Health coaching involves informal, confidential meetings with a health educator who helps individuals improve their overall health. Using the expertise of a health coach, individuals can work out an individualized health plan to meet their specific health goals. Thus, those who employ health coaches can get help with various aspects of life such as stress, healthy eating, time management, financial management, quitting tobacco consumption, sexual life, relationship issues, as well as sleep issues.
It is a well-known fact that a healthy adult needs around 7-9 hours of sleep every night. Sleep deprivation causes irritability, an inability to concentrate or stay alert, and a reduction in functioning and problem-solving ability. According to a study published in the Journal of Sleep Research and Sleep Medicine in 1996, sleep deprivation was found to strongly impair human functioning. In addition, it was observed that one’s mood was more affected by sleep deprivation than cognitive or motor performance. Surprisingly, partial sleep deprivation was found to have a more profound effect as compared to long-term or short-term sleep deprivation.
A health coach can help people sleep better by teaching and training them to adopt certain lifestyle changes. To know how much sleep is required, one needs to calculate how many hours one needs to sleep, until one can wake up without an alarm clock and yet feel fully rested.
A health coach may administer certain sleep disorder tests to see if one has insomnia or poor sleep health. They may use the following tools to understand your sleep pattern and disturbances to sleep, if any:
- Sleep diary: A health coach may ask you to maintain a sleep diary with notes of bedtimes and wake up times.
- Epworth Sleepiness Scale: This is a validated questionnaire that checks how sleepy one is during the day.
- Polysomnogram: This is a test that measures activity during sleep.
- Actigraphy: This is a small device worn on the wrist that measures sleep-wake patterns over time by evaluating movement.
- Mental health exam
Lifestyle changes that are recommended by a health coach may include:
- Maintaining a sleep calendar: Circadian rhythms are the body’s sense of the 24-hour clock. Maintaining a sleep calendar allows one to see how many hours of sleep one gets.
- Avoid nicotine and caffeine: Nicotine causes one to sleep lighter than usual. People who smoke heavily have a tendency to wake up early because of nicotine withdrawal symptoms. Caffeine is a stimulant found in tea, chocolate, soft drinks, and coffee. The effects of caffeine can take up to 8 hours to wear-off.
- Restrict food and beverages before sleeping: Eating large meals a few hours before bedtime can cause indigestion. Drinking large quantities of liquids may lead to the urge to frequently urinate, which disturbs your sleep.
- Regular exercise: Exercising during the day is associated with improved sleep at night. However, it is recommended that one should not exercise closer than 5-6 hours before sleeping.
- Bedtime relaxation techniques: Meditation, roll breathing, progressive relaxation techniques, or yoga can help one sleep better.
- Creating a sleep-encouraging environment: The bedroom should be quiet, dark, cool, and free from any sort of distractions, in order to induce a restful sleep.
Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia, and restless leg syndrome, have their own set of lifestyle modifications and pharmacological treatment requirements. With the help of a health coach, one can identify the problem leading to sleep issues and treat it accordingly.
Pilcher, J. J., & Huffcutt, A. J. (1996). Effects of sleep deprivation on performance: a meta-analysis. Sleep: Journal of Sleep Research & Sleep Medicine.
http://studenthealth.missouri.edu/services/healthpromotion/sleep.html (accessed on 11/02/2015)
http://studenthealth.oregonstate.edu/health-promotion/health-coaching (accessed on 11/02/2015)
http://www.sju.edu/int/resources/humanresources/pdf/HealthyLifestyles (accessed on 11/02/2015)
http://iebp.org/Forms/EmpCustWeb/Admin/DisplayDoc.aspx?doc_id=1375&groupno=MTMLIEB0&planno (accessed on 11/02/2015)
Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:
Ivey, S. L., Tseng, W., Kurtovich, E., Weir, R. C., Liu, J., Song, H., ... & Hubbard, A. (2012). Evaluating a culturally and linguistically competent health coach intervention for Chinese-American patients with diabetes. Diabetes Spectrum, 25(2), 93-102.
Vale, M. J., Jelinek, M. V., Best, J. D., Dart, A. M., Grigg, L. E., Hare, D. L., ... & McNeil, J. J. (2003). Coaching patients On Achieving Cardiovascular Health (COACH): a multicenter randomized trial in patients with coronary heart disease. Archives of Internal Medicine, 163(22), 2775-2783.
Alleger, I. (2004). A health coach. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, (253-254), 129-130.