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When Amy Rogers had difficulty falling asleep, she knew who to turn to – the coach who set a bedtime routine for her newborn daughter. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)
When Amy Rogers had difficulty falling asleep, she knew who to turn to – the coach who set a bedtime routine for her newborn daughter. (Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail)

Tossing and turning? Sleep coaches have a game plan for that Add to ...

When Amy Rogers gave birth to her first child in the summer of 2012, she did what many new parents do: She hired a sleep coach, who specializes in getting infants to sleep through the night. But Rogers never expected that she would need the same service for herself.

Rogers, a 33-year-old paramedic who lives in Schomberg, Ont., went through a particularly stressful period after her daughter was born. Two weeks after giving birth, she and her husband sold their house and bought another, but the sale fell through. Suddenly, they were carrying two houses, and it took months before they were able to resell the original property. Then, that fall, Rogers’s 27-year-old sister died from suicide.

In December, she called her best friend in tears. “I remember saying to her: ‘If I just sleep, maybe I can cope, but I just can’t sleep.’”

The next day, she reached out to Andrea Strang, the same certified sleep coach who had set up a bedtime routine for her newborn.

Strang is one of several infant and child sleep coaches who are branching out into the much more complicated world of adult sleep. Five years ago, she says, people began to approach her at trade shows and workshops to inquire about their own sleep habits. So in 2012, she took a course with a doctor based in Boston who specializes in adult insomnia and got herself certified to coach adults as well as children.

“It’s crazy how many people ask about what I do and they say, ‘I wish you worked with adults,’ ” says Jillian Dowling, the owner of Sleepwise in St. Catharines, Ont. In the spring of 2015, Dowling enrolled in an adult sleep course through the Association of Professional Sleep Consultants, a U.S.-based organization. She completed the program in early February and has begun working with four new adult clients.

Traditionally, sleep coaches help parents figure out how to get their little ones to sleep through the night. Companies offer plenty of options at various price points, ranging from 15-minute phone consultations to overnight visits. A typical infant or toddler sleep package costs from $300 to $500 and includes an over-the-phone or Skype consultation, some sort of overnight support – usually via text or online – and a period of either weeks or months during which the client can call or e-mail to get support when needed.

Some businesses will also offer by-the-hour home visits. For instance, Kindersleep charges $40 to $60 an hour for in-home sleep coaching. Sugar Plum Sleep Co. in Toronto charges $975 for a visit from a sleep coach from 6 p.m. to midnight. And for the truly desperate, a full 12-hour overnight visit costs $1,495.

The routine is similar for adult clients – but don’t expect your coach to tuck you into bed at night.

Alanna McGinn, owner of Good Night Sleep Site in Burlington, Ont., introduced an adult program in late 2014 and has worked with more than 150 grown-up clients (adults make up about 30 per cent of her clientele).

Adult programs are mostly done online or over the phone, although McGinn also works with corporations that will bring her in to conduct lunchtime seminars with their employees. Like the children’s programs, adult sleep services vary in length and price. McGinn, for example, offers monthly memberships for $50 or $100, or one-on-one consultations for $500.

Rebecca Earl, founder of Sugar Plum Sleep Co., charges $495 for both child consultations and adult coaching services. The adult program lasts six weeks, while children’s programs last two weeks. “Adults take longer to adjust their habits,” she explains, “but don’t require the same level of daily follow-up support.”

For adults, sleep coaches help establish proper “sleep hygiene,” a set of habits that help to prepare the body and mind for sleep each night. This contrasts with the approach of traditional sleep clinics, which treat medical conditions such as sleep apnea.

“The good news is that about 80 per cent of sleep problems are behavioural,” Strang says, “which means we can change them.”

As with children, adults should go to bed at roughly the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning.

Strang recommends Sudoku puzzles before bed to help “shut your mind off.” Earl, on the other hand, suggests clearing the bedroom of clutter and lighting it dimly at night – which includes turning off gadgets such as TVs and tablets. The authors of a recent study of light-emitting devices suggested manufacturers develop a “bed mode” for smartphones, so that harsh blue and green light would be replaced by more soothing yellows and reds as darkness falls.

Sleep coaches go one step further: They recommend people put their phones in another room when it’s time for bed.

Three years after she first sought Strang’s help, Rogers has managed to stick to her sleep routine. Thirty minutes before she goes to sleep, she puts on her pyjamas, brushes her teeth and dims the lights in her bedroom. “I read something either boring or I’ve already read – because I can’t stand the Sudoku, it just drives me crazy,” she says. “And I read until I feel a little bit sleepy. And then I turn out the lights.”

Rogers knows this routine will be essential in the coming months: She is pregnant with twins.

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