Introducing Susanne Willekes
Susanne Willekes is the first certified sleep coach for children in the Netherlands, and she’s dedicated her life to helping families achieve a good night’s sleep. 👨👩👦
Sleep has always played an important role in Susanne’s life.
While she’s had trouble falling asleep herself, it’s only when she became a mother that she realised just how significant sleep problems could be - not just for children but for their families as well.
Her oldest son was plagued by sleep problems during the first year and a half of his life, sleeping little and crying a lot.
“This [sleep disturbance] affects your physical and mental health, your relationships, and your work,” says Susanne.
It was still a few years before Susanne took the first steps to train as a sleep coach, but her son’s sleep problems already planted a seed that would grow into a valuable profession.
What is a sleep coach for children?
A sleep coach for children is a professional who helps parents and children create healthy sleep habits.
A good sleep coach provides support for a variety of sleep problems, such as waking up frequently and having difficulty falling asleep.
In general, a distinction is made between two types of sleep problems:
- Sleep problems with underlying medical causes
- Behavioural sleep problems
Susanne only works with families whose children have behavioural sleep problems. ⭐️
In the few cases where she suspects an underlying medical issue, she immediately refers her clients to a doctor or other professional.
Affecting lives and making a difference
Susanne’s work as a child sleep coach has been instrumental in providing support to families struggling with their children’s sleep.
By offering her expertise, she helps families tackle these issues, improving both the child's and their parents' quality of life.
Susanne has noticed that there's increasing attention within healthcare for sleep problems in babies and children - even when the problems do not have a medical cause. 🩺
Fortunately, rising awareness of sleep problems and the work of sleep coaches for children is gradually reducing the stigma surrounding sleep issues in children.
The biggest misconceptions about sleep in children
Although there is increasing openness about sleep problems in babies and children, many parents still believe that these problems are just part of the deal.
As a result, they often turn to Susanne as a last resort.
We asked Susanne about some of the most common misconceptions she encounters in her coaching practice.
- Misconception 1: Parents often believe that a later bedtime results in a later wake-up time. However, the opposite is often true. The later a child goes to bed, the earlier they will wake up in the morning.
- Misconception 2: Parents often think that reducing their child's daytime naps will help them sleep better at night because they will be tired. However, Susanne says that insufficient sleep during the day can cause the body to produce cortisol, a stress-related hormone. Fatigue or over-fatigue can make sleep problems worse. The better rested the child is, the better they sleep.
- Misconception 3: Many parents believe that giving their baby a bottle (or heavy porridge) in the evening will help them sleep. However, this can be counterproductive because the child may experience cramps.
It’s normal for children to wake up during the night.
Young children have a sleep cycle of only 45 minutes, and become fully or partially awake towards the end of this cycle. ⏰
But if children become dependent on their parents to fall asleep again during the day, they will rely on this to fall asleep in the middle of the night.
For example, if you keep putting your baby’s pacifier back into their mouth whenever they wake up, the child will expect you to do the same at night.
In this way, sleep associations become a problem.
Susceptibility to sleep problems
Babies can be full of personality, and it’s interesting to note whether or not certain personality traits make a child more susceptible to sleep problems. 😮
In her practice, Susanne has come across many sensitive, temperamental, or overly alert babies, leading to multiple observations:
- Temperamental babies and young children often scream loudly and are full of energy (at a young age and later in life).
- Children more sensitive to stimuli have a harder time calming down.
- Both alert and overly sensitive children have difficulty blocking out the outside world and relaxing into sleep. A barking dog or even a creaking door can be enough to wake them.
Being aware of a child’s character and personality traits can help Susanne in her coaching.
For example, she may recommend a bath to help more sensitive children switch off, aiding them in falling asleep more quickly. 🛁
The future of sleep coaching for children
Sleep coaching has become more and more popular but, unfortunately, it is not a regulated profession.
This means that many people can start calling themselves sleep coaches without proper training. 😳
Susanne is actively working against this, striving to maintain the quality of her field, working on regulations, and choosing reputable training courses for advanced personal and career development.
But it also means you need to be extra careful in selecting the right sleep coach for your child, and pay attention to qualifications and experience.
Contact Susanne Willekes
Contact: To contact Susanne directly for questions or coaching, please e-mail her at email@example.com, call +31 (0)64 545 2647, or check out her sleep coaching practice, The Sleep Agency. You can also visit The Sleep Agency on Instagram.
Office: The Sleep Agency, De Lairessestraat 52 Huis, 1071 PC Amsterdam, Netherlands