Like stuffing your face with munchies,  sleep isn't supposed to be complicated. Yet, here we are, exhausted and thanking whatever we believe in that there's such a thing as a coffee maker. Is that really any way to live?  

Not according to Martin Rawls-Meehan, CEO and cofounder of sleep company Reverie. Rawls-Meehan hopes to help you get out of your sleep stupor with a little one-on-one help--that is, a personal trainer similar to the fitness coaches we already love. The trainer is available in both the Premium and Premium+ versions of Reverie's subscription Sleep Coach program, and all three levels of the program give you tools like a sleep personality quiz and access to the company's sleep portal.

But you don't need a coach...do you?

"People often take for granted the fact that, because we sleep every day, we 'know how to sleep'," Rawls-Meehan says. "But we're discovering that isn't always the case. [...] 50,000 years ago, [people] had fears of survival--not the stresses we have in an industrial world. We also no longer regulate our sleep based on the sun, and electronic devices disrupt our natural biochemical pressures. Stress and fooling the chemistry of your body leads to a vicious cycle of poor sleep, where poor sleep begets poor health begets poor sleep."

The problem is significant, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asserting that 1 out of 3 Americans are not getting the sleep they need. That's troubling not only from a personal health perspective, but also from a company bottom line standpoint. Sleep deprived workers can suffer from a range of issues, including poor communication and mood, greater negative risk taking, less flexible thinking and decision making and greater errors.

And according to Rawls-Meehan, about half of those with sleep troubles aren't even sure what keeps them up at night. So a sleep coach doesn't teach you only about the science of what the human body typically needs. They are also supposed to look at your life holistically and to help you understand the unique patterns and mindsets that are causing you trouble. This can open your eyes to cultural issues that are hard to fight. For example, an employer's drive to push their company ahead, coupled with your fear of losing status or opportunity in a shakier economy, can lead you to overwork. In this sense, their job is very much about increasing your self-awareness. You can get the best mattress in the world if you want, but unless you also have this education about yourself and look past just your environment, you don't have both pieces of the equation necessary for real recuperation. Once a sleep coach has helped you look at either side, they can offer you the accountability, encouragement and structure you need to get back on track.

Backed in science, not just dreams

Just as fitness trainers study biochemistry, biomechanics and nutrition to get you results, Reverie claims to rely on science, too. The entire program was developed with an advisory board of doctors and scientists from UC Berkeley, University of Michigan and Michigan State. Each Reverie coach is trained based on their methodology.

"There are so many great studies on sleep that have come out in the last 10 years that some people are actually comparing this to how people were viewing tobacco 50 years ago," says Rawls-Meehan. "Even though the research was so clear and compelling on tobacco's harmful effects on our health, it took a long time for people to quit smoking. Likewise, we have a population that's underslept, and many don't realize the health implications of that incredibly harmful behavior."

And like all good scientists, Rawls-Meehan acknowledges that the service has its limits.

"Sleep Coach isn't a magic pill," he cautions. "[...] As with personal training for fitness goals, Sleep Coaching requires you to be open to change and putting in the work required to break poor sleep habits. Individuals can't expect results to happen without putting in the time to make the necessary changes. [...And] we aren't a replacement for doctors who address serious medical sleep conditions."

Because Sleep Coach is such a new program, Rawls-Meehan and his team are still gathering data to share with potential investors and the public. But he says that, so far, customer satisfaction is 95 percent, with most people in the program seeing measurable improvement in their sleep scores. As the advisory board learns more from new studies, the program likely will adjust to accommodate the new relevant findings.

Now, if you're not quite ready to sign up for the service, Rawls-Meehan outlines the single greatest piece of advice you could take away from the program and implement on your own:

"Consistency, consistency, consistency. Go to bed and wake up within a half hour both during the week and on the weekends. That one thing makes the most difference in your sleep health."

Published on: Jul 6, 2018