How to Choose a Sleep Coach

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Written by Katherine Zheng

Reviewed by Dr. Michael Breus

Our Editorial Process

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If you have trouble sleeping, you’re not alone. Sleep problems are common, and about one third of people in the United States report not getting enough sleep. Because sleep impacts so many aspects of our lives,, a growing number of people are looking to sleep coaches to help enhance their nightly rest.

Many factors can throw off your sleep, and a sleep coach can help you identify, understand, and work through them. But to get the most out of having a sleep coach, you want to work with someone who is experienced and reputable. 

What Is a Sleep Coach?

Sleep coaches provide services that are tailored to help guide you toward better sleep. Sleep coaches can come from different backgrounds, but in most cases, they are not traditional health care providers like doctors or nurses.

The exact services that sleep coaches provide can vary widely because there are currently no standard practice guidelines for this field. Coaching can be done in person, on the phone, or with video calls. 

Many sleeping problems are linked to issues with sleep hygiene, which involves both your sleep environment and the range of habits that influence sleep. Sleep coaches may be able to identify elements of your sleep hygiene that negatively impact your sleep and suggest strategies to promote more consistent and high-quality rest.

In some situations, sleep coaching may be used to supplement care being provided by your health care team. Sleep coaching may also sometimes be used as an alternative approach when there is a shortage of specialists available for certain services. 

For instance, a sleep coach may provide cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I), a type of therapy designed to address negative thoughts and behaviors related to sleep.

What to Consider When Choosing a Sleep Coach

When looking for sleep help, it is important to keep in mind that there is no standard certification process for sleep coaches. Since sleep coaches can have different degrees, backgrounds, and levels of training, you should be thoughtful about how you choose who to work with. 

When seeking a sleep coach, it can be helpful to consider how various factors, including a sleep coach’s experience and style of coaching, relate to your needs.

  • Education and Training: Sleep coaches can have different levels and types of education, and you should think about how important a coach’s formal education is to you. Some sleep coaches have advanced degrees, including in fields related to health care, but others may have a more general educational background. 
  • Prior Work Experience: Past experience in a sleep-related job is not required to become a sleep coach. However, some coaches may have previously worked in another health care profession, like social work or nursing. 
  • Who They Work With: Sleep coaches may specialize in working with specific groups of people. For instance, some coaches only work with children or individuals with certain health conditions.
  • Special Skills: Since the services of sleep coaches can vary, it can be useful to check if a coach is trained in any special services or holds certifications relevant to your sleep issue. You can also ask about their areas of focus and preferred techniques for helping their clients. 
  • Insurance and Costs: The costs of services can vary among coaches, and many health insurance plans will not cover sleep coaching services. Make sure to ask about the total costs of sleep coaching to understand if a coach’s services will fit within your budget.
  • Reputation and Results: As with any kind of service provider, you can try to find out about their track record. If any friends or family members have worked with a sleep coach, ask them for referrals. When talking with a sleep coach, ask how long they have been coaching and if they can provide any testimonials from past clients. 

You can also ask your doctor or another health care provider if they know of sleep coaches who are trained and certified in an area that could be beneficial for your sleep needs. If you are unsure of where to look for a sleep coach, talk with your health care provider.

Who Can a Sleep Coach Help?

In the past, sleep coaching was frequently focused on helping families of infants and younger children. Today, more coaches are offering assistance to adolescents and adults as well. Their services can look different depending on the age group receiving coaching.

Infants and Young Children

It is common for infants and young children to have trouble sleeping. Sleep training is one method that some people use to teach a child to sleep through the night. Some sleep coaches work with parents and caregivers to practice a particular approach to sleep training.

For caregivers of infants, this sleep training may involve learning to console a child in a way that helps the baby get comfortable being alone so that they can fall asleep on their own.

For parents of younger children, sleep training may emphasize encouraging independent bedtime habits. This could include things like developing a nightly bedtime routine and making sure that the child falls asleep without a parent or caregiver in the room.

Adolescents

Adolescents face a number of sleeping challenges that may be worsened by poor sleep hygiene. 

For instance, adolescents may stay up too late and have an inconsistent sleep schedule. At the same time, they may continue to use their phone late into the evening, which can interfere with the kind of relaxation that is conducive to sleep. 

A sleep coach may be able to give adolescents practical tips for adopting good sleep hygiene habits in order to improve their sleep.

Adults

Adults who are looking to improve their sleep hygiene may be able to get direct guidance from a sleep coach. Coaches may help create a long-term plan to promote better habits before bed. They may also offer suggestions about designing a better sleep environment.

Some sleep coaches might deliver services that help with certain sleep disorders, such as insomnia. However, adults that have a diagnosed sleep disorder should talk with their doctor about the best treatment and whether sleep coaching is right for them.

What Can You Expect From a Sleep Coach?

While there are no standard practice guidelines for sleep coaches, there are some general steps a coach may take to help you work through your sleep problems. 

  • Initial Consultation: A coach will usually set up an initial phone call to collect basic information about your medical history and ask questions about your sleep issues and sleep patterns, such as your chronotype.
  • First Meeting: After the consultation, a sleep coach may then set up a one to two hour session to create a step-by-step sleep improvement plan based on information collected in the initial consultation. 
  • Follow-Up Meetings: A coach will often schedule one or more follow-up meetings to assess whether the initial plan is helping you. This process might involve documenting your sleep patterns in a sleep journal.

When choosing a sleep coach, you can ask them about their specific process and how they typically work with people who have sleep difficulties that are similar to yours. You can ask for details about how many sessions are included and what steps are available if you find that your sleeping problems continue. 

Some sleep problems may take longer than others to subside. If a coach determines that your sleep issues are outside of the scope of their services, they may suggest that you go to a sleep specialist or a doctor for further help.

When to Seek Help From a Sleep Specialist

If you have ongoing or significant sleeping problems, you should discuss them directly with your doctor. Examples of issues that you should raise with your health care provider include: 

  • Extreme sleepiness during the day
  • Frequently struggling to fall asleep or stay asleep when you want to
  • Feeling tired or unrefreshed in the morning even after a full night of sleep
  • Disruptive movements or behaviors during sleep
  • Snoring or abnormal or disrupted breathing during sleep
  • Your sleep problems arise alongside physical or mental health problems, such as pain or depression

Your doctor can help determine whether these problems are from poor sleep habits, an underlying medical issue, or a sleep disorder. In some cases, a sleep study can be ordered if a sleep disorder is suspected.

Depending on your situation, your doctor may be able to give you medical advice about ways to get better sleep. They may also recommend that you meet with a sleep specialist, which is a doctor who has extra training specific to sleep. 

As part of these discussions, your doctor can help you decide whether you could benefit from sleep coaching. You can explain any interest you have in sleep coaching, and your doctor may be able to help you find a sleep coach that is best equipped to meet your needs.

If you have already received sleep coaching and find that your sleep has not improved, you should check in with your doctor or a sleep specialist for more help.

About The Author

Katherine Zheng

Staff Writer, Sleep Health


Katherine is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She has doctorate and bachelor’s degrees in nursing and is published in the journal Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research and the journal JMIR Mental Health. She has also worked as a policy fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. With a background in academia, Katherine has always been interested in making healthcare research more accessible to the public. When not writing, Katherine is an actor and loves doing theater at night.

  • POSITION: Side sleeper
  • TEMPERATURE: Neutral Sleeper
  • CHRONOTYPE: Dolphin

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