There is one thing that I’ve never quite managed to get on top of and it is also something that I’ve only just come to realise has always limited how far I can go in my health and fitness. This thing was getting a good night’s sleep. I feel like sleep was something I used to do well, perhaps when I was a child, but somewhere along the way bad habits set in and I forgot how to do something that should be as simple as breathing.
Each morning after a poor night’s sleep I’d say to myself, “Tonight I’m going to bed early.” But by the time my newly planned bedtime rolled around I’d still feel incredibly wired from the day’s activity (and coffee consumption). On top of this there were still messages and emails to address before putting head on the pillow. It felt like an endless and hopeless cycle, and I gave up on trying to get a good night’s sleep altogether.
I consider myself a healthy person and take care of my nutrition and fitness but in that key area that rejuvenates the body like nothing else, sleep, I drop the ball. Being aware of sleep being connected with brain health, stress reduction, and even lowered risk of cancer and heart disease, I felt like it was time to get on top of that niggling problem preventing me from getting to a much higher level of wellness.
I decided it was time to get some outsider help. Consulting with an online Health Coach seemed like the most efficient and practical way to begin and so I got in touch with one of Food Matters’ qualified online coaches.
Approaching A Health Coach
I was a little bit wary in the beginning that my problems might seem trivial from an outsider perspective. I didn’t want to waste someone’s time with something I should be able to manage myself. I had tried sleep apps and teas and even trying with all my might to reduce screen time before bed but I just couldn’t seem to keep up good sleep preparation habits.
I’d been hearing and reading more about how health coaches can help people manage chronic conditions, as well as improve people’s chances of meeting their health and wellness goals sustainably. I decided mine was a legitimate problem that deserved this attention.
The First Session
I was pleasantly surprised when on our first consultation session my health coach told me that getting a good night’s sleep is a huge challenge for many people. My Health Coach said they had worked with many clients on their sleep as the key focus of their wellness plans.
I discovered that talking to a Health Coach is very similar to talking with a therapist. The discussion was more behaviour and mindset focussed than I expected. I realised that there were many unhelpful thoughts and expectations placed on myself that were contributing to my poor sleep patterns. However, unlike a therapist we didn’t dive deep into feelings and emotions and my health coach didn’t try to diagnose me with anything.
The key takeaway from our first consultation was to make sleep a priority. Sleep simply wasn’t included on my daily to-do list or thought of as something to be checked off like replying to Tom Smith’s email or paying a particular bill. How did I ever intend to really improve it without it being on the to-do list? This was a revelation.
Working with my health coach to set plans was such a different experience to just setting goals on my own. My Health Coach challenged some of the rigorous routine ideas I had by simply asking “but do you think this achievable?” I realised getting good sleep was something that I wanted for the rest of my life so taking baby steps to get to where I wanted to be was more than ok.
While the plan we worked out together was designed around being achievable, this doesn’t mean it was a walk in the park … it had to lead to change.
Some of the strategies we put in place together included:
- Following a sleep schedule – aiming to be in bed by a certain time even if I didn’t feel tired
- Keeping a sleep diary so we could track what was and wasn’t working in the plan
- Creating a wind-down bedtime ritual
- Tailoring my weekly exercise to support my new sleep schedule
- Ensuring my bedroom was set up to be conducive to rest
- Increase awareness and reduce consumption of sleep disruptors including alcohol and caffeine
- Turn off electronics before bed
While prioritising sleep was crucial in changing my sleep behaviour, I believe being held accountable by my Health Coach, along with their continued weekly support was the most effective element in improving my sleep. Together we adjusted my plan and strategies as required to provide the best chance of seeing real and lasting change.
When I felt like maybe I’d push my bed time out on a particular night or leave the bedroom in a chaotic state I’d instantly think back to my plan and having to tell my Health Coach I’d lapsed – this was an excellent push for me following the simple tasks and keeping myself on track.
The more I stuck to the plan, the better I was at getting to bed earlier. While it took a week or two to actually fall to sleep within a reasonable time from head hitting pillow, by around the third week I was falling into a deep sleep within half an hour.
The huge difference in my behaviour is that I now look forward to bed and absolutely feel more rested and energetic throughout the day.
Overall Assessment Of My Health Coach Experience
I am so grateful for the encouragement to be and do better by just making slight changes. My health coach was incredibly supportive and patient. My mindset has drastically changed regarding what I can achieve as improving my sleep was always something I thought was far out of reach. I’m excited to continue achieving goals in future sessions with my health coach now that we have developed a strong relationship and I feel completely supported and understood.
If You’re Considering A Health Coach, This Is What They Can Do For You:
- Help you define goals and form a plan with you on how you can reach them
- Hold you accountable
- Ask you questions that make you really consider your choices, excuses and motivations
- Help you address issues and blockers that may be forming in many areas of your life
- Make implementing change achievable