Stop losing sleep

A sleep doc who’s been there shares three ways she prevents insomnia

Stop losing sleep

Source: Best Health Magazine, Spring 2008

Sleep is vital for good health, but getting enough can be a challenge—even for a sleep expert. “Yes, I too have problems with insomnia,” says Dr. Rachel Morehouse, medical director of the Atlantic Health Sciences Sleep Centre in Saint John, N.B. “It happens only three or four times a year, when I’m really frustrated about something. I get up and do something boring for a while until I get sleepy again.” She also admits to drinking up to 10 cups of coffee a day.

So you know that Morehouse speaks from personal and professional experience when she shares her top sleep strategies.

1. “I give the steak a pass and have the pasta.”

“Generally, carbohydrate-rich foods are more soporific, while foods that contain protein are more alerting,” says Morehouse. Just don’t stuff yourself too close to bedtime. “A big meal before bed encourages heartburn and reflux, isn’t well metabolized and usually leads to weight gain. I try to avoid eating before bed,” she says.

2. “I rest before I get on a plane.”

Don’t wear yourself out before hopping onto that red-eye flight, suggests this lights-out expert. What people often call “jet lag” usually results from trying to finish things up at work or at home, packing at the last minute, and then arriving at their destination totally exhausted. Catching a few zzz’s on the plane can’t really make up for that. If you land somewhere at seven in the morning, but it’s 2 a.m. your time, follow the locals. “Eat, sleep and work as everyone else does in that time zone,” Morehouse suggests. You can also help synchronize your inner clock with exercise and outdoor light.

3. “I close my bedroom closet doors.”

“I will get out of bed to shut them if I forget—I don’t know why,” Morehouse says. The point is, you should respect your sleep quirks. Whether you need to sprinkle lavender on your pillow, listen to a CD of chanting monks or have your bed facing northeast, indulge yourself. Don’t lie there for 30 minutes, wishing it were darker or quieter, or that you had a different pillow. Invest in eyeshades and earplugs—whatever it takes to create your ideal sleep conditions. As for Morehouse, she also likes extra-puffy duvets, and “a little pillow, either under my shoulder, or to cuddle if I roll onto my side."

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