The first question you should ask yourself is — “what is sleep training and why do I need a sleep consultant?” If you’re already considering hiring a sleep consultant, you probably have a fairly good idea about how to answer this question, but it’s good practice to get your feelings and thoughts down in writing, especially if you’re going to have somebody to come help you with your sleep-related problems. It’s good to know what your basic needs and expectations are so you can ask the right questions and hire the right person!
First off, if you’re looking for a sleep consultant who is an expert at sleep training, you most likely fit into one of these two demographics:
- An adult who is having trouble sleeping
- An adult with a baby who is having trouble sleeping
If you’re an adult looking for sleep experts to help you optimize your sleep habits, you’re in luck — there are lots of options out there — the goal here is to find someone who can help you optimize your sleep habits and help measure your progress. Once you find the right sleep consultant, they can guide you through developing a better relationship with sleep, from learning when to stop drinking caffeine to the best way to arrange your bedroom.
For those with a baby in need of sleep training, there’s no shame in seeking help from professionals — for the tired parent of a fussy night gremlin, hiring a baby sleep consultant can change the tide of the battle for better sleep. With all the juggling required to raise a baby, know that sleep experts can help you! Babies have specific requirements and safety expectations that differ drastically from adults. If you have a baby, you probably know that there’s never an end to learning about how to raise a little one.
No matter which group you’re in, there are plenty of general best practices for finding the right consultant for you!
What Should You Expect?
What is sleep training? It is the process of training a child or adult to fall asleep. This can be done by a sleep expert or sleep consultant. What exactly does a sleep consultant do? Besides being a sleep expert in sleep training, these sleep experts help you create a personalized plan that works for you and your schedule. Their job is to assess what you’re already doing (positive and negative), teach you how to track your (or your baby’s) sleep habits, and help you make positive changes toward a better night’s sleep. A good consultant will do all of those things, sure, but a great consultant will also provide the motivation and encouragement you’ll need to help you achieve your goals. Most sleep consultants will schedule follow-up sessions with you as well to make sure you’re staying on track to meet your goals.
Services can range from a simple $50 Skype consultation to a whopping $3,500 overnight multi-day session with long-lasting email support. Their level of involvement really depends on your needs, comfort level, and budget.
Accreditation & Certification
There is not a single board that grants certification for sleep consultants, nor a standard bachelor’s degree in the subject, so it’s important to do your homework when finding the right person. If you’re looking for some sort of accreditation, Good Night Sleep, Sleep Baby Sleep, Gentle Sleep Coach, and the Family Sleep Institute offer some of the more popular programs. This doesn’t necessarily indicate that they’re the best out there, but certification does ensure that they’ll be knowledgeable in evidence-based methods and industry standards, rather than simply relying on their own personal tactics.
Look For These 5 Key Things In a Sleep Consultant
When looking for a sleep consultant, it’s important to have reasonable expectations.
- Do they have the proper sleep training to consider your specific needs? If you’ve got a fussy baby who won’t sleep, does your pediatric sleep consultant have proper sleep training or training in breastfeeding, child development, or parent education? Babies have very different sleep requirements than adults do. For an adult client, do they have a background in nutrition, counseling, or anxiety? The more suited sleep experts are to your specific needs, the more likely they’ll be able to help you, specifically.
- If you’re concerned about their abilities, consider their formal education so you can understand their background and make sure they have the crossover sleep training and skills to assist you well. While you can’t major in sleep consultation, those who have studied public health, child development, nursing, social work, health education, and sleep science are all a head above the rest — at least in their ability to approach issues from a collegiate standpoint.
- Every sleep consultant, like any industry professional, has a theory that guides their personal practice. Ask your prospect about their philosophy on sleep. How do they approach or address sleep in their own family? What is sleep training to them? Is their understanding of how to create change in your life one that you can get behind? It’s important to be on the same page — at least in your core expectations. Don’t find a combatant to butt heads with, find somebody who will bring out the best in you!
- Many sleep consultants will suggest you keep a sleep diary to track your behavior regarding sleep. If you’ve never done this before, it might be a great practice to implement right away! A sleep diary is simply a record of when you and/or your baby sleep and wake up (as well as how you feel, when you exercise, and what you eat). It’s a useful resource in understanding circadian rhythms, diagnosing (or at least noticing patterns indicative of) sleep problems, and finding the culprits that are keeping you up at night.
- Perhaps most importantly of all, does this sleep consultant feel right? Trust your gut! If they feel like someone with realistic expectations for you or your family, or they’re just a caring, compassionate, and passionate person who knows their sleep science — that goes a long way. Working on something so intimate as sleep with someone who doesn’t sit right isn’t going to get you where you want to be — dreamland.
You Can Do This!
When all is said and done, you should have a complete assessment of your (or your child’s) sleep-related difficulties and a personalized step-by-step sleep plan created specifically for you. You should also get a list of best practices or a cheat sheet that you can peek at when you need a reminder. In addition, you should expect a follow-up (to make sure things are working out) and the ability to get email (or phone) support from your consultant for quick questions you may have. Sometimes it helps to find a sleep consultant to help you get a decent night of zzzzs — make sure to ask the important questions and finding the right coach will be a piece of cake!