Insomnia Got Your Down? Tips For A Better Quality Sleep


With the longer days in the summer we tend to go to bed a little later and wake up with the sun a little earlier. That doesn’t mean that the time you do sleep has to be compromised! A good quality sleep is essential to maintaining good health. Take it from Kirk Parsley in this TED Talk. Sleep is when we do a lot of detoxifying, when our stress hormone cortisol decreases, when we repair our tissues and so much more. We are more productive and alert after a good night sleep therefore more effective throughout the day. 

So how do we get more sleep? Here are some simple tips to help you. 

Lifestyle Tips:

  1. Stick with a routine - I say it time after time that our body loves routine. We end up with a better quality sleep when our body knows around when to shut down and when to wake up. There are several sleep cycles we go through during a night and with a good routine our body will naturally come out of the sleep cycle when needed, instead of jolting awake in the middle of a deep sleep. 
  2. Bedtime routine - Melatonin production increases in the evening to help you fall asleep. Blue light from screens (ie. TVs, iPads, cell phones) block melatonin production therefore impeding the onset of sleep. Try to turn off all electronics a half hour before bed or if really necessary use an app such as f.lux to eliminate the blue light. Do a little reading right before bed, spend time with your partner or take a bath with some calming essential oils such as lavender. 
  3. Leave the bedroom for sleep and sex - Are you working in bed up until you go to sleep? Watching tv? Is your bed a playground for pets and children? If you struggle with sleep try to maintain your bedroom as a sort of sanctuary and don’t bring in things you don’t need. Leave your phone outside the room, light a candle before bed, and try to avoid distractions in bed such as pets crawling around. 

Food as Medicine:

  1. Avoid coffee in the afternoon - Caffeine has a half life of about 6 hours. Therefore the extra coffee to get you through the afternoon slump may affect your sleep later on. That goes for pop and caffeinated tea as well. 
  2. Have a tsp of raw honey before bed - Raw or unpasteurized honey is a great source of tryptophan. The tryptophan then gets converted to serotonin and melatonin in the brain to help calm the mind and trigger sleep. It also helps maintain liver glycogen levels which the brain relies on throughout the night for energy. If you wake up around 1-3am your liver may be struggling to provide glycogen therefore this may be a good trick for you. 


  1. Magnesium - This is a very common deficiency as it is difficult to get a lot from our diet. Magnesium has been shown to have a calming effect on our nervous system and relaxes our muscles priming us to relax. I recommend 200-400mg of magnesium bis-glycinate to start before bed. 
  2. Nervine herbs - Some of my favourite calming herbs are chamomile, passionflower and valerian. Combined in a sleepy-time tea is a great tool to use if you struggle with sleep and something I often do for my patients.
  3. Melatonin - As your cortisol decreases throughout the day, melatonin starts to increase peaking during the night. It is more likely helpful for those who have low melatonin levels (something that can be tested for). I recommend starting with 0.5-3mg a half hour before bed. Many people find lower doses more sedating than higher doses and cause less dependence. 

If you are struggling with sleep, start with these simple tips but I am always here to help to discover the root cause of your sleep issues! 

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen

Sticking to those New Years goals

Happy first snow day of 2016!! Are you as excited to see the snow as I am? 

Below are little reminders of tips I mentioned over the past year to help you stay motivated, remain on track with your goals and ultimate climb higher on the mountain that is life. 


On December 31st many of us set intentions for the New Year. These could be to loose weight, decrease stress, or accomplish something big at work. How quickly do we loose track of these resolutions because life gets in the way? It is important to dream big, but in order to be successful at achieving our goals and avoid defeat, we need accountability and simple steps to take to keep us on track. Here are 7 steps I suggest:

  1. Break goals down: Goals that are too big to achieve all at once can overwhelm us, leading to a higher chance of failure. I find that breaking them down into more achievable goals is key. For example, if your goal is to loose 15lbs by the summer, break it down into 5lb increments and work towards that every 2 months. Or even smaller if needed.
  2. Set positive intentions daily: Expanding from the last point, setting intentions every morning, whether it be eat your greens or thank someone today, provides motivation and focus for the day and ultimately decreases stress and improves mood. Try the 5-minute journal.
  3. 5-minute meditation: Meditation has been proven to the decrease the stress hormone cortisol, decrease blood pressure and improve sleep, among other things. It will ultimately make you more productive and closer to your goals. Try headspace, calm app or simple start by listening to a song you love and try to remain present. 
  4. Drink lemon water: If weight loss or proper digestion is a goal this year, warm water with lemon in the morning will stimulate digestion and improve liver function, prepping your body for the day.
  5. Sleep: Sleep is one thing that tends to suffer, the busier life is. Sleep is when we detox, repair tissues and eliminate toxins. Lack of sleep decreases immune function, increases cortisol and increases anxiety/inflammation. Aim for 7 hours of sleep a night. Try lavender essential oil or turning off electronics an hour before bed. 
  6. Write things down: We are always more accountable when things are written down. I was taught to create to-do lists for everything! It always feels good to cross something off the list, knowing you are closer to your goals. This goes for resolutions, what you want in life, or your daily tasks.
  7. Seek advice: Finally, if you need support or accountability, please reach out. There are a variety of services available to you and people happy to help. I am one of them :)

In health & happiness, 

Dr. Karen

(Photo credit:

From Around the Web

1. For the foodies in the HRM - many options to enjoy great local food!

2. A step in the right direction in terms of research for Naturopathic Medicine.

3. Phytoplankton - the newest superfood? Let me know what you think.

4. Stuck in a weight rut with hypothyroidism? Read this blog post for help. (Good tips for w eight loss in general.)

5. Craving vegetable coconut curry? Look no further. 

6. Why I always stress the important of sleep - check out this infographic

7. Dreaming of summer...this recipe gets me more excited!

8. Struggling with "IBS"? It might be more than that. This is a great article written about SIBO by my colleague and friend. 

9. An intro to chakras and how to balance them with yoga.   

In health & happiness,

Dr. Karen