How to Fix Your Sleep Schedule: The Advice Column by DD

Dr. Angela Holliday-Bell is here to share with our readers how to fix your sleep as a post-grad (or at any age) in this week's advice column as a certified sleep specialist. She is the first doctor we have had on The Advice Column by DD, and we could not think of a more critical and universal topic with a more fabulous guest.

College ruined any sleep schedule I had. Period. So, now as a recent post-grad and young professional, I find myself running on coffee and the occasional nap. Sound like you, too? If not, congrats. If so, keep reading to find out how to fix your sleep schedule, because guess what, it is possible, and it is not as difficult as you may think. Who taught me that? Dr. Angela Holliday-Bell, who is also known as @thesleep_md. She's an icon whose lack of sleep and sleep schedule during medical school influenced her certification as a Clinical Sleep Health Specialist. This interview is full of life-changing information (I know I will be implementing it as a constantly tired 23-year-old.)


DD: Introduce yourself to our Dear Diary readers.


Dr. Holliday-Bell: “I’m Dr. Holliday-Bell, a Board Certified Pediatrician and Certified Clinical Sleep Health Specialist. I’m originally from the Chicago area but now reside and practice in the Washington DC Metro area. I completed my training in Illinois at the University of Illinois for undergrad and medical school.”


DD: How did you become interested in sleep and become a certified sleep specialist?


Dr. Holliday-Bell: “I have always had a deep personal love for sleep and have always needed a lot of it. As I went through my medical training, I started to suffer from insomnia and saw the negative toll it was taking on my physical and mental health and knew that I had to correct it. I started to do my own research and study the importance of sleep and how to cure insomnia. I began to apply what I learned to my sleep and saw a significant difference in my life. I then started to work in the sleep medicine clinic in my hospital to gain more experience with pediatric sleep issues. Along the way, I would have multiple family members, friends, and patients come to me with sleep issues, and I realized that it was a much bigger issue than I thought.”


DD: What is the origin story of your blog, The Solution is Sleep, and becoming the @thesleep_md on Instagram?


Dr. Holliday-Bell: “From that point, I knew it was important to share the information I learned and help everyone live healthier lives through better sleep. So I started my blog www.thesolutionisleep.com to help spread information to the masses. After I saw how much I could help other people, I decided to make it an official part of my career and become certified as a sleep specialist to help more people with more complicated sleep issues. I started my Instagram @thesleep_md for the same reason, but I also wanted to reach people who might not otherwise seek help for their sleep issues. With my social media platform(s), I can meet people where they are and provide education while also providing a glimpse into my personal life.”


DD: What is the biggest mistake that people make with their sleeping habits?


Dr. Holliday-Bell: “People's biggest mistake when it comes to sleep habits is not keeping a consistent bed/wake time. Many of us have a consistent schedule when it comes to the weekday, usually due to work, but we tend to go to sleep much later and wake up later too on the weekends. This makes it much harder to transition to earlier sleep and wake times during the week and is essentially equivalent to recovering from jet lag every week. So one of the best things you can do for your sleep is keeping a consistent bed and wake time within 1 hour each day.”


DD: How can someone improve their sleep schedule?


Dr. Holliday-Bell: “The most significant way to improve sleep health is to start by prioritizing your sleep. Too many people leave rest as a last-minute thing that they do at the end of the night and expect it will go well. And while that might be okay for some, it leads to frustrating nights of restless sleep for many. The next thing is to keep a consistent bed/wake time as above. You should also use your bed for rest (and sex) only to not water down the association your mind has with your bed and sleep. I also recommend creating a sleep-inducing environment with a nice comfy bed and bedroom. I recommend using blackout curtains and/or a sleep mask to drown out ambient light and a sound machine to drown out ambient noises that might interfere with your sleep.”


DD: What advice do you wish you would have known (about life and sleep) as a post-grad?


Dr. Holliday-Bell: “I wish I would have known just how important sleep was for every facet of my health. I knew that sleep was important to help you feel rested, but I didn't know that every part of my health would be negatively affected by poor sleep. I didn't realize that I would not remember as much, perform as efficiently or learn as well if I didn't get good sleep. I also wish I knew that poor sleep would strain my relationships because it was harder to regulate my emotions and become depressed or anxious. I wish I would've known that I was increasing my risk of cardiovascular disease and weight gain just by skimping on my sleep. If I had known these things, I would have put in the work to fix my sleep long before I did.”


DD: Where can our readers find more information about your blog?


Dr. Holliday-Bell: “Your readers can visit my website www.thesolutionissleep.com to read my blog and learn more about the services I offer if they need help fixing their sleep.”


DD: Now, for our final question of each interview, what now?


Dr. Holliday-Bell: “The sky's the limit when it comes to sleep health! I plan on writing more and participating in more panels/conferences to help educate people on the importance of sleep. I plan to offer my services to a broader range of people and get people to live happier and healthier lives one consultation at a time. I also plan to use my platform to highlight racial disparities when sleep issues/disorders to help narrow the gap when it comes to sleep health.”


XO