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Mona El-Sheikh

Alumni Professor of Human Development and Family Studies
College of Human Sciences

Mona El-Sheikh was born and raised in Alexandria, Egypt. At the age of 15, El-Sheikh came to the United States as an exchange student and graduated from high school in Pittsburgh, Pa. El-Sheikh then returned to Egypt and attended American University in Cairo, where she received her bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in anthropology. After her undergraduate studies, El-Sheikh was eager to get back to the United States and began attending West Virginia University, where she completed both her master's degree and Ph. D. in psychology with an emphasis on life-span-developmental psychology. El-Sheikh is currently a professor in the College of Human Sciences and has recently completed editing "Sleep and Development: Familial and Socio-Cultural Considerations."

1. What was it like growing up in Egypt?

I really enjoyed growing up in Egypt. Growing up in a big city that's very safe, I was exposed to more diversity than many places offer. It was a group-oriented society versus here which stresses the individual. Here, there are more personal freedoms than I experienced growing up.

2. How did you get to Auburn?

After finishing my master's and Ph.D. in Morgantown, (W. Va.), I interviewed at several different places. I was offered a position at Auburn and I was attracted to Auburn because of their program and how my interests fit with the program. That was in 1990. In 1994, I met my husband, a professor in another department. Eventually we got married and had two children. Against all the odds, I've been here ever since.

3. How did you become interested in studying sleep?

My research focuses on more than just sleep, it is very multi- and interdisciplinary and builds bridges across different studies that you can't just look at through one lens. I was always interested in family diversity and how it affects children and children's development, so when we added the sleep component it added a whole new layer to the research.

4. What do you do to ensure a good night's sleep?

A consistent schedule is the most important. Going to sleep and getting up at the same time is very important. I am very protective of my sleep. I don't schedule early meetings because I know I need more hours than most people. Also, I try and minimize environmental influences and stimulation. It's also important to be outside during the day because the sun stimulates your body to produce melatonin.

5. What do you do for fun?

I enjoy traveling and going to the beach. I also love seeing films - some of the films that come to Auburn, but mostly off the beaten path movies that rarely come here, like international or independent films. I was able to go to the Toronto Film Festival in September 2009. That was great. You basically just threw on some jeans and watched movies all day. Some movies would start at midnight and you were just there to watch movies. I also enjoy playing ping pong with my children.

To read more on El-Sheikh's study on sleep deprivation and how it impacts children, go to this link.

Jun. 27, 2011