A sleep specialist shares three tips she uses to prevent insomnia.
Sleep is essential for good health, yet it is not a given, even for a sleep specialist. “Yes, I also have insomnia,” admits Dr. Rachel Morehouse, Medical Director of the Atlantic Health Sciences Sleep Centre in Saint John, NB. “It only happens to me three or four times a year, when something is really upsetting me. At those times, I get up and do something boring until I feel the need to sleep again. She also admits to having up to 10 cups of coffee a day.
So you can be sure Rachel Morehouse knows what she’s talking about, both personally and professionally, when she shares her sleep tips.
- “I leave out the ground beef and take the pasta.”
“Carbohydrate foods are generally more soporific than protein foods, which keep you pretty much awake,” she reports. But that’s no reason to overindulge, especially before bedtime. “Heavy meals before bedtime can cause heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux, are not well metabolized and usually lead to weight gain. I avoid eating before bed as much as possible.”
- “I rest before flying.”
If you have to fly at night, avoid exhausting yourself before leaving, advises our expert. Often, the fatigue that people attribute to jet lag is more a result of the energy they have had to devote to completing their various tasks and packing at the last minute, so that they arrive at their destination exhausted. Even when you get some sleep on the plane, you can’t get back the sleep you lost. Also, adapt to the schedule of your destination. “Eat, sleep and work the same hours as those who live in this time zone,” advises Rachel Morehouse. You can also synchronize your biological clock by exercising and exposing yourself to daylight.
- “I close my bedroom closet doors before I go to bed.”
“If I forget, I have to get up to do it,” explains Rachel Morehouse. What she’s trying to emphasize is that you should respect the oddities associated with your sleep. Whether you need to put a little lavender essence on your pillow, listen to monks’ chanting on a CD or turn the head of your bed north, don’t deprive yourself of it. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to sleep because the room is not dark enough, there is too much noise around, or the pillow is not firm enough. Take matters into your own hands: buy yourself a sleeping mask or earplugs, in short, do whatever it takes to give you ideal sleeping conditions. As for Rachel Morehouse, she says she likes ultra-fluffy comforters and a “small pillow that’s either under my shoulder or to hug me if I turn on my side”.