How two New York sleep coaches support and educate their community and patients
In this month’s sleep story, learn about a pair of sleep coaches who are putting the sleep back into the city that never sleeps. Meet Teresa DeNike, BS, CCSH and Drew Copeland, RPSGT, CCSH, the two sleep education specialists coaching poor sleepers in New York for SleepBetterNYC (SBNYC). DeNike and Copeland together lead the SBNYC team in helping patients understand their unique sleep situation and identifying care plans to fit their lifestyle.
Sleep Coaching: What is it?
Sleep coaching is one of a handful of careers in sleep medicine. The primary goal of a sleep coach is to help their patients improve their sleep hygiene and quality of sleep. “Sleep coaches, like personal trainers for physical fitness goals, uncover people’s sleep goals, then guide them to lifestyle changes required to achieve those goals,” said Copeland.
Like a sleep navigator, sleep coaches support patients in a variety of points during the care continuum. For some patients, a sleep coach might be their first preference, rather than going to a doctor. For others, sleep coaching might be a part of the care plan outlined by a physician after a sleep test. But for all people who work with a sleep coach, the goal is the same: learn the skills to sleep better.
Copeland explained the role of a sleep coach with the following metaphor of teaching a child how to ride a bike. First, you outline the challenges: don’t run into trees, try to stay on the road, and keep your head and eyes up. Next, you run alongside the bike, holding onto your child’s shoulders and guiding them. And then, you let go, and you trust your child, but still watching and shouting words of encouragement. Sleep coaches support patients in a similar way, laying the educational foundation, providing the skills and resources, and then offering encouragement and insights along the way.
A Passion-Driven Origin Story
Both DeNike and Copeland have extensive experience in the world of sleep, though each from different paths. For DeNike, the calling to make a difference in people’s lives stemmed from seeing her friends and family struggle with typical sleep pathways. She got her start in sleep medicine in dental oral appliances, working for SomnoMed. DeNike, like other sleep professionals, had an eye-opening moment that really cemented her career in sleep.
“I knew very little about sleep when I first started [with SomnoMed] and it was just mind blowing the first few weeks. I was amazed at just how impactful oral appliance therapy could be for certain patients,” said DeNike. She emphasized the lack of awareness even then as a catalyst in her career, adding: “It wasn’t just how little the general public knew about sleep health and more specifically oral appliances, it was how little everyone seemed to know about sleep.”
It was at that point that she “became totally obsessed” with sleep, with a life mission of shouting about it from the rooftops. That passion and drive are the catalyst behind the SBNYC organization, as DeNike went on to found the organization shortly thereafter.
Copeland’s path in sleep is a bit more traditional, as he worked for a number of years in various roles within sleep organizations big and small. Over 17 years ago, he started his sleep career as an overnight acquisition tech, moving up the ladder over the years, and most recently, he worked as the director of operations and the sleep program within the Mount Sinai health system. Copeland specializes in sleep apnea treatment and testing, so he represents the traditional CPAP side of the coin in this dynamic sleep coaching duo.
While their backgrounds are different, both Copeland and DeNike hold their CCSH credential, knowing how important it is to be well educated on the many areas of sleep. And proper education doesn’t end with the SBNYC organization, they hope to help educate the whole world.
Patient Education is a Crucial Sleep Coaching Skill
Education, education, education is the mantra for sleep coaches like location, location, location is for realtors. Coaches educate their patients on everything from diet, to exercise, to bedtime habits. The challenges for sleep coaches are multiple, but misinformation can be a real obstacle for people who aren’t familiar with OSA, as noted by DeNike.
“Patients are going home, googling sleep apnea and finding poor educational resources,” DeNike said. “That’s where we can help physicians by supporting patients during the education process. We’re trying to bridge the gap between what’s out there on the internet and the information patients get in a clinical setting.”
Sleep coaching, like many forms of coaching, ultimately requires the “player” or in this case, “sleeper” to buy in and embrace the educational messaging. As Copeland mentioned, at some point, a coach can only stand on the sideline of the game, shouting words of encouragement and praise to their team. And like a good head coach, focusing on sleep fundamentals (like eliminating evening snacks and avoiding afternoon caffeine) can go a long way.
For sleep professionals, like the sleep coaching team at SBNYC, spreading your educational message beyond your current client base is an equally important use of your coaching voice, and that’s where savvy marketing comes into play.
Marketing their Sleep Coaching Operation
The SBNYC team really prioritized marketing within their organization. DeNike has prioritized a variety of elements into their content marketing strategy, from regular speaking events to video shares to social media marketing and more.
Throughout 2021, SBNYC’s blog content focused on patient sleep hygiene, from productivity and sleep tips to why napping doesn’t work. Beyond the blog content, the social media feed includes sleep statistics, resources, and related meme content. DeNike also is the star of the team’s Instagram channel, SBNYC’s most active platform.
“Our marketing strategy is very social media heavy because we want sleep health to be really approachable,” said DeNike. “We want to bring sleep education to the masses, but we want it to be digestible and fun, which is why we’re on Instagram.”
DeNike also thrives on screen and on the air waves, guest speaking on a number of podcasts and media platforms, averaging around one per week in 2021. These thought leadership opportunities allow DeNike and SBNYC to connect and work with other sleep professionals to ramp up sleep health awareness. For example, this five minute video clip from the Rest and Recovery podcast answers the question, “Do you need a sleep coach?” Speaking events not only bring more awareness to sleep medicine, but they provide a strong foundation for the marketing strategies deployed by the SBNYC team.
Between the thought leadership efforts, the social media pushes, and the strong referral business generated from positive word-of-mouth, it’s no wonder why Copeland is saying this about the future of SBNYC: “The type of sleep coaching program we have can be incorporated into almost every clinical model to better support patients. And the experience, the skill sets and drive we have to grow mean the sky’s the limit for SBNYC,” he said.
Learn more about Sleep Coaching
Between Copeland’s enthusiasm and clinical experience and DeNike’s charm, charisma, and passion, the SBNYC sleep coaching team is set to make major waves along the Eastern seaboard. With that said, it is the passion the two have for improving people’s sleep that stands out most, and this quote from Copeland really emphasizes that point.
“At the end of the day, you’re looking at a fellow human being who’s struggling with a basic, foundational physiological need, and if you can approach them with empathy and compassion, you can see amazing transformations, and that’s honestly a major part of why we’re in the business of sleep coaching,” said Copeland.
One thing our EnsoData team can agree on.. there’s simply no underestimating the importance of sleep, as Copeland wisely highlights: “You can make a huge difference with just a couple of sleep insights.”
To learn more about sleep coaching, sleep navigation, and other relevant topics, check out these articles: