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We Tried It: I Worked with a 'Coach' to Get Better Sleep

What Is It: Proper, a sleep wellness brand launched in July, offers personal advice and one-on-one "sleep coaching" via Zoom to get to the root of why you can't manage to catch those Zs. (Worldwide pandemic, maybe?) The company sells five natural supplements: Core Sleep, for individuals seeking a deep sleep that will last throughout the night; Sleep + Restore, for those who prefer melatonin; Sleep + Calm, which promotes relaxation and lessens everyday stress; Sleep + Clarity, which improves concentration and enhances cognitive performance; and Sleep + Immunity, which supports immune health. The coaching sessions are available through the purchase of a supplement subscription costing $35.99 a month.

"Our supplements are natural, safe, and effective for regular use," Nancy Ramamurthi, Proper's co-founder and CEO, tells PEOPLE. "I generally recommend Core Sleep as the best starting point for improved sleep quality and falling asleep faster & staying asleep."

She adds that results will vary by individual. "Everyone’s biochemistry is different, so while most will feel the benefits right away, they should expect best continual sleep improvements to happen after 3-5 days, and best results after several weeks of usage."

Who Tried It: Michele Corriston, senior news editor

I've written before about my quest to end my night terrors, exploring everything from CBD to Harry Styles' overtly sexual bedtime story. Proper is by far the most medically-backed method I've tried. After filling out a short survey about my habits, I hopped on Zoom for a 30-minute chat with Coach Jen, who started by explaining what is actually happening to the body while we slumber. She posited that my night terrors — screaming and sometimes running away in my sleep — happen because my brain is in "hyperarousal." She sent me a list of ways to try and improve my sleep hygiene by changing my bedtime behavior, and also recommended one of Proper's supplements, Sleep + Restore, with melatonin.

The Verdict:

Coach Jen was incredibly personable and knowledgeable. Given that I am prone to anxious thoughts, she suggested that I try "constructive worrying" in my sleep plan. The idea is to set aside 10-15 minutes a day, about an hour before heading to bed, to write down everything that I'm worried about. On the reverse side, I can write possible solutions — or just crumple the paper and throw it away.

"A lot of the sleep issues are rooted in stress and anxiety (racing mind when falling asleep, etc.), not only impacting the ability to falling asleep but also impacting the ability to stay asleep, which is why those are the two most common sleep issues we hear about from our coaching sessions at Proper," Ramamurthi explains. "Because of this, the top actions our customers come out of their session with are implementing closure of the day and nighttime routines, both of which help address stress & anxiety. With both of these actions, adding a 'brain dump' to people's routines has been a common recommended action."

This tactic is similar to something my therapist has suggested in the past, so I was impressed. I can't say I stick with this every night, but when I'm feeling extra anxious, I find it helpful to give myself the space to freak out — and then move on, hopefully to sweet dreams.  My Proper sleep plan also included creating a consistent bedtime on weeknights and weekends, and trying something called "progressive muscle relaxation."

"When you find yourself awake before your alarm, do something relaxing such as meditation, breathing exercises or reading," Jen advised. "After tossing and turning for about 20-30 minutes, you can get out of bed and do something relaxing and non-stimulating." (That means no screens!)

It's tricky to stick to a consistent bedtime even during the pandemic; I'm sleeping in later on weekdays without a commute, and the workout classes that got me up on weekend mornings no longer exist. But I'm trying to go to bed between 11 p.m. and midnight during the week and not much later on Saturdays and Sundays, and I've definitely found that my body will awaken naturally around the same time. I also have found success with breathing exercises and try to read before bed instead of scrolling through TikTok on my phone. Overall, I've had great sleep since our session — and only had one moderate night terror.

I'm also loving the supplement, Sleep + Restore, when I need a little extra aid. Unlike other melatonin products I've used in the past, these pills release the melatonin slowly, so they promise to not only put you asleep, but also keep you asleep. I try to only take the recommended two pills when I know I have an early morning or am really stressed, but they work like a charm. I definitely notice that I am able to sleep through the night more often, not just get knocked out.

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