Sleepless nights? Here’s Help


By Dr. Lydia Thurton
September 24th 2014 Edition

As you read this I want you to ask yourself a serious question. Do you sleep well? If it takes you longer than 30 minutes to fall asleep. Or if you get less than six hours per night, more than three times per week, the answer is probably no. Waking up feeling rested and energized is not the reality for up to one third of the population. Here is what I offer some of my most restless patients.

To begin, it is important to actually have a sleep study done. Especially, if you have not slept well in months or years. More and more often obstructive sleep apnea is affecting and disrupting North American adults. Sleep apnea is characterized by excessive snoring or interruptions in breathing, then waking with a snort. It can be helpful to have a partner take note of your breathing pattern while you sleep. With apnea, the airway collapses while you sleep causing you wake with a start. Often people go undiagnosed for years, wondering why they never feel rested. A continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP) can solve this problem by keeping your airway open, ensuring quality sleep.

Quieting your mind is no easy task in this busy society. Constant mental chatter is a sure fire way to ensure sleepless nights. Learning how to silence your mind and exist in the space between thought is a wonderful skill. Albeit, easier said than done. L-theanine and 5-HTP are great supplements that help your mind feel clear and relaxed before bed. Both supplements are safe and non-habit forming. However, do not take 5-HTP if you are on antidepressants.

A strong sedative tea can be great way to get into a deeper state of sleep. Sleep teas are easy to find at any health food store. My trick is to make a very strong brew. Throw three tea bags into two litres of water, boil and steep over night. Put the liquid into a juice jug and store in your fridge. Have a cup before bed. Instead of steeping your sleep tea for five minutes in a single mug, brew it for eight hours in a pot and make a much stronger infusion. Significantly more effective! Look for a tea with valerian, lemon balm, hops, chamomile and skullcap.

While some cannot quiet their minds, others have restless and tense bodies. Magnesium combined with an amino acid called GABA can help muscles feel ready to drift off to dream land. GABA is a neurotransmitter that your body uses to tell itself to calm down. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant. Magnesium taurate and glycinate are the highest quality forms. However a nice powdered magnesium citrate can work wonders as well.

Many of these techniques can also help children sleep well. Your naturopathic doctor will have to tailor the doses to a smaller body.

Sleep is very much a pattern. Usually 10 days of good quality sleep in a row can reset your internal clock and get you back on track. Sweet dreams! And do not forget to always consult a health care provider before starting new supplements and herbs.


  1. It has been reported that 40% of Canadians have a sleep disorder which can include snoring and sleep apnea. There are 3 types of sleep apnea – Obstructive Sleep Apnea where there is a partial closure of the upper airway; Central Sleep Apnea where there is not a proper signal to breathe from the central nervous system; and Mixed Sleep Apnea which is a combination of the previous two types.

    Some of the common symptoms with obstructive sleep apnea include having difficulty getting to sleep and night, difficulty staying asleep, waking up from sleep often to visit the washroom, being tired during the day, and memory issues.

    People with this condition should also be on the lookout for longer term health conditions such as hypertension and heart disease.

    Sleep apnea can only be diagnosed by a medical doctor. After a sleep test a sleep specialist who is an MD will determine whether a person has the medical condition called sleep apnea.

    While a CPAP machine is often recommended, some patients are CPAP intolelant because they have a difficult time getting to sleep each night. Some common issues patients have is the challenge associated with wearing the CPAP mask, the loud sound of the machine, and the restricted positions a person can sleep in while having the mask attached to the machine with a hose.

    A CPAP alternative is a special type of custom mouth guard a sleep apnea dentist can create for a patient with mild to moderate levels of obstructive sleep apnea. This oral appliance gently re-positions the jaw of the patient to increase airflow into the lings during sleep.


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