Sleep coaches specialize in helping children, teenagers, and adults who have bad sleeping habits. Through advice and education, they can improve a person's sleeping patterns to optimize their rest. However, it's important to know how to look for a good one due to the lack of a standardized sleep coach certification system.
Here's what you need to know.
What Is a Sleep Coach?
A sleep coach is an individual who provides advice and education regarding the sleeping habits of children. Their aim is to improve your child's sleeping patterns and habits to help them rest better. An increasing number of sleep consultants are starting to treat adolescents and adults as well.
Usually, sleep coaches address problems such as a child not getting enough sleep, having trouble going to bed early, or not napping well. By improving their sleeping conditions and optimizing bedtime patterns, sleep coaches can help a child get over these issues.
Keep in mind that sleep coaches don't have to go through standardized training, so a patient should perform a careful review of the sleep consultant to determine if they are capable of effectively solving your problems.
Similarly, it might be a good idea to check with a doctor or a pediatrician before going to a sleep coach. There's always the chance that your child isn't sleeping well because of a medical problem — in that case, a sleep consultant will not be able to help.
Can Sleep Coaching Be Useful for All Ages?
Sleep coaches can help solve most of the usual sleeping problems that arise during childhood. Similarly, they could be of help to adults who are going through a bad sleeping phase either due to stress or bad bedtime habits.
Here are some of the most common reasons for visiting a sleep consultant at different points in life.
Babies. It's known that babies often have sleeping problems. These can range from waking every few hours for feeding to not being able to sleep away from their parents’ beds. Sleep specialists can greatly help in changing your baby's sleep habits — even helping during nap times to establish a sleep pattern.
Children. Children who are known as “bad sleepers” can unintentionally become a great source of stress for their parents. Sleep coaching can help resolve issues such as waking up too early or sneaking into the parents' bed during the night. Specialized sleep consultants can even attempt to resolve conditions such as sleepwalking or snoring.
Teenagers. Both tweens and teens are often the victims of bad sleeping habits due to growing up and getting some more freedom. High schoolers, for example, are sometimes unwilling or unable to go to bed early enough and end up getting less sleep than what's needed. Similarly, they may have issues with oversleeping and being overly tired during the day.
Adults. While sleep coaches usually focus on children and adolescents, some might be able to help with sleep problems in adults. Sleep consultants may be able to detect bad bedtime habits that lead to insomnia, snoring, or other conditions that affect a good night's sleep.
What Can I Expect From a Sleep Consultant Visit?
Every sleep coach has a different methodology for dealing with bedtime problems. Still, there are a few common points that most sleep specialists agree on.
Here is a rough guideline of what you can expect during a sleep coaching session. Keep in mind that this is written with a focus on sleep coaching for children, but it also applies to adults and teenagers.
First, the sleep coach will evaluate your child, including current bedtime habits, sleep patterns, and medical history, among other things. Some even go as far as performing a short physical exam to discard any possible conditions that may be affecting sleep. Then, they’ll make a brief diagnosis so you can get an idea of where the problem is coming from.
Usually, after this point, you have a chance to speak with the coach to discuss possible solutions to these problems. A good sleep coach will also provide general sleep education, telling you how sleep works and what changes should be made to your child’s routine.
Finally, the coach will leave you with a plan for treating your child's bedtime problems. Further follow-ups may be needed, but most sleeping issues are resolved within two to four sessions. Also, don't be surprised if the sleep consultant asks to contact your primary care provider — sometimes, they'll need to discuss your child's medical records.
Is There an Official Sleep Coach Certification?
One of the most concerning issues when it comes to sleep coaches is the lack of a standardized certification system. Sleep consultants don't have to go through any official courses to claim their title, which sometimes leads to inefficient practitioners.
Still, there are a few ways you can become more confident that a certain sleep coach will be able to help with your problem. Here are some of the questions you should ask before your first visit.
Background. What’s the person’s background when it comes to sleep coaching education? What courses have they taken? Is the person a certified healthcare provider such as a doctor or a nurse? Do they have any certifications they can show you?
Coaching history. How long has this person been sleep coaching? How many families have they helped? Were they successful? What’s the usual age range of their patients? Are there any particular problems that this person specializes in?
Methodology. Are the services provided in person or through the Internet? How long does the process usually take? How frequent will the visits be? Does this person need to be in contact with your primary doctor?
Results. What happens if the proposed plan fails? How many post-treatment sessions are needed if the plan succeeds? Will this person be able to refer you to a psychologist or a pediatrician if needed?
When to See a Sleep Specialist
Unfortunately, there are no telltale signs that you need to see a sleep coach. People usually resort to sleep consultants when their child’s bedtime problems seem to persist longer than usual.
However, before checking with a sleep coach, it might be a good idea to pay a visit to your primary health provider. They'll be able to diagnose whether or not your child's problems are related to a medical condition. If that's not the case, then it might be time to start looking for a sleep consultant.