After a summer of sleepless nights, sleep coaching turned out to be just what I needed.

By Julia Malacoff
Updated: September 05, 2018
Photo: Sofie Delauw / Getty Images

As a health and fitness writer, I've tried all kinds of coaching. I've had a macros coach, a personal trainer, and even an intuitive eating coach. But sleep coaching? Not so much. (BTW, these are the best and worst sleeping positions for your health.)

Still, I've always put a high value on sleep. I like to sleep eight to nine hours each night, and that often means going to bed on the early side (around 10 p.m.) and waking up at a moderate time (around 7 a.m.).

But suddenly, this summer, it was no longer possible for me to keep these hours-for a few reasons. First, I got a dog. My dog is the best, but sometimes he needs to go out at night. Or wants to play super early in the morning. Or wants to lie on top of my legs while I'm sleeping and accidentally wakes me up.

Then, there's the fact that we've had an unexpected heat wave this summer. I live in an international city where air conditioning isn't really a thing, but this has been one of the hottest summers on record (thanks, global warming). This means the only options for cooling down are opening the windows and using a fan. And let me tell you, when it's hot AF outside, even the most hard-core fan isn't going to make it feel much cooler.

I also live in a place where, in the summer, the sun rises at around 5:30 a.m. and sets around 10 p.m. That means it's not fully dark until around 11 p.m. Try going to bed at 10 p.m. when it's still light out. Ugh.

Lastly, I'm a bit of a workaholic. Most of my colleagues are 6 hours behind me in time zone, which means I get work-related emails well into the night. That's totally fine, but combined with the fact that I'm staying up later than usual, it means I'm *way* more tempted to check my email and actually respond at, say, 11 p.m., than I would be otherwise. I also need to get up one day a week at 6 a.m. for work, which pretty much makes the common sleep advice to keep a regular schedule, well, impossible.

All of this combined to create the perfect storm of my worst summer of sleep ever. And I was feeling sleep deprived, cranky, and frankly, a bit hopeless when an email popped into my inbox about sleep coaching. With nothing to lose, I decided to give it a go.

How Sleep Coaching Works

Reverie is a company that offers sleep coaching. They have several plans available that range from $49 for three months to $299 for one full year, and each plan provides different levels of coaching and guidance on how to improve your sleep. The whole process is done remotely, which is pretty awesome.

I got set up with a sleep coach, Elise, and was prompted to schedule an appointment with her via her online calendar. In our 45-minute call, she took me through a sleep quiz to determine what was going on with my sleep, listened to my problems, and made some recommendations. She actually addressed all of my sleep problems during that time-which is seriously impressive-but emphasized that trying to change everything about how I sleep at once would be a little overwhelming (true).

Instead, she made three key recommendations that she wanted me to focus on to improve my sleep. Once those were mastered, she said, we could start working on others. (Related: Do You Need to Invest In a Fancy Pillow?)

The Benefits of Sleep Coaching

After the session, Elise sent me a recap of what we talked about, along with the three action items she recommended. Not only did this provide me with a clear idea of what I should do next, but it also meant I didn't have to remember all the advice she shared with me off the top of my head. This made me a lot more likely to actually follow it.

Here's how she addressed each of my sleep-related problems:

Get blackout curtains for the light. I was always under the impression that blackout curtains were an expensive, inaccessible solution to not being able to sleep with light in the room. Turns out, they're about $25 on Amazon. Who knew?! Elise encouraged me to check out the available options and purchase a set ASAP. This worked like a charm.

Take a hot shower before bed for the heat. Apparently, my idea of taking cold showers before bed was actually making things worse. By taking a hot shower, Elise explained, you actually cool your core body temperature down, making it feel less hot when you get into bed.

Set an email cutoff time. Notice she did not say that I should avoid bringing my phone in the bedroom at all. While this is great advice, most people find it hard to follow. But not emailing or looking at my phone for about 30 minutes before bed? That I can do. When I shared that I wasn't sure what I'd do in that time, Elise suggested I use that time to write a to-do list for the next day or read. Now, writing out my to-do list before bed is one of my favorite ways to unwind.

And while Elise said there's not much I can do about my dog, getting up early one day a week doesn't need to mean my sleep schedule is messed up forever. She suggested that two days before the early morning, I get up a half hour earlier than usual. Then one day before, get up an hour earlier than usual. That way, on the day I need to wake up early, it won't feel so horrible. The day after, I can go back to my usual sleeping hours and repeat the cycle each week. Genius!

Overall, my takeaway from the experience was this: Much like other forms of coaching, sometimes you know what you're supposed to be doing, but you really need someone to tell you how to do those things. And instead of making it feel like an impossible feat to get my sleep back on track, having a coach helped me take a few small actions that translated into major sleep improvements. That in itself made the experience seriously worth it.

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