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The Carletonian

OHP offers SWA-led sleep coaching

< 2019, the Office of Health Promotion (OHP) started offering one-on-one sleep coaching for students. 

“We had already chosen sleep as one of our four priority areas,” said Janet Lewis Muth, Director of OHP. This choice was based on the College Student Health Survey from 2017. “One of the issues we identified was the culture of supporting sleep—the sleep bragging, and all of that, was a major player,” said Lewis Muth. “We wanted to figure out how to address that. The PEAR department was really interested in working with us, so we piloted with the women’s volleyball team. We tracked their sleep to see if having set these team goals would help create a kind of miniature culture of healthy sleep and people supporting each other to achieve their sleep goals.” 

After that pilot program, conducted in the 2017-18 year, the OHP held interviews with some of the students involved to analyze its impact. “Some of the themes that came out of those interviews led us to the idea of sleep coaching,” said Lewis Muth. “Our hope for having team goals didn’t really pan out. I think part of what we learned through that process is the idea that sleep is really individualized.” 

“So the idea of trying to set a mini culture that’s supportive of sleep is still a really good idea,” Lewis Muth continued. “But what one person needs is often something different than what another person needs, so having group goals is far more complicated than we had predicted. We developed the sleep coaching program to help individuals set goals but still have someone who could support them and hold them accountable.” 

The sleep coaching program is designed to consist of two sessions, with a two-week period in between them, said Lewis Muth. The first session involves taking an inventory and setting goals, while the second session serves as a checkpoint. Ahead of the first session, students are asked to track their sleep for a week. They also fill out a chronotype questionnaire and the College Sleep Questionnaire. 

“We just look at all that and try to identify what they feel like are the biggest problems with their sleep,” said Caroline Mather ’19, one of the two Student Wellness Advocates (SWA) leading the sleep coaching program. “Then we help them make goals that they think are reasonable that they can follow through on.” 

If a student requests it, they could schedule more than one follow-up session, said Mather. 

“We have to weigh our capacity,” explained Lewis Muth. “At this point, with so few students signing up, I think the SWAs who are sleep coaches would be excited to have that level of engagement with a peer. I’m not sure that any Carleton student would have that much time! But there aren’t limits. If the sleep coaches can be helpful and supportive and that’s what a student wants—if they want a text at 10PM saying ‘Are you remembering to go to sleep?’—then they can request that.”

There are five SWAs currently trained to provide sleep coaching. The form to sign up for sleep coaching is available on the OHP website. Since the program was launched in Fall 2018, six students have filled out the form. Four have shown up to the first meeting. 

“We’re going to continue to evaluate the sleep coaching,” said Lewis Muth. “We just haven’t had enough participants yet to really do a full evaluation. Anecdotally, the students who’ve participated have told us that it was beneficial.” 

“From the feedback we’ve gotten from students and SWAs, it seems like the meetings have gone well,” added Mather. “It’s hard to know if people are comfortable coming to a peer for help, and I guess that’s something were hoping to look for an answer to. It is possible that’s why we’re having low numbers sign up for it.” 

Mather is working with Jeremy Alasker ’20, the other SWA spearheading the program. “The two of us are doing this work to figure out what we could be doing better,” said Mather. “So we’ve been interviewing some students and a couple faculty just to talk about sleep problems just in general on campus to see where to move forward. Two people I asked did not even know that we had it, they had never heard of sleep coaching, and a couple others didn’t know what it entails or they didn’t know what the time commitment was or they felt like they didn’t have enough time to do it.”

A College Student Health Survey, ran in 2018 by the state of Minnesota, found that 29.4 percent of Carleton students reported getting enough sleep to feel rested on 0-1 night per week, and 62 percent of Carleton students report getting enough sleep to feel rested on 3-4 nights per week. 

“There are all sorts of physical health consequences to not getting enough sleep and cognitive consequences there. So that’s why that’s one of our priority areas,” said Mather.

“Our plan right now is to get something else, whether that’s a floor program or something specifically for first year students that’s more in that precontemplation stage, educating them on general sleep problems or general tips,” said Mather in regards to future programming. 

“How do we get students to the point of recognizing—there’s always been 24 hours in a day,” said Lewis Muth. “It takes intentionally prioritizing sleep for anyone to be able to carve out the hours they need to sleep. Some of that is going to have to be a cultural shift. Some of that is figuring out how do we put some environmental cues in place that help students recognize, and some of it is education on the benefits and values of sleep, some of it is having a few people who go through sleep coaching, reap the benefits, and be able to talk about it,” said Lewis Muth.

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