Healthy sleep is a fundamental requirement for a healthy body and mind. Without proper rest our energy and mood can suffer and poor sleep can contribute to a whole host of health concerns.
If you suffer from insomnia, it could mean that you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or waking too early, unable to fall back to sleep. You may also still feel tired when you wake up.
It would be nice to have a pill that would fix everything and if the insomnia is of the “every so often” variety there are certainly natural supplements that can help you sleep.
If it's a longer term problem however, we need a more holistic approach. In addition to proper sleep hygiene (a bedroom and sleep routine that sets you up for healthy sleep), I suggest looking at what you do in the daytime as well as at bedtime.
This is a big one. Stressful thoughts can keep us from falling asleep and it is the generally anxious people who I see that are often tossing and turning and waking up frequently at night. If your want to have a good night you need to keep your nervous system calm in the day. Deep slow breathing exercises is one tool that I teach people to help manage their stress. It's a great tool to use before bed but adding some deep breathing in the morning can help get on top of stress during the day, which might lead to a better night.
Exercise can be a great way to manage stress and many people tell me that they sleep much better when they get regular exercise. High intensity exercise too close to bed time however, may have the opposite effect and negatively impact the quantity or quality of sleep, so experiment with the timing of your exercise routine and find what works best for you.
Food and Drink:
What and when you eat and drink can also affect your sleep. Caffeine is a good example here. Many people know that if they consume caffeine too close to bed time, they will sleep poorly. However some people are so sensitive to caffeine that consuming too much at any time of day will impact anxiety and sleep. Sometimes I suggest to patients that they temporarily ween (so less chance of a headache!) off caffeine to see what their baseline is without it.
Despite the fact that alcohol can have an initial sedative effect, drinking too much and too often has been linked to poorer sleep quality and quantity. Alcohol can also exacerbate sleep apnea.
In regards to diet, I've consistently observed that my patients sleep better when they have well-managed, even blood sugar. I'm not just talking about people with diabetes, this applies to everyone. That late night bowl of cereal or bag of chips might be doing more than adding inches to your waistline. It may be causing a sugar rush and subsequent crash that either prevents you from falling asleep or wakes you from sleep during the night. Avoid sugary foods and refined carbohydrates (especially before bed) and consume regular meals that include tons of veggies as well as protein, good fat and fibre to regulate blood sugar.
Chat with your doctor:
There are many other aspects of health that could be impacting your sleep. For example chronic pain, sleep apnea, certain medications and hormones imbalance (sleep issues in perimenopause are very common). A conversation with your doctor or naturopathic doctor may help you to identify other areas that could be contributing to poor sleep.
Dr. Alexis Blanks is a naturopathic doctor. She is co-owner of Flourish Naturopathic. She would be happy to see you virtually, or in her office to help you better understand your health and take it to the next level. Learn more at