We were seated at a table in the back of a nondescript Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side of New York City, talking about sleep. The invitation had come through Kira Ryan, an intelligent, gentle, and good-humored mother of one of my patients whom I had come to know over that past year. At the close of her daughter’s checkup one afternoon, Kira had asked if I would be interested in helping her and a friend create a sleep consulting business. Perhaps it was the abundance of sleep questions in my practice that day, perhaps it was the nightly 2:00 a.m. waking with my eleven-month-old son (who had previously slept through the night), or perhaps it was Kira’s thoughtful excitement that inspired me to accept the offer. Whatever the reason, I found myself eating dinner that night with two women who were very excited about sleep.

Kira’s friend and business partner, Conner Herman, is a warm, dynamic woman. She possesses an unexpected combination of southern graciousness and military-like determination. Kira and Conner described to me how they had met on the streets of New York, instantly connected, and shared their individual struggles with their children’s sleep. Conner confessed suffering months of guilt and exhaustion while fruitlessly wading though advice books, Web sites, and the well-meaning suggestions of friends. She told me that she had finally enlisted the help of a sleep consultant, and her family was literally totally transformed by sleep—and I believed her. I believed her partly because Conner radiates trustworthiness and partly because I witness families changed by sleep every day in my pediatric practice.

When Kira subsequently found herself struggling with her daughter’s sleep, Conner (in the way only an empathetic best friend can) guided her through the process of helping her daughter learn to sleep. Kira’s daughter began sleeping, and her family was trans- formed as well. Over the next several months, Conner and Kira started helping their friends solve relatively simple sleep issues with great success. They noted both the commonness of sleep problems as well as the unique way they played out in each family. They observed that when given specific knowledge and great empathy, most families had the ability to solve their child’s sleep issues, and as they helped more and more families, they came to appreciate the large number of families who struggled with their children’s sleep yet didn’t know where to go for support and help. It was these observations that led them to the idea of helping families through a business of sleep consultation. I thought their idea was brilliant. They were in search of expertise to deepen their understanding of sleep, and I was all too happy to lend my medical knowledge and perspective.

When I started my pediatric practice, I knew very little about the sleep issues parents face throughout the life of their child. This was not because I skipped that lecture in medical school, suffered from substandard residency training, or failed to realize the importance of sleep. It was because my focus—as for many others during medical training—had been on more acute medical issues. Of course, I understood that no pediatric checkup was complete without a sleep history, and most visits by sick children required inquiry about how sleep had been affected. But solving the typical infant or toddler sleep problem had been at best a back-burner matter for me—until it was not anymore.

Sleep became and remains a central topic of discussion in caring for my patients and their families. Many parents struggle with getting the right amount of sleep for their children, many parents are sleep deprived, and many parents enter my office seeking advice on how to go about changing this pattern.

In this new age of information, most parents have at least some knowledge of the numerous and significant ill effects of sleep loss or deprivation. They may know that sleep loss has cardiovascular effects such as an increased risk for hypertension or decreases in immune responses. They may be aware of the greater risk for mood disorders such as depression and anxiety associated with sleep loss; the substantial impairment in cognitive abilities such as sustained attention, short-term memory, information processing, and school performance; or the increased risk for motor vehicle accidents that accompanies lack of sleep.

They may have read about the growing body of research that suggests a link between obesity and sleep loss: both children and adults who sleep less tend to weigh more. Most parents are not without some measure of subjective and objective evidence that sleep is vitally important for both them and their children.

Why, then, are children and their parents not getting the sleep that they need?

The reason is that often enough, we find that helping our children to sleep well is not easy. Most of the time, helping our children to sleep requires tolerating some temporary, though signifi- cant, discomfort—ours or theirs—in the pursuit of what we now know is the ideal long-term outcome. As a parent, I struggled with this issue, as I know so many of my patients and their families do too.

So this is where Conner, Kira, and the rest of Dream Team Baby come in. Possessing the compassion of a best friend, compre- hensive knowledge gleaned from expert consultants, and proven methods and techniques, Conner and Kira give parents everywhere the strength to help their children sleep well. You will wish only that you had read this book sooner.

Amy DeMattia, M.D.

Copyright © 2012 by Conner Herman and Kira Ryan. All rights reserved.

Published by Jossey-Bass