Natalie Pennicotte-CollieR: SLEEP EXPERT

February 22, 2024

Meet Natalie

Sleep health is deeply personal for Natalie Pennicotte-Collier. As a clinical sleep therapist and now an author published by Penguin Books, she has been on a mission to educate on the importance of sleep health, researching behavioural sleep medicine for over a decade. Having suffered from chronic insomnia and poor mental health as a young adult she is highly focused on public sleep education and low-cost mind/body therapeutic interventions. One aspect of sleep she has championed through school roadshows and workshops is that sleep quality and mental health are so closely linked. She shares practical everyday ways we can self-care to protect our sleep, which in turn protects our emotional wellbeing. Diagnosed relatively recently herself as neurodiverse, and with a husband and two children thriving with AuDHD & ASD conditions, she is passionate about sharing the evidence-based therapies and practical ways we can protect our sleep health and wellbeing.

During the pandemic, with her family living in constant, close proximity to each other, her teens’ misophonia became especially pronounced and challenging for her family. The triggering challenges of sounds, noise and music became difficult to manage so Natalie researched ways to cope in lockdown conditions including home schooling and work from home chaos. She discovered that Flare Audio’s in-ear devices and sound diffusing products were a massive help.

Her extensive research and intuitive message that our sleep health really matters attracted media coverage including The Sunday Times and You magazine and she was approached by Penguin Books to share her pioneering work. The result is her first published book, ‘Sleep Reset: The New Tools of Rest and Recovery’ released this February.

Why did you choose to focus on sleep as a subject for research, and make it such a significant part of your work?

Because we finally understand just how crucial sleep is for brain health and emotional wellbeing. My earlier background was in learning and development (L&D) and mental health in high performance sport. Little was known about sleep other than it helps you recover. But it wasn’t seen as the big performance factor that we now understand it to be. In fact, it’s only in the last 15 years that amazing science has shone a light on sleep for recovery and frontline mental health. The whole landscape of mental health and sleep has really changed for the better. In Western medicine we now finally recognise the mind and body are one, connected, and our everyday sleep is pivotal for overall health.

Personally, as a young adult, I had very limited support with my mental health issues, as there was stigma around these issues, and appalling access to care. I suffered insomnia for much of my life, but it really became acute when, as young parents, our baby son Jude (now 12) was diagnosed with a rare and complex spina bifida. That was my black hole and the real catalyst to find an alternative to sleeping pills and unhealthy coping strategies. For anyone to face complex surgery is tough but seeing your infant son undergo 12 hours of complex neurosurgery, followed by months of recovery, operations and procedures, is hellish. I was motivated to find a long-term solution and to protect my own mental health, in the new situation of having two kids. I approached my GP who could only offer me sleeping pills. Naturally, with my own complex emotional needs, I declined and deep dived into the neuroscience of holistic sleep and mindfulness-based interventions, later becoming an associate under Dr Patricia Collard, herself a world-famous psychotherapist, and I developed my own mindfulness-based sleep intervention (MBCT-i), a compassionate drug free approach helping to transform my sleep and overcome insomnia.

Since then, I have built up my private practice MindTonic Sleep consultancy, training GPs and lecturing to share this therapeutic model far and wide. I have been supported by so many brilliant academics in my field, especially Prof. Chris Idzikowski who offered me a lecturing series to continue educating on behavioural sleep. That’s been incredible, getting more students interested in the field of sleep and circadian science for health. In just the past five years so many aspects of sleep have come to the media and the public’s attention, which is amazing. But so much more needs to be done, as the experience of the pandemic shows, when sleep was challenged and lockdowns put pressure on our mental health.

What have you found most fascinating from your “deep dive” into sleep?

Even now two out of three people still experience sleep loss each week. While our physiology hasn’t changed, our fast-paced, tech-driven, artificially lit environment has, and it is having a huge impact. Women are twice as likely to experience insomnia as men and two key stats really stood out: having a neurodiverse profile means you are 40 to 80 percent more likely to have a sleep disorder. And, if you have poor mental health, particularly PTSD, you are 70 to 90 percent more likely to have experienced insomnia or poor sleep patterns, which explains so much of my own sleep challenges as a young adult.

Although alarming, the research really opens up an opportunity to do more and speak to those who really need proven, relatable advice that works. This research is important for my own children, Darcy (almost 14) and Jude. Last year, after a long wait, they were formally diagnosed ASD & AuDHD. This has been amazing in helping with their self-understanding and allowed me to get the right care pathways set up for their education. It has been a battle with the local authorities and, as we know, there has been a huge ADHD national medicine shortage. The upside of those diagnoses is that they explain so much and help with an amazing, supportive dialogue at home. We all have different sensory needs and aspects of our “NeurD” selves.

Aside from understanding our sensory needs and triggers (for which Flare has been game changing – see below), we all have subtly different sleep needs. As my kids are now teens, their body clocks are naturally changing so they are sleeping in later and wanting to go to bed later.

What excites you about your work at the moment?

Things are incredibly energising at the moment in my career. My book made front page of The Sunday Times in February this year and there has been so much interest in sleep health, as well as my approach incorporating breathwork and sleep hypnotherapy techniques. I am grateful for any opportunity to help people sleep better and make insightful, small habit changes that really help you thrive morning to night. Writing the book has taken much of the last few years. ‘Sleep Reset: The New Tools of Rest and Recovery’ is my five-week (or 35 nights) guide to help people turn the tide of their sleep loss. I have been sharing my exact method in private practice, so it’s incredible to hand over this roadmap and easy guide to protect sleep for life.

In my field of behavioural sleep medicine, it’s brilliant that sleep researchers are interested in the relationship between sound and sleep, not just because it’s interesting to look at the sleeping brain, but because the consequences of disturbed sleep, such as poor mental health and burnout, are increasing. Yet we’re also fascinated in how to foster positive cognitive processes during sleep and pre-sleep because it offers a huge window of opportunity for building memory, stress and trauma processing and learning consolidation. The acoustic modulation of sleep is an emerging concept. Sound has such a profound impact on emotions so, depending on our emotional state, I might want to listen to uplifting music while my child might want complete silence.

Sound directly affects your central nervous system and your breathing....

...Furthermore, based on our stress tolerance and emotional state it can subtly change so it’s great to have access to this rich new research and data to find ways to protect our sleep and mental wellbeing.

The years of pandemic and lockdown was a concentrated global sleep study and a huge experiment in how acoustics can either stress or regulate your sleep, wellbeing and relaxation. Being in close proximity with the family, and with limited access to nature, our different needs were amplified. My music tastes are different to my son’s and daughter's. Even the radio and television sounds affected us. The entire range of positive and negative reactions is so nuanced, and everything is so subjective. The pandemic challenged our abilities to express our own needs: “Turn that down”, “No, I want to listen to this this, it makes me happy”, “This is annoying”: invited and uninvited sound is quite different and has such a profound impact on emotions.

This is why I researched Flare Audio - one of their in-ear products is even called Calmer! I discovered them after the first lockdown, trying to find a solution not just for managing sleep but also emotional wellbeing. I try out a huge array of holistic sleep products all the time and these really stood out for me. I have a very sharp ear and can hear a pin drop. I see it in a positive light – it’s my superpower – while, for my husband and children, sound is more of an irritation.

Until recently even misophonia (where sounds or noise can trigger “amplified” deep stress and emotional and/or physical responses) wasn’t widely discussed in public. But the last three years have been transformative in how people can describe their profile. Flare has a whole suite of ear and sound products to allow us to sleep in peace or manage our profile depending on changes in our environment. At different times across the month my daughter prefers full sound blocking after school while my son prefers to just reduce stressful sound levels and wear Flare’s Calmer Kids sound diffuser at school and sometimes at home. We talk about our feelings all the time and discovered that, although we have the same diagnostic label according to the NHS, we all have a unique sensory profile. For example, when travelling and experiencing that “first night effect” I can always travel with my Calmer, which gives me the reassurance that, even if my environment changes across the week, from a conference, to being in clinic, to working from home, the one constant is to manage my modulation of sound. It deeply effects and supports my emotional well-being. Calmer is a low cost, drug free way to support sleep health and energy.

Much like our mental health, our sleep health is on a continuum. We all have unique sound, relaxation and bedtime preferences: it’s really good to home in on this as best we can, to remain in a healthy sleep-wake rhythm. Then we can healthily advocate for our needs at home, in education and in workplaces.

Sleep changes across lifespan and everyone has a different sleep preference in terms of natural rhythm. In sleep science we call this our “chronotype”, which is your unique sleep time preference.

A preference to enjoy mornings, ‘early morningness’, is often called a lark type, while we also have evening or owl types. Many others are entirely neutral over the course of the day. Knowing myself more, and having overcome chronic insomnia, I have better energy in the morning and am one hundred percent a lark, while my teens have very different sleep times, even since they were little: one wakes up two hours earlier than the other, which can have its advantages and downsides.

We all respond to sensory elements differently: some like stories, some like reading, distraction and multi screens just as some like gaming and TV, while others can find those elements disruptive or disturbing. We all have a different sensory profile.

That’s why I am partnered with Flare: in fact I offered my expertise to them as I was such a personal fan of the brand and I will be sharing across the coming months some detailed mini blogs to help us unpack deeper the relationship between our sleep health and wellbeing and practical insight and tips for our sound and sensory sleep health.

Finally, what role does music play in your life?

Ha ha! Music is everything. It’s life, right? As Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers said, “Music is my aeroplane.” I’m 45 this year, grew up with Reggae and Motown. As a teen I lived in Windsor and frequented the infamous House of Windsor club. From the age of 13 I used to ‘jump’ the train (forgive me!) to head up to Elephant and Castle, Strawberry Sundae and Camden Palace in London for the House and Rave scene, Jungle, Techno you name it.

My most memorable music gig was at the age of 18, winning a Radio X comp to see the Stereophonics in San Francisco with my bestie. We were skint as students and only had 48 hours between the free flights home. We got on the tour bus and nearly missed the flight back home. Then, aged 26, I met my future husband at a festival. Back in the Ipod days I even gave birth to the Pretenders and Foo Fighters, much to the NHS widwife’s surprise, as she was used to whale music. But it was essential, as I knew how empowering music is for mood, mind and body. When working from home, including in my career and as I wrote my book, I like to keep curating my musical tastes, switching from Radio 1 to Radio X alongside my playlists.

In the evening, when you’re tired, it’s so easy to get stuck in a “scroll hole” on your devices or enter a distraction phase. As we initiate sleep, we are changing consciousness, so thoughts, self-talk, language and sound really matter: your brain heart and your lungs are always coordinating with your sleep system. In fact they’re your own internal band. These days, my evening and pre-sleep wind-down is such a creative window for brain states and learning memory consolidation.

Things are rapidly changing for the next generation. When I ask psychology students about their listening habits, very few tell me they actively listen to music. They’re not choosing their own music but listen to whatever’s trending on TikTok or small screens. It’s such a shame that everything is automated and taking away our natural choices. I know that in the last 10 minutes before sleep I’m always going to make better choices for myself.


Sleep Reset: The New Tools of Rest and Recovery

By Natalie Pennicotte-Collier,

Penguin Books

Click here to buy

Natalie’s practice |


  • Comfortable and discreet

  • Takes the edge off stressful noises

  • Reduces stress and keeps you calmer

"Love that I can wear them all day in the office without anyone noticing!" - Sebbastian