Tracy Braunstein: On Family Sleep Habits

I met Tracy at a parent-volunteer conference and she spoke so truthfully about sleeping and how it effects the family unit. I knew if I was going to reach out to mamas that inspire me and can help us during this time, I was going to reach out to her.

Mama MOE: Tracy, tell my readers about yourself and what your passion is.

Tracey Braunstein: I’m a mom of two wonderful boys who challenge me and bring me joy every single day. I fell into the world of sleep when I had my second child. My first was not a good sleeper and it was our fault as I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, like so many of us first time parents. I found help with an experienced consultant in the US, as there was no one here in Montreal. Long story short, I received my certification to become a pediatric sleep consultant and it has been such a privilege to work with so many amazing families to achieve a healthy balance in sleep.

MM: One thing that stuck with me when I heard you speak was what you had mentioned about Fitbits. I love gadgets and I love tech, so I do use a Fitbit. However, since hearing you speak, I am using it differently! Please tell us your knowledge on these items in relation to our sleep.

TB: I’m not a fan of wearing fit bits to track your sleep. Most of us know if we didn’t get a good night sleep without a device telling us. It causes people to fixate on what the device is reporting and can create anxiety and even more disrupted sleep with people constantly checking the “stats”. Trust your body and how you feel and set up good healthy sleep habits for yourself. We are connected to devices all day enough already 😊.

MM: When it comes to routine sleeping habits, ours have gone straight out the window since quarantine began, now over 10 weeks ago. As a parent, I’m feeling it big time, but I know my kids are too. Can you give us examples of how children express the need for more sleep?

TB: You will see changes in behaviour and mood for the most part. They are more irritable, lack of focus, hyperactivity to name a few.

MM: That makes sense. So, if we know our family needs more sleep, can you suggest concrete, clad iron methods that you know work? How can we re-organize our family to sleep better?

TB: This of course depends on the age, but for school-aged children and older, set up a family meeting, discuss the importance of sleep and how everyone is feeling. Set phone/electronic curfews, stay consistent with household routine and make sure that everyone has an established bedtime routine and schedule.

MM: I know mamas are begging for some alone and quiet time right now and that may very well be at 11pm. This is working less for me these days as my boys are staying up later. And with summer here, I don’t see this changing. Can you discuss the myth on sleeping more on weekends or catching up on sleep at different times? I know the older I get, the less I can manage any of those ideas.

TB: We can’t make up for any sleep deprivation in one weekend of sleeping in. An earlier bedtime is always a better way to catch up on those missing Zzz’s. It’s really all about making sleep a priority in your household. Maybe the quiet time can be in bed reading a good book 😊 remember those?


MM: Let’s discuss sleep walking, sleep talking and waking up from feeling scared in the middle of the night.  We have it all at the MOE family. What should we be concerned with, if anything and how can we help our boys out?

TB: Depending on age, most parasomnias (sleep walking, talking, etc.) are due to a child being overtired. Of course there are instances like illness, fever or certain medications can cause them, but if this is an issue in your house, check in to what the overall sleep hygiene is.. are bedtimes too late?

MM: Mamas are on overdrive right now and have a lot on their shoulders giving them stress. I know for me, my stress leads to insomnia. Some have suggested melatonin. I have yet to try it, but we are in unbelievable circumstances right now. What do you have to say about this or other supplements?

TB: Nope… nope and more nope. Melatonin has its place, but it’s not a sleeping pill. The key is to again, prioritize sleep and your bedtime routine. There is a lot going on these days in these crazy times, our feeds are filled with anxiety provoking articles, stories and images. So here are my top tips:

  • Put your phone down. Give yourself a break from it all and set a curfew where you put it down each night.
  • We all know it.. it’s the best medicine . I know for parents who are working and have young kids it’s a challenge (boy, don’t I know it!) but even going for a daily walk will help clear your mind, get the blood flowing and release some natural feel good chemicals in the brain.
  • Establish YOUR bedtime routine. Your kids probably have one, but many adults do not. Take a nice warm bath, sleep in a dark cool room and avoid screen time at bedtime!

MM: Technology has been the driving force in our families right now. Children have needed it for their online classes, with homework that required them to be online even more, and then of course there is the ‘down time’ they want to play video games and watch funny videos. What is your experience on tech and sleep habits? Can you give suggestions to help balance them better? And when it comes to watching movies at night and/or tech, when is a good time to stop for the night for children? What about for parents?

TB: Ugh- this is a tough one. We are faced with such unprecedented times and I am living this first hand myself having two boys ages 8 and 12. WAYYYY more screen time than I would ever allow. We need to do two things:

  • Try to set some balance. Limited amount of hours per day (yes, I said hours) and then time that they have to get outside and do something non electronic. Do your best. Some days will be more than others but try to keep some sort of balance. I also recommend screen free days. Maybe on weekends or a day here and there that there is no video gaming. Those days may be a struggle, but your kids will soon find they actually enjoy it!
  • Don’t be hard on yourself. We are all doing the best we can. Our kids will be fine. You will be fine. Take mental health days and throw away all the guilt. We’re all in the same boat.
  • This is personal, but I do not allow any videogames after dinner. It falls alongside my “all the time rule” of no electronics before bed. It’s tough especially with older kids but stick to it! You are the parent after all!

MM: I watch tv before I go to bed, and it helps me relax. Is watching tv or a tablet before bed really so bad? And to that, do you have any go-to shows, YouTube channels you recommend for ending the night? (for example, slow nature sounds or music channels)

TB: If you can watch and still fall asleep no problem and have a good night sleep then great! If not, I would limit screen time before bed. There are tons of meditations you can find on line if you wanted to try some guided meditation, which some people find helpful. Even just some of your own deep breathing exercises and having your room pitch black and cool in temp (20-21 degrees) will set you up for a good night sleep.

MM: And finally, Tracy, do you have any other recommendations for mamas and their families during this time with regards to sleep?

TB: Go easy on yourself, but also keep sleep a priority. It’s much harder to manage parenting during a pandemic when everyone is sleep deprived!

Thank you, Tracy!

To follow Tracy and her expert advice for families and sleep habits, visit her here:

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