Our precious sleep. For a lot of moms, sleep went out the window after having their first child. Yet sleep is so incredibly important especially for us mamas raising a family. We’ve all heard of sleep coaching for children, but did you know there are also coaches available for adults struggling with getting a restful slumber?
Sara of Sleepably joins us today to explain what a sleep coach does, tips on how to get more quality shuteye (banana tea anyone?) and all the benefits of doing so, including a stronger immune system.
Carol: Hello hello! It’s Carol of just Breathe Mama Coach. I’m a coach, EFT and Reiki practitioner and I love helping moms navigate the overwhelm and create a life that’s more manageable. One that’s filled with joy. Today I have an incredible guest on our show and she’s here to talk to us about the importance of sleep. This is Sara of Sleepably. As a pediatric RN, a pediatric sleep coach and mom of four, Sara has been supporting families and finding successful sleep in one way or another, since 2005. She’s been “that mom” asleep on the floor of her daughters’ bedrooms while her husband rolled his eyes in frustration. He wanted his wife back. She just wanted her child to fall asleep. Survival mode, really. She prefers to focus on each individual and the needs of each family versus a one size fits all approach.
Carol: Each baby in each family is different and that should be honoured. If there is a natural or holistic approach, she will support your choice. As co-founder and Sleepably partner, Sara and her team of sleep consultants are successfully teaching parents across the U.S. and internationally how to help their children attain better sleep. Their passion is sharing the gift of sleep with people like you. They teach parents how to help their children sleep better, work with adults who suffer from insomnia after years of rough nights and partner with businesses to help their employees sleep better. Pediatricians, functional medicine providers and dentists refer their tiny patients (and parents) to Sleepably for much needed rest. So welcome, Sara. I’m so happy to have you with us today.
Sara: Thank you, Carol. I’m so excited to be here!
Carol: Great! So I wanted to start off by asking you what an adult sleep coach is? I know you do pediatric sleep coaching and family sleep coaching, but what is an adult sleep coach and what do they do?
Sara: Great question. So whether it’s an adult sleep coach or pediatrics coach, our team and all certified sleep coaches have gone through extensive training and studying about science and sleep medicine. And really what we do is we partner with our clients to look at different avenues and different ways that we can tweak what’s going on behaviourally because that’s causing the disruption in sleep. So whether it’s environment, lifestyle, stress: what’s going on that is impacting kind of these poor sleep habits? I’ve been a nurse for a long time and that’s like rewarding in itself, but just doing this line of work is crazy rewarding. That’s basically what a sleep coach does.
Carol: And how did you end up becoming a sleep coach? Was it those nights that you spent on the floor with your daughter?
Sara: Oh my gosh! I should say yes. You know, I’ve been a nurse for years and helping families either in the middle of the night if they come into the emergency room or if they’re presenting in the clinic who are struggling with sleep. So I had taken on that role advocating and teaching families, whether it’s pediatrics or adults about sleep. Then a couple of years ago, our founder, Seth, he’s a former insomniac himself and he had gone through extensive certification and studying on how to treat his insomnia. Lo and behold, there’s just this whole new world on how people can learn how to be sleep coaches and teach others about healthy sleep practices and what they can do on a more individual basis.
Sara: So medical professionals, whether they’re doctors or nurses, or what have you, they get very, very little training on sleep. They can look at diagnostics to tell where there is an issue, whether it’s sleep apnea or insomnia, restless leg syndrome. But when it actually comes to changing the behaviors of sleep, they were at a loss. So then we started building our business and we realized it’s really twofold. Some families that come to us, whether it’s moms or dads, their sleep struggles are either caused by their kiddos who are struggling with sleep or from their own lack of sleep. It’s usually kind of a big spiral that we find. So it’s really been rewarding to work with the whole family to help everyone identify what’s going on and how we can help.
Carol: It’s so necessary. There was that niche there already for you so went into it. You almost fell into it because people need that help.
Sara: Oh man. And I have a client right now and this mom is a former insomnia herself, so she’s very cognizant of all the sleep hacks, right? Then she has a former premie. So with all of that there’s just a lot of anxiety that comes with being a new mom with like a former premie. We’ve been working together to help support the baby’s sleep and her sleep. And I just love these messages that I get in the morning like, “We did it! We had another good night. We both slept and I feel like a new human.”
Carol: Yeah. It really does! It changes your whole day completely when you have a good night’s sleep.
Sara: Yeah and there’s no amount of coffee that you can drink that will make up for that lost sleep.
Carol: Completely. So how much sleep ideally, should adults be getting? Is it the same for everyone? Is it different? Do those people who only get six hours, are they really thriving on those six hours?
Sara: Great question. I wish that there was a black and white, yes or no answer, but really, it’s different for everyone. For adults, the guideline is for seven to nine hours of healthy sleep, but really the majority of people across the world, as far as adults are concerned, they’re sometimes getting anywhere from six to six and a half hours. And even if they had the opportunity to get eight hours of sleep, they just couldn’t, even if they tried. So if you are thriving and you feel good and you have energy and mental clarity throughout the day, and you’re only getting six hours of sleep, great! Right? So really, there’s no right answer, is what that comes down to.
Carol: Depends on how you feel at the end of the day.
Carol: Okay. So which is better, is quality of sleep better or quantity of sleep better? Probably ideally it would be both, but I’d like to hear from you.
Sara: I feel like it’s totally the chicken or the egg in this scenario, right? So some folks are just genetically predispositioned towards shorter sleep cycles. And then like myself, for example, my sleep is pretty consistent and pretty solid. And so, like you just said, it’s really quantity and quality, but if you had to pick just one, I would say quality sleep takes precedence over quantity. If you had the opportunity, let’s say to sleep 10 hours, but your sleep was disruptive you tossed and turned and you didn’t really get into that deep sleep where a lot of recovery happens then, I don’t want to say it’s all for not because that’s a little bit dramatic, but I would rather you have good quality sleep.
Carol: Right. Now you spoke about maybe not having ten cups of coffee in the morning to get over that loss of sleep or the lack of sleep from the night before. But for those coffee lovers out there, even if they have a good night’s sleep, when should they ideally have that last cup of coffee so that they can get a good night’s sleep?
Sara: Absolutely. So there’s folks who are sensitive to caffeine intake. And if you are one of those folks and you need to be mindful of your last either coffee or caffeinated beverage, ideally I would say by noon or 2:00 PM at the latest is when your cutoff should be otherwise you will have more of a difficult time falling asleep.So noon or 2:00 PM.
Carol: Right. And I’m sure many people don’t want to hear the answer to this one, but what about screens and alcohol? How do those impact our sleep? I’m sure they do.
Sara: Oh man. You’re so right, they really do. And especially now, over the last year plus was COVID and we’re all working from home and on our screens and on our devices more than ever before, right? So what happens, our devices, whether it’s computers, phones, tablets, television, they emit blue light. What your body does when your body absorbs blue light, it tells your body to stop producing melatonin. And melatonin is the hormone, it’s like your sleep hormone. We want that sleep hormone to start gearing up right into the evening hours.
Sara: So if you’re aiming for a 9:00 PM or 10:00 PM bedtime, I would say, if you can, to stop using all devices, including phones, Instagram, social media, checking your email, to mark that to-do list off one more time, one to two hours prior to going to sleep. I know that’s easier said than done. We challenge our adult and our school age clients to stop all electronics after 7:00 PM. Even leave your phone or your device outside of your bedroom, right? It kinda makes you sweaty a little bit.
Carol: But I need it! *Laughs*
Sara: “I really need it,” right? Absolutely. You know, at least two hours prior to bed. Let’s say you’re going to watch a movie as a family because that’s a super important and awesome experience for everybody. That’s snuggle time on the couch. If you are at least six feet away from the TV or your screen then that can also be helpful as far as helping to decrease kind of the effects from blue light.
Sara: So alcohol – ughh! *laughs* Here’s the tricky part, right? Alcohol is a depressant and some folks will find that if they have a drink or two or three before bed, they are able to fall asleep quickly, right? It’s a sedative, but then their sleep quality throughout the night is disrupted. They’re tossing, they’re turning, they’re having these really wakeful periods. So if your goal is to have a good night’s sleep, like you want that high quality sleep, then I would either go alcohol free for that night or limit it to one glass of beverage.
Carol: Yeah. That makes sense, though. It does make sense. So why is it important for us to prioritize our sleep? What are the benefits that we would receive from getting a really good night’s sleep?
Sara: Sure. So when we sleep, that’s the opportunity for our body to recover and repair and refresh, right? Science and studies and research show that when we sleep, our brain helps to build new pathways and neurons. And so that’s going to help increase our cognitive function throughout the day, it helps with mood support, creativity and just overall mental clarity. So there’s that.
Sara: Also sleep helps to support our cardiovascular system. Folks who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation will have a higher risk for diabetes, stroke, heart attack, high blood pressure, kidney disease and so there’s just so many benefits to really prioritizing sleep. I think a lot of us know it’s super important to drink water, to eat right, get sunlight, exercise. And then it’s so easy for us to put off or to extend our wake window, if you will. Like, “I’ve just got this one last task. I’ll just go to bed a little bit later tonight so I can finish this task.” But what that opens us up to is just a whole can of worms.
Sara: *few seconds of frozen video* I’m talking like teenagers and folks that are in their early twenties while driving, we have more increased incidences of accidents. So that’s just like a whole other, we could probably do a whole other interview on that. There’s just so much data that supports that healthy sleep habits are super, super important.
Carol: Yeah, it should almost be number one on the list. I didn’t realize that there was a possibility of getting so many other diseases because of lack of sleep. Wow!
Sara: Absolutely. So get this. There have also been recent studies that have shown that folks who get a good night of sleep before receiving a vaccine, the most recent was looking at the flu vaccine, but they’re linking it to really the majority of vaccines, including the COVID vaccine. Those folks will have a better immune response to the vaccination versus the folks who get poor sleep the night before receiving their vaccine. So just another thing to think about.
Carol: Yeah, that makes sense to me because if I don’t get a good night’s sleep, it’s not normally just one, if it’s two nights in a row, I find I start getting a little bit run down. I get a good night’s sleep that night to make sure I don’t get ill or something like that, but I think lack of sleep does lower your immune system’s ability to fight illness.
Sara: Absolutely. And then that’s when you’ve got the cold symptoms. And right now what we’re seeing is because we’ve all been in lockdown over the last year so none of us were exposed to one another, any of the other like viruses and germs that are out there. So now that our worlds are opening up a little bit more, folks are getting sick again. Again, this really drives home the importance of why sleep is just so important.
Carol: Right. You know, obviously you’re a mom, moms are generally busy people. Stay-at-home moms, work-at-home, moms work out of the house moms and they are stressed and they sometimes have trouble falling asleep. So do you have any tips or advice for mamas to help them get a good night’s sleep?
Sara: Yes, absolutely. So I think the biggest thing right? As a mom myself, I know that this is also hard to do, to say and to practice, but prioritize your time. I would love for like all moms to have half an hour, I think that’s a realistic number, of just wind down time. Just for them. No kids, no partners, just 30 minutes. Again, leave your phone out of the room or upside down so that we can’t see the screen. And then if they can have either some journaling time, to think about like, what went well throughout the day. There’s also been, this is a whole other tangent, but there’s also been studies that have shown that folks who make their to-do list the night before actually have better productivity the next day versus the folks who make their to-do lists that morning.
Carol: That makes sense to me though because you’ve got it out of your head and onto paper, so you’re not stressing about it.
Sara: You dump it out, yeah. During that 30 minutes, if you can journal, meditate, just read an actual paper book, I know that’s bananas, right? *laughs* But just have that time. You can have camomile tea. Also I urge everyone to try this and maybe Carol you’ve tried, have you tried banana tea before?
Carol: No. Camomile for sure, but never banana.
Sara: So the potassium that are in bananas can help to support sleep. It also helps with the production of melatonin. So basically what you do and it looks and it sounds super gross, but you can steep banana peels in water and then you steep it three to ten minutes depending on your preference. That can also help to support sleep. Anyways, for mamas, if they can just have that 30 minutes and give themselves that quiet time to reflect and have that peace.
Sara: One thing I also really encourage, work-at-home moms, stay-at-home moms is to keep your schedule the same. So, say it’s the weekend, right? You may not have work over the weekend and you may really want to sleep in if your child so allows you. And so really though, if we do sleep in on a Saturday or Sunday as an adult, then that can kind of wreak havoc on the rest of the sleep for the next few nights. So if you’re used to getting up for work Monday through Friday at six, I wouldn’t alter your schedule by any more than an hour on the weekends or on non work days.
Carol: Yeah, go to bed at the same time, try and wake up at relatively the same time.
Sara: Exactly, exactly. Yeah. Even though you super want to.
Carol: I know. *laughs* I know, but you know what? I think your body, once you’re in a schedule, it naturally wants to wake up at that time anyway.
Sara: It just feels good, right? Because that’s what your body does now. You know, we’re all creatures of habit and your body feels strong and you’re in that rhythm.
Carol: Fantastic! That was great advice and an awesome interview. Thank you. If you’d like more information mamas on the sleep coaching for yourself, for your children, for your family, please visit their website at sleepably.com. Plus you can follow them on Instagram @sleepably and they have a Facebook page under the same name. Thank you so much for joining us today. That was a lot of great advice for our mamas.
Sara: And this has been so fun for me. Absolutely. We’re happy to help even just answer any questions if anyone wants to reach out. All right, Carol. Thank you so much. This has been a blast.
Carol: Great, thank you!
If you’d like to get a few tips on how to ease your exhaustion as a new mom check out this post here.
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