Med One to One Winter/Spring 2023 ISSUE 74

The Secret to Better Sleep

Written By: LuLu Mecham

Irecently had a coworker vent about their lack of sleep, and I was surprised by how excited I was to share some sleeping tips I’ve discovered over my lifetime. While achieving healthy sleeping patterns is something I’ve worked toward with the help of medical professionals, I’ve also integrated some personal habits that I believe have helped. The mixture of professional help and changes in behavior patterns have made a world of difference in my life, and I think getting better sleep is definitely something we can all benefit from.

To provide some background, I have been a bad sleeper since I was young. As a child, I was easily awoken, it took hours to fall asleep, and there were several nights I just didn’t find sleep at all. I still have the dark circles to prove it! My parents tried everything, and despite trying over the counter and prescription medications, meditation, rigorous exercise, etc., there never seemed to be any respite from my lack of sleep. It wasn’t until I was well into adulthood that I dove deep and discovered the secrets to sleeping better. Of course, these are not fix-alls for everyone, but they are either backed by scientific research to aid in sleeping, or they are habits I personally think helped me reach that elusive REM cycle.

routine Creating a nighttime routine will play a huge role in your quality of sleep. I would say this made the biggest difference in helping to fall asleep faster, but it takes a lot of time and consistency. Try developing a routine that you can do each night, starting at the same time. Your routine should be around 30-60 minutes and can include anything that helps you relax.

I’ve found that many effective routines revolve around senses and may contain some elementof cleansing (brushing teeth, skin care, a warm bath, etc.), quiet, slow sounds or complete lack of sounds, no phones or other screens, dim lights or darkness, breathing or meditative exercises, and a light beverage or snack. Choose whatever you’d like, but experiment with what calms you, and create a simple routine to complete before you close your eyes for bed, and do that same routine every night. My favorite part of my bedtime routine is the very last step before I sleep. I use a heated eye mask for ten minutes, and a lot of the time I will be asleep before the ten minutes is over. You can find heated eye masks at your optometrist’s office (be sure to check with your optometrist before using). These are especially helpful if you use screens throughout the day or if you have dry eyes.


health Although I had met with doctors for decades, one doctor I met with a few years ago was able to stumble upon a very slight imbalance in my blood tests. A few weeks after beginning treatment for the imbalance, I went from a very, very light sleeper to someone who can experience normal noises or interruptions and remain sleeping. While it was still a struggle to fall asleep (the routine helped the most with that part), I could stay asleep much better.

If sleep is something that eludes you, meet with your doctor and discuss symptoms and possible tests to determine if an anomaly in your health could be a factor. If you feel like something is wrong, seek second opinions and advocate for yourself when meeting with your medical provider.

diet If you have an unknown sensitivity or allergy to a certain food, this could be what is keeping you awake. Many list symptoms such as heartburn, indigestion, nausea, stomachache, irregular bowel movements, and other digestive health issues as interrupters of sleep. Take an inventory of the kinds of foods you’re eating and consider an allergy test. There may be a pattern to restless nights depending on the food you’re eating during the day—especially if you are experiencing digestion-related symptoms.

activity Get your body tired. I used to overcomplicate this and dreaded rigorous exercise or going to the gym. Although those are great habits for healthy living in general, for sleep, it can be much simpler. Simple habits like going on a short walk each day or spending more time standing rather than sitting can make falling asleep much faster. I recently made the career change from a high school teacher to the mostly desk-job I have now. I began to notice a few small changes, and one of them was that I wasn’t falling asleep as quickly. It wasn’t a huge difference, but it was noticeable. I realized that I went from a fairly active job with lots of standing, to a sedentary day. I now have a standing desk and have lengthened my walks a little, and it’s already made a difference in my sleep.

listen to your body When you get tired at night, go to sleep! Many of us get caught up in a TV show or FOMO with friends and avoid going to sleep even when we are struggling to keep our eyelids open. Having a routine will make listening to your body a lot easier, but it’s also important to learn to prioritize a healthy schedule that includes rest and sleep. Learn to listen to your body when you are tired, and just hit the sack. Fighting through your exhaustion can make for more sleepless nights in the future.

These tips may all be easier said than done, especially with work and family demands. But when you consider that healthy sleep habits help boost your immune system, regulate emotions, assist in weight management, prevent diseases, reduce anxiety, and many more benefits, it’s worth it to work on getting the rest you need.