Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night. According to a University of Laval research study, sleep disorders affect approximately 40% of Canadian adults. Most adults need at least 8 hours of sleep per day.

Insomnia is commonly associated with day-time fatigue, brain fog, and under eye bags, however it can also be have a much greater impact on your health. Health issues such as high blood pressure, weight gain, depression and anxiety are linked to sleeplessness. On the other hand, better sleep will improve your immune system, regulate your blood sugar and insulin levels and boost your mood and energy during the day. The equation is simple; improving your sleep will improve your overall health.

Chart Your Sleep Pattern

To determine the pattern of your sleep, keep a sleep journal for a week. In this journal, document your bedtime; the time that it takes for you to fall asleep; the time you wake up in the morning; the number of times you wake up during the night and how you feel in the morning. This type of journal is a sound diagnostic tool to help you take the first steps in determining the type of insomnia you are afflicted with. Take it to your health practitioner who can help you make sense of it and devise a plan to improve your slumber.

Establish a Regular Sleep Schedule

It’s well established in research studies that it is best to go to bed at the same time each night and to wake up at the same time each morning. Keeping a regimented sleep schedule, will help to regulate your sleep-wake cycle or circadian rhythm. Your body produces melatonin in response to darkness. Melatonin, an important component of your sleep-wake cycle, is a hormone and potent antioxidant that induces sleepiness in response to darkness, protects all of your cells and organs from premature ageing and reduces your risk of cancerous tumour growth. Establishing a sleep schedule will help regulate this vital chemical and protect your body from the deleterious effects of poor sleep.

Remove Distractions from the Bedroom

Allow your bedroom to be your sleep sanctuary; the place where you can go to safely unwind from your hectic day. To do this successfully, you’re going to have to leave the tablet, computer, television and smart phone behind. According to one study, the blue wavelengths produced by your gadgets, reduces melatonin production, disrupting your total sleep time. Along with avoiding electronics close to bedtime, ensure that you are sleeping in complete darkness by using blackout curtains or a sleep mask. Depending on your living situation, you may require ear plugs to block out noises and sounds that are beyond your control.

Cut Down on the Cuppa Joe

We all know some people who no matter how much coffee consumed, can fall asleep, no problem. Then you have the individuals who can’t even drink one cup without feeling agitated and on edge for the rest of the day. It’s important to know your limit with respect to this nervous system stimulant. Mainly, I recommend that patients cut out all caffeine consumption after noon. Caffeine disrupts your sleep by spiking your stress hormone, adrenaline, reducing the quality and quantity of your sleep. In fact, it can take up to 6 hours to eliminate ½ of the caffeine from your body so beware.

Blame it on the Alcohol

Alcohol has long been seen as the sleep medication of choice. Although alcohol can do wonders for reducing the time it takes to fall asleep, it will surely have you up before the break of dawn. Alcohol reduces your REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep time and can shorten the duration of your overall sleep, especially in women. It’s also a diuretic, therefore drinking alcohol late at night, may increase your mid-night trips to the washroom. If you must have a glass of wine with your dinner, try limiting your intake to no more than a 5 ounce glass and keep yourself hydrated throughout the day.

Establishing good sleep habits can drastically improve insomnia but you have to spend the time to figure out what works best for you. We are learning more and more about the importance of good sleep everyday. It’s important to do whatever you can to get it.

About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences and in 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

In addition to her private practice, Dr. Rose is the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a mobile service that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination at Toronto fertility clinics. Her special areas of interest include infertility; children and teen health; stress management; weight loss; heart disease; digestive and immune health; skin rejuvenation and pain management. She is a birth doula and has additional training in cosmetic acupuncture and needle-less therapies for skin rejuvenation and joint pain.

Dr. Rose is a sought-after lecturer for community organizations; a freelance writer and mentor to new graduates. She has been interviewed by various media outlets including Global Toronto’s, “The Morning Show”, “News at Noon” and “News Hour”. In her free time, she unplugs at the spa and she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, son and tea-cup Yorkie. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and special events, please visit -