The sleep consultant industry
Updated: Oct 21, 2020
So I'm going to be brutally honest and transparent in my blog post but honesty is the best policy, yes?
I love the fact I've now retrained and am able to set up my own business to help families who are in dire need of some extra shut eye. The families I've supported have done incredible jobs at following my plans and have worked so hard to improve things at night. These positive changes have meant that they no longer wake multiple times at night, have more time for themselves and more energy to play with their babies in the day. They no longer do the school run when they've been up all night and driving tired is the same or even worse than driving drunk. Sleeping well has a huge and underestimated impact on positive mental health and well-being for parents and their babies.
I also believe that currently there is a huge need for this support. Until they are about 3 years of age, children will sleep for longer in a 24 hour period than they are awake. In the UK, there's a wealth of support for families throughout pregnancy and birth, when making feeding choices and understanding their baby's developmental needs but there is such a lack of support to help families understand sleep. There are confusing expectations around what's normal for a baby at their age and parents may feel pressurised to keep up with Mum 'A' and her wonder child who has slept through the night since 8 weeks. Yes, having a newborn is tiring and exhausting, but some small changes and pieces of advice can make things so much better. This is why it's important that sleep specialists, coaches and consultants are well trained and understand both the biological and psychological aspects of sleep. They also need to maintain currency, need to engage in professional development and have a healthy appetite for continuous improvement.
I've worked in medical education and professional development for 10 years and the further and higher eduction sector prior to that. It sits uncomfortably with me that I've chosen to work in an industry that is unregulated. Honestly, you can go on a weekend course and call yourself a sleep consultant. This is misleading, bad for parents and bad for babies. This post is not about bad-mouthing some extremely hard-working practitioners and not every amateur is trying to masquerade as an expert but I just feel it's important to be transparent with parents about the industry. Sleep specialists need to practice safely within their remit and learning boundaries is a hugely important part of training. They need to know what are significant red flags for complications, what issues need a referral to other professionals and also be comfortable checking with mum whether she's just tired or actually has post-natal depression and needs urgent support from her GP.
I chose a course that required 6 months of study and a minimum number of volunteer clients to apply the theory learnt to practice. The company I trained with also provides ongoing continuous professional development and facilitates a large global network of consultants I can work alongside to ensure I'm not practicing alone. This means for even the most tricky client, my network will have experienced something similar so solutions can be found and the outcome is successful. This training, together with my extensive work history and educational qualifications (check these out on my About Me page or via LinkedIn) gives me the knowledge and confidence to support and guide you to make the right choices. Morally, I have also chosen to apply the same principles to my ongoing education that you would expect from any other UK registered health or medical professional including a minimum number of hours of education each year and ongoing reflective practice.
Even if you don't choose to work with me, I suggest you ask these questions to consultant you choose:
- What is their specific sleep consultant training and how long did it take?
- How many clients did they support in training?
- What is their background prior to working in the industry?
- What sleep training methods do they utilise and support? Some will promote the use of just one method which may not suit all situations.
- What do they do to maintain their knowledge and stay up to date?
Remember, a consultant worth their weight in gold will answer these questions happily.