Sarah Moe was on a path to the career and life she imagined for herself when something unexpected happened. “You’re in the wrong room,” her college professor called out in front of the class. There weren’t many people of color at the small-town Wisconsin university where Sarah was studying elementary education and she was the only one in class that day. All eyes were on her as the instructor asked to see her schedule. When Sarah provided proof that she belonged in the advanced English course, the professor still wasn’t satisfied. She asked to see Sarah’s student identification. Sarah shuffled through her bag and fought back tears as she handed over her ID. Finally, the professor relented, gave her the course materials, and told her to sit down.
The instructor didn’t acknowledge that she’d humiliated Sarah or even apologize. Sarah’s head swirled as she tried to understand what had happened. She thought about the hockey jersey she wore to class—was it too casual? She knew it wasn’t. Others were dressed casually and no one else’s presence was questioned. She’d been singled out because the professor thought she didn’t look like she belonged in her advanced class. Not only did the exchange make Sarah uncomfortable, she felt truly unwelcome.
Sarah left the university and returned home to Minnesota. She began to rethink her plan to become an elementary school educator. While her early college experience had a profound impact on her life, she wasn’t about to let it define her. She considered her interest in health sciences. A medical career became more appealing to Sarah as she thought about the possibility of working nights. While sleep was a nighttime ritual for most, her personal experience was different. Her dad had slept during the day and worked the overnight shift at a local newspaper when Sarah was growing up, and she’d always been a night owl herself.
As Sarah explored medical career options, she learned about the field of sleep study. She took a course on the subject and was hooked from the get-go. Learning the science of sleep opened Sarah’s eyes to a whole new world. She went on to pursue an education in sleep study and got licensed in polysomnography. Sarah had found her new career path.
For several years, Sarah worked overnights conducting sleep studies with individuals in a clinical setting. She loved working one-on-one with patients, educating them about sleep health and seeing the dramatic shift in their well-being. Some even burst into tears of joy when they awoke in the morning after using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine for the first time. She found her job extremely fulfilling—she could have an immediate impact on her patient’s quality of life.
Outside of her work at the sleep clinic, Sarah was getting a lot of questions about sleep medicine—mostly inquiries about what to do for fatigue. She often wondered why, since one-third of a human’s life is spent asleep, sleep health wasn’t taught in school the same way nutrition and exercise was. She’d been teaching sleep study courses at a local college and began to think about how she could share her knowledge with the masses. That led her to create a business model that would enable her to deliver sleep health education to a broader audience.
Sarah launched her business, Sleep Health Specialists, in 2015. Her aha moment came when she realized there was an opportunity to partner with business owners and corporations to educate the workforce about sleep health. Through customized lunch-and-learns, classes, and seminars, Sarah shares her expertise on all aspects of sleep. She also conducts assessments on the sleep status of teams and team members within organizations and provides implementable action plans to improve sleep quality and produce immediate positive results. Ultimately, Sarah shows companies how well-rested employees are healthier, happier, and more productive, which positively impacts the organization’s bottom line.
Today, Sarah couldn’t be happier with where her career path has taken her and believes it was diverted away from elementary education for a reason. She has found her true calling.
To learn more about Sarah’s business, visit SleepHS.com.
Photo: Kate Pearson-Halyburton for My Founder Story
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