Lack of sleep can lead to health problems for children and adults, so it is no wonder some people are turning to sleep coaches to help with one-on-one support for rest.
Julia Howland and her husband couldn’t be more excited about raising their first child, one-year-old Eva. But from the beginning they knew she would be a handful.
“It was immediately clear that she was a very alert child,” said Julia.
Like most babies, Eva did not sleep through the night at first. Even after a few months, Eva had no interest in sleeping. Her lack of sleep was taking a toll on the family.
“We had a hard time balancing our marriage and our careers with parenthood,” Julia said.
After ruling out any medical conditions, Julia and her husband decided to give a sleep coach a try.
“Children need sleep for many reasons. It helps them improve memory, it helps them learn, it helps them take in their environment,” explained sleep coach Linda Szmulewitz.
So how does a sleeping coach work? After going over the sleep history and pattern of a client, the sleep coach typically visits the home to meet the family and see the sleep environment, and then develops a sleep plan custom-tailored to the family’s needs.
“There are only a specific number of ways to change sleep bahavior due to the fact that it’s based on behavior modification, and its based on being very consistent and being consistent over a certain period of time,” said Szmulewitz.
The key, according to Linda, is developing a plan and sticking to it.
“It was really helpful to have an expert tell you do this, do this, do this, do it at this time in this way and then call me and we’ll see how it went and we’ll adapt as necessary,” recalled Julia.
Kim West is a nationally recognized sleep consultant who has been helping families for 17 years. West notes there is no standardized certification for sleep coaches, and suggests doing your research before hiring a coach.
“Have they taken a sleep coach training program, if so when did they graduate, how long have they been in practice?” said West.
What do medical experts think of sleep coaching? Doctor Shalini Paruthi specializes in sleep medicine. She says she can appreciate the client-focused approach, but still recommends people see a physician who specializes in sleep.
“I think my biggest concern has always been if we’re not sure of exactly how they’ve been trained, accredited or licensed, they may not have the same experience or expertise, as someone who has gone through medical school and residency,” said Dr. Paruthi.
Julia is thankful for her experience. It took Eva just a few nights of training to start sleeping through the night.
“From my perspective, doing this gentle sleep training and this gentle sleep coaching was a really important way to balance the needs of every member of our family,” she said.
Sleep coaches focus on behavioral techniques, so they are typically used for babies and small children, not adults. Meanwhile, according to sleep coach Kim West, a committee has been formed to create standard training criteria for all sleep coaches. West says she thinks there will eventually be regulation of the field similar to the International Board of Lactation consultants.