're seeing them down.

Kate: Just down. Those night modes are really good right now.

Justin: Yeah, I have a visceral reaction to artificial light at night. 

Audra: It's like a campfire out front because it can. Yeah. And our neighbors are like when we first moved into where we live now in Georgia, our neighbors were like, what is happening? You have no lights on at night. 

Justin: Oh, Justin goes around and turns them off if anybody turns them on. So what about blue light blocking glasses at night? This has been a popular thing for adults who want to optimize, you know, their sleep. What do you think about these things?

Kate: Totally possible. If it works for you, it works. I mean, I think also just turning down, putting on night modes is another way to do it. So I don't think you need them, but they can help.

Justin: So like any way that you can reduce the amount of artificial light that's coming into your eyes.

Audra: Now, a lot of folks use blue light blocking glasses during the day if they're on a computer a lot.

Justin: I don't know anything about that.

Audra: Is that something that could be you? It sounds like you still want to maybe get outside and get some sunlight if you're in that situation.

Kate: Yeah. Artificial light is not going to give you that same amount that being outside will. And so that's really what it comes down to is getting that sunlight.

Justin: Do you know? So I don't know really what a lux is. But, you know, it's a way to measure how, you know, how much light is being emitted. So could you give us just or do you know the difference between indoor lights, like if you're in a classroom or an office, what the lux is compared to if you walk outside and it's a relatively sunny day.

Kate: Yeah. You know, off the top of my head, I can't. But I know it's like thousands different. Yes. Very little versus huge difference. Yeah.

Justin: All right. All right. Yeah. So that's I often think about that because I remember I'm not in an office anymore, but I when I was I would think that I need to get out, just get that sunlight for even just a couple of minutes. I don't know if it was a placebo effect, but I would feel much better.

Kate: I still do it now. Better get a little sun. 

Audra: Sunlight breaks.

Justin: Ok, so now kids are in bed sleeping. How can we arrange their environment to support optimal sleep? What are some of the things that we should be thinking about with their rooms, though?

Kate: In general, sleep hygiene is a really common term. It's not the best term probably cuz it does sound funny, but having a cooler room, having it darker as much as kids feel comfortable with certain kids, can't sleep fully in the dark. And that's ok for that kind of season of life, having them be in a comfortable bed. So, one, that they feel safe and content, warm enough, those kinds of things. Having white noise can help a lot or just in general, quiet.

Justin: So white noise. What is the consensus on white noise?

Kate: I can help block out kind of these environmental sounds, and I think that's where it really comes into play. So if you are in a noisy area or, for example, you've got other noisy kids in the house or noisy pets, it can help kind of maintain a specific level.

Justin: Quiet or white noise, dark and then cool. I have seen recommendations that like the optimal temperature should be in the high 60s. Is that right?

Kate: You know, that's what some people say. I'll say I don't sleep in that cold. Now, it's also to some degree of personal preference. Right. I mean, my infant won't sleep that bad in that cold of a room.

Audra: Yeah, I'm super glad to hear about white noise, because we definitely hear that, you know, one thing I hear from parents is what I want to make sure that I'm not inserting something in my child's sleep routine that will cause like some sort of dependency, you know, not as a chemical dependency, but like some sort of like. Does that mean they can't sleep without it? You know, and that's the challenge, right. So along similar lines, melatonin. Use of supplemental melatonin. What are your thoughts on that?

Kate: Yeah, I mean, I think it's something to discuss with pediatricians when you want to use it with kids, there's not really a lot of research on use with children and not long term research. And so in general, we know intrinsically children should be having the right amount. And melatonin itself is actually a thymine hormone. So it says, ok, now your body should go to sleep. It doesn't actually say fall asleep. It just as this is the time. Here I am, I'm high. Like with your circadian rhythm. It's time to start coming down and going to sleep. 

I know a lot of parents use it. I know especially at times it's recommended in children with certain disorders like autism to help keep them on a schedule. Because if it's a timing mechanism, if you take it at the same time, you can help, your train, your circadian rhythm or your children's circadian rhythm.

Audra: Oh, interesting. You could potentially help retrain if like you have jet lag or if you're away at camp for a week and things get changed or something like that.

Kate: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But it's definitely something to discuss with the pediatrician before giving it. In general, I think for most children they shouldn't need it, especially long term. But here or there, it happens.

Justin: I want to talk briefly about parents. What about naps for adults? I just have to ask. 

Kate: There's nothing wrong with them. 

Justin: What do you think right now?

Kate: Yeah, I think there's nothing wrong with them. So naps are fantastic for you. And at different amounts they help with different things. So short ones can kind of help regenerate you. You're able to attend to better. That's that fatigue countermeasure. A little bit longer, like 20 minutes, up to 90 minutes, you can actually start to get memory benefits, have a kind of emotional reactivity reset as well. If you get a full cycle of sleep, that includes REM. So depending on the length of nap, can serve different functions. I'm a big proponent of if you need the sleep get the sleep.

Justin: Oh, awesome. Awesome.

Audra: I love that. You got to love hearing that he gets up at like 3:30, four in the morning and...

Justin: Well, yeah, I need that. I really love like a 20 minute nap. I feel like it is like 20 minutes. It's just the perfect.

Audra: It's a sort of nap where if you lay down on the couch, leave your feet on the floor and just tilt yourself over. Right. Don't get too comfortable. If you get too comfortable for me, I could end up in one of those three hour ones where you wake up thinking it's like the next day.

Kate: Yeah, that groggy sleep menercia afterwards, which doesn't feel good. It's all for depending on who you are, what you need, what your needs are.

Justin: So to start to wrap this up, I do have a curiosity around motherhood for you. How has becoming a mother changed how you think about sleep or has it had no effect?

Kate: I mean, I like it even more than I used to.

Justin: It’s now like the most important thing in your life. Yes.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely. So I did my masters where I sleep deprived over a hundred undergrads. Yeah. So I've been sleep deprived. But you know how they always say like they make the jokes like teachers can't, they can't always read right away or psychologists like they always need some extra therapy or sleep researchers they never sleep. It's true, though, because all our research is around watching others.

Justin: Oh, you got to be in the lab all all night.

Kate: Right in the lab all night. So I've been sleep deprived for probably the better part of the last 15 years. But that being said, motherhood takes it to a new level.Because you don't ever get those opportunities to go back and sleep in those chunks. So when I was sleep depriving people the next day, I could sleep for five, six hours to kind of work it out. Right. So I've loved it even more than I did before. But I use my clinical skills to help support my family sleep, help support our kids. So I'm very thankful for that privilege and that knowledge.

Audra: Yeah. Yeah. That it strikes me as being really powerful that you could come into motherhood, really understanding the power of sleep and being able to probably ask for more help around you, whatever your needs are, to make sure that things are met instead of getting into that normal mom is self sacrificing mode. I'm assuming that that research is helpful and something that could help anyone going into motherhood to know how powerful sleep is and to ask for the help to get the sleep.

Kate: Yeah. And to ask and just also to be aware of. I think there's just so much shame and guilt around being that best mom and knowing that, you know, nothing is right. There's no wrong answers. Everyone is doing the best they can and everyone's child is going to turn out wonderfully. And that's the most we can hope for. Right. And so whether or not you sleep train or whether or not you do this or do that or breastfeed or foremostly, every kid is going to turn out great in the end. And so having that kind of awareness. And being able to take a step back in motherhood has helped me a lot.

Audra: Yeah, just supporting it was supporting folks and in whatever their spaces, but ever their needs are, whatever their best is. Right. Is going to be different for everyone and supporting them in their own journey, whatever that looks like.

Kate: Absolutely.

Justin: So, Kate, what is particularly exciting for you personally in your growth as a mother and just as a human being? What are you working on? Because I am just to get a little bit of context for this. This is quite the family. So The Family Thrive, you know, we're we're and we're an app and we're a platform for parents who want to dig deeper and, you know, work on themselves, work on helping themselves thrive and their families thrive. So I well…

Audra: Well the question you normally ask is, what's at your edge?

Justin: Like what is that your edge? 

Audra: Like what is just new and exciting for you or the next thing coming for your thing that you're really interested in right now, you know?

Kate: So I think for me and looking ahead, we're looking towards these next steps in my girls. And I think for me, being able to take all of the knowledge that I've gained and really look at how it unfolds every moment and also trying to be very present and mindful parent through it all has been what I've been focusing on myself. So I think a lot of parents were constantly caught up in the day to day activities, the days feel so long. But then the years feel so short and trying to really be present and mindful of these moments that I'm having in moments of watching my girls together, watching our family. That's where I am.

Audra: It's beautiful. Do you have any any strategies you've used in that? Like as a mom, I really resonate with working on presence. And for me, sometimes it's just noticing. It's like taking notice of this beautiful moment, sometimes trying to write it down or or even photograph it or stored away somewhere or something. Do you have a strategy that's helped you with that presence?

Kate: Yeah, I try to stop myself when I realize, when I'm realizing I'm not in the moment when I'm on my phone, I'm working or different things are coming to mind. And I catch myself. I try and say, ok, this is when I'm trying to be here fully as a mom. I'm going to be present in this mom moment and I'm just going to engage. And that's the strategy that I've personally been taking, is to really try to have that kind of mindset of catching myself and engaging in the moment when I'm at work, I'm full work, and then when I'm a mom, I'm trying to be full mom.

Audra: I love that. So it's really noticing, paying attention. It's it's a mindful practice, like, oh, I kind of just got caught up in something, you know, and I want to be here.

Kate: Yeah. Yeah. Recenter. It's not, it's not perfect. I'm not perfect. No one is. So I also want to say that with a grain of salt in the sense of sometimes I don't catch myself. And that's also ok. I think giving yourself a lot of grace is what's needed as a parent.

Audra: I couldn't agree with you more. And I love the, I love that you share that. It's not about perfection. And it sounds like that's what I what I like hearing about this is a practice for you, because when I hear this practice, it's sort of a daily, you know, mindful practice, something that doesn't mean you're going to be this way. I'm not going to be present 24/7. Right. And so that's why I need this practice to help with that kind of recentering, you know, in the moment when I'm with my family.

Justin: But also, the beautiful thing is that each new moment provides that opportunity to be totally present. Yeah, that's awesome. So we have three final questions that we ask every podcast guest. And so the first one is, Kate, if you could put a Post-it note on every parent's fridge tomorrow morning, what would that Post-it note say?

Kate: You're doing great. Keep going.

Justin: You're doing great. Keep going. You need to get one foot in front of the other. And is there a recent quote that has changed the way you think or feel?

Kate: Probably not. I'll be honest. I mean, I think in general, every time I see Be kind stickers, I they resonate with me. I think kindness towards others and towards our community and society is really something that we constantly need. So it's a good recheck for everyone.

Justin: Be kind. And then the final question, because it is, you know, the parenting grind is real. As you know, as you said, it's easy to get caught up in the to dos and the scheduling, that it's nice to take a step back and think about like what's so wonderful about kids. And so, Kate, what do you love most about kids?

Kate: Oh, they're the best. I mean, how can you just not love children? I think they're interesting the way they view the world. Just watching how they experience new things through the world. My three year old, for example, calls elevators, excavators. I don't ever want to correct it. It's just, you know. You know, we took her to a children's museum this weekend and they have one of the, I don't know. I've never seen it before, but they're air shoots. And so if you put what were they? They were like this fluffy ball thing. And you throw it in one and then it will shoot all around and going through it and come out and just watching her try and figure it out and understand was the highlight of my week. I mean, the joy she had in this moment of just watching this ball travel through these tubes and where would it come out? I think that that kind of joy in that momentary experience and appreciating that and really engaging with that is one of my favorite things about being a mom and being someone who works with kids. There are no bad kids in this world.

Audra: Oh, that's beautiful. Put a pin in that. There are no bad kids in this world. And then to be able to experience that pure, authentic state of being that they inhabit. Right. Like the wonder is a state of being. And it is not self-conscious. It is not like, you know, they're not like in the mode of social anxiety and what's going on and performative or anything like that. Right. It's just like wheels turning, making sense of the world. It's beautiful.

Kate: Yeah, absolutely.

Justin: Kate, thank you so much for joining us. Oh, such a pleasure. This is so enlightening. We got so much information. I'm really excited for our parents to hear this.

Audra: And thank you for your research and your commitment. And you have exciting things ahead. You know, I love how you're taking the research that you're doing now and you're going to translate it to adolescence. I hope that we can use this kind of research to help kids start school later.

Kate: Yeah, I'm running a study right now. If anyone has kids between nine and 13 and they want to do a Minecraft sleep and memory study, it’s all remote. 

Justin: It’s all remote?

Audra: We have one!

Kate: Anyone who wants to, we’ll take them.  

Audra: Nine to 13 Maesie and she plays Roblox, but close enough. We’ll talk about that.

Justin: And how long will you be recruiting for this?

Kate: Hopefully the next few years, though, it's going to be a big study. But yeah, but we're recruiting right now.

Justin: Awesome. So when this podcast airs, I think later October. All right. So…

Kate: We'll still be going. 

Justin: So we'll let you know. We'll get the information for this and we'll put it in the show notes.

Kate: That would be great. I appreciate it a lot.

Justin: Awesome, Kate.

Audra: Oh, that's so exciting.

Kate: Thank you for having me. It was wonderful.

Audra: Bye. 


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