While you may have heard of a health coach, sleep coaching—for adults, that is—is less well known. Here at Proper, we’re pioneering the concept in order to address a critical pillar of health: sleep! Because here’s the thing: in order to build sustainable, long-term sleep health, it’s necessary to not just focus on your nights, but your days too. There are a range of behaviors that may either positively or negatively impact your sleep—some we’ve been hearing about for a while (like screen time before bed) and others less so.
That’s where coaching comes in.
The science behind coaching as a sleep solution
Various studies have examined the impact of coaching on sleep, with impressive results to show for just how impactful—and necessary—behavioral change is.
In one study, (1) sleep hygiene and behavioral education for workers with insomnia was shown to decrease average Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) scores by 1.0 for the intervention group (compared to a 0.9 increase in the control group), an indication of significant sleep quality improvements.
In another study, (2) participants were split into two groups. The control group just received sleep hygiene group education, while the intervention group received sleep hygiene group education coupled with individual sleep modification training. As with the study noted above, sleep quality was assessed using PSQI scores, with a lower score indicating better quality and higher score, worse quality. The results after the three-month period showed that, for the control group, PSQI scores decreased by 0.8, whereas for the intervention group, scores decreased by 1.8. This significantly greater decrease led researchers to conclude that, “compared to sleep hygiene group education alone, the addition of individual behavioral training significantly improved the sleep quality of workers.”
Health coaching has also been found to increase daytime energy (3) and improve mood. (4)
“We know supplements alone are not the answer,” explains Adam Perlman, MD, MPH, member of Proper’s Scientific + Medical Advisory Council. “The best approach incorporates the natural products that address the biochemical components of disrupted sleep AND the behavioral changes required to get a good night’s rest.”
Alice Hirschel, PhD, agrees.
“The human body is incredibly complex and sleep is just as complex. Dietary supplements can supplement or support sleep, but it won’t fix everyone’s sleep problems. The mental and emotional aspects of a person’s day have as much of a role in their sleep health as the physical aspects.”
Anyone who’s felt their mind racing before bed as they think about everything that needs to be done the following day (or the dramatic, action-packed Netflix show they just watched) can understand just how impactful mindset is on sleep quality. Supplements only go so far.
“We know supplements alone are not the answer. The best approach incorporates the natural products that address the biochemical components of disrupted sleep AND the behavioral changes required to get a good night’s rest.”Adam Perlman, MD, MPH
Who is sleep coaching for + how can sleep coaching help you?
Anyone who wants to improve their sleep (and overall health) with the personalized guidance, support, and accountability of an expert trained in behavioral patterns and strategies for change would benefit from sleep coaching, including those who...
- Are looking for ways to better concentrate at work
- Are looking to maximize their productivity + creativity
- Need help lowering stress levels (and not stressing about being able to get to sleep + the impact that will have on them the following day)
- Want to be as present as possible with their family
- Want more energy + motivation during the day
- Want to improve their mood
- Want to actually feel refreshed + energized when they wake up
- Want to be able to wake up for their morning workout!
- Want to sharpen their short-term memory
- Need support with weight management + appetite regulation
Richard, one of Proper's sleep coaching customers, said it best..."Learning to sleep is like learning to lose weight [with a personal trainer or nutritionist]. You have to learn about the science and about yourself. My coach is the best teacher."
Although no too sleep coaching sessions are the same, generally speaking, coaches focus on the following four pain points:
1. If you have trouble falling asleep…
Your personal sleep coach can help you develop tools to manage the effects of a racing mind on your sleep, in addition to helping you understand the science behind how your “circadian type” may play a role.
2. If you have trouble staying asleep…
Your coach can help you understand and address factors like an active mind, decreased sleep pressure, and the impact of your environment so you can get a better night's sleep.
3. If you find yourself waking up too early…
4. If you’re sleeping enough but not feeling refreshed
Your coach will work with you to build habits that go beyond quantity to optimize quality sleep (and overall well-being).
Am I just going to hear the same tips I've heard on Google already?
While the cookie-cutter tips you read about on Google have some merit, sleep coaches are trained to dive deeper. They help you identify what behaviors impact YOUR sleep based on the science and take it one step further by partnering with you to put together a sleep plan with actionable (and totally doable) behavioral changes that promote better sleep and, importantly, fit with your lifestyle.
Adult sleep coaching versus Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBTi)
Although sleep coaching incorporates cognitive and behavioral practices for sleep improvement, they are not the same for two key reasons.
For one, CBTi is focused on the treatment of insomnia disorder and, as such, is delivered by a licensed sleep psychologist. On the other hand, sleep coaches do not diagnose and instead focus on the present challenge to create behavioral change and improvement for things like difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up too early and being unable to get back to sleep, and getting non-refreshing sleep.
Another key difference is the relationship between the coach/mental health professional and client. CBTi is more of a directive therapeutic process in which the sleep psychologist guides the client, whereas coaching is more of a partnership in which the coach tailors and drives the process in collaboration with the client.
What qualifications does an adult sleep coach have?
There’s no such thing as a board-certified sleep coach certification; however, there are board-certified health and wellness coaches (via the National Board for Health And Wellness Coaching). At Proper, we recruited top board-certified health coaches, then trained them in our proprietary curriculum developed by a leader in behavioral sleep science, Allison Siebern, PhD, CBSM. And we don’t stop there. All Proper sleep experts receive 30+ hours of ongoing education in the latest research in sleep issues and medicine.
The result is unrivaled expertise in both cognitive behavioral change AND sleep—expertise that makes our coaches uniquely qualified to support you in conquering sleep challenges and building better sleep habits.
Sleep coaching success stories
Meet Kris Puckett, a 33-year-old product designer who’s honed his skills at the likes of Facebook (where he built tools to prevent election interference), Treehouse (an education platform), Invision (a digital product design platform), and Knapsack (connects design and code). He’s based out of Denver, Colorado, where he lives with his wife and one-year-old daughter. After trying everything from prescription sleeping pills to pure melatonin, Propranolol to tea, Kris found himself intrigued by Proper's holistic sleep program combining natural, drug-free supplements with sleep coaching.
"I started seeing these ads for supplements and a sleep coaching session, and so I did it. And within about a week and a half, two weeks, I noticed a pretty significant difference in my energy levels," explains Kris. "My coach identified a few patterns that needed some work—specifically some unhealthy patterns around routines, plus I was stressing myself out before bed. Now I keep an eye on the routines themselves. So am I going to bed at the same time every night? Am I waking up around the same time? Are there nights when I'm waking up a lot? If so, I try to look back at what I ate or drank during the day that could have caused some of that. I also try to avoid alcohol right before bed—you know, all the at Proper sleep hygiene."
Also, there's Antonella Zompa, a Professor of Practice at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, who also runs her own consulting business and recently published a book. When her health began deteriorating during the pandemic, she leaned into behavioral change with the help of her sleep coach, Kelly.
"I think we take it for granted that sleep is just...close your eyes and you’re done. It’s not. And while we may hope that supplements are a “magic pill” that will make you fall asleep, you still have to work on it. And I don’t think people know what to do—at least I didn’t. That’s why the coach is there. They come up with things that I never would have thought of."
Suspect you may be suffering from a sleep disorder and need medical advice? Michael T. Smith, PhD, CBSM, DBSM, Clinical Sleep Psychologist, weighs in on the signs and symptoms that it's time to consult a specialist for medical issues such as sleep apnea, insomnia, Insufficient Sleep Disorder, narcolepsy, etc.