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Headaches - When to see your doctor

Headaches: When to see your doctor

A headache; pain in the cranium or head.

Who has not had a headache at one time or another? Such is the range and variety of these aches that they need to be qualified and quantified to determine cause and treatment.

  • Are they occasional or chronic?
  • How long do they last?
  • What is their intensity?
  • What seems to initiate them?
  • Where are they located?
  • Are they accompanied by other signs or symptoms?
  • What if anything brings relief?
  • Is there psychological or emotional stress involved?

Structure of the head

The cranium (skull) is composed of bone, muscle, fascia, blood vessels and nerves, as is the rest of the body. It has the added components of the cerebrospinal fluid in which floats the brain, and the special senses of sight, taste, smell and sound.

Do you need to see a doctor?

If a headache is the result of a pathological/medical problem then, undoubtedly a physician needs to be consulted.

Depending on the biochemical imbalance involved, another type of alternative practitioner such as a naturopath or homeopath might be consulted.

An osteopath can of course work in tandem with any of the above practitioners especially if the causes are complicated.

Osteopathy is a complete system of manual therapy medicine which always attempts to get past a symptom, such as a headache, to an underlying cause.

With an assessment, the osteopath will determine if a headache is a biomechanical or biochemical problem or a mixture of both. A structural assessment will help to determine if the cause is mechanical.

An evaluation of the viscera (the organs) will assist in determining if there is a body chemistry problem, and a craniosacral assessment will help in determining if the problem is related to the central nervous system.

Tension headaches

These seem to be most common and result from misalignment of the structure(s) of the body. This then creates stress, tension or pull on any tissue level; bone, muscle, circulation, fascia and nerve either in or outside the central nervous system.

Remember, nerves are always involved – if we didn’t have nerves we wouldn’t feel anything. The question is whether it is the neural tissue itself or an agent acting on it.

Common causes of structural headaches are tension and stress, poor posture, misalignment and, in today’s world, the repeated strain of sitting incorrectly at a computer all day.


Migraines are also fairly common and can be quite incapacitating and complicated. With migraines, there is a biochemical component involved in addition to which, neurological and biomechanical factors can be part of the profile. Hormonal contributions are not infrequent.

Head trauma

Then there is just hitting your head and ending up with a painful bump. More serious are concussions and damage to the brain or its circulatory system, all of which must be checked medically.

If you would like to know more about when to seek medical advice for headaches, book a complimentary meet and greet with me.


This article in not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Now I would like to hear from you. Do you suffer from Headaches? What have you tried to help your symptoms? Let us know in the comments below.

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Not All Headaches are Created Equally: Categorizing Headaches

Not All Headaches are Created Equally: Categorizing Headaches

Most have us have suffered a headache or two in our lifetime. Some sever, some mild, some that lasted 2 days, some that lasted an hour, some that may have been pounding, and some that may have made you feel sick to your stomach. Whatever symptoms of a headache you have or have had, they often get in the way of our activities of daily living and can be quite debilitating.

It is important to know that not all headaches are the same and are unique to each individual. Understanding different types of headaches and how they are classified, may help you better understand how to cope with symptoms better or allow you to help someone who is suffering.

Although a lot of research has been done on headaches, we still do not know the exact causes and reasons for certain headaches. We can however, classify headaches into one of 4 categories. Does your headache seem to fall into one of these categories?

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches usually result in a pressure like pain on both sides of the head, usually in the temples, forehead or back of the neck. Stress can be a trigger of this headache but there are usually no warning signs. It can start mild and gradually get worse as the day or night progresses.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are the most un-common form of headache. They occur in under 1% of the population and are more common in males. These headaches can be very sever and debilitating. Cluster headaches can occur for weeks and usually cause intense pain behind the eye. The cause is unknown however they usually result in runny nose and watery eyes.

Migraine without Aura (Classic Migraine)

This is what we consider a typical migraine that results in a pulsing/ pounding pain on one or both sides of your head (usually temple). Nausea is often associated with migraines although most people do not vomit. People who suffer from migraines are sometimes unable to perform activities of daily living due to their intensity. Lights and sounds often make the headache worse.

Migraine with Aura

Aura is the sensation or feeling you may have before a migraine. It may alert you that one is coming. Symptoms of a migraine with aura may seem similar to those of a stroke so it is important you talk to your doctor about it if you are experiencing this. For example, flashing lights, blurred vision, blind spots, speech difficulty and altered smell are considered aura.

Headaches can be very serious and should not be ignored. It is advised that if you are having the “ worst headache ever”, you should seek immediate medical help. It is also possible to have headaches that are not classified as one in the above categories. Trauma, concussions, infection, dehydration, and allergic reactions are just some reasons that you may also experience headaches. Headaches are never “normal” and should not have to be something you deal with on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.

Many forms of alternative medicine can help you with your migraine symptoms. Here at Ottawa Holistic Wellness, we have many experienced therapists who can help you prevent, resolve, or alleviate headaches. For example, acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, osteopathy, and allergy treatment may help.


This article in not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Now I would like to hear from you. Do you suffer from Headaches? What have you tried to help your symptoms? Let us know in the comments below.

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3 Surprising Causes of Chronic Headaches and How To Cure Them Naturally

3 Surprising Causes of Chronic Headaches and How To Cure Them Naturally

Approximately 8 percent of Canadians suffer from chronic headaches each year. That equates to 76,000 people in Ottawa. I have been lucky so far that I count the number of times I have had a severe headache on one hand. I have however seen many clients who have not been so fortunate who have suffered headaches everyday for sometimes years. There are many causes of chronic headaches that I could cover however in this article I want to describe some less well-known causes that I see in my functional medicine practice and how to get rid of them naturally.

1. Histamine Intolerance

Histamine is a chemical produced by your immune system when you are exposed to an allergen, such as grass pollens.

People with histamine intolerance become oversensitive to histamine due to an excess buildup in their bodies.

The most common reason for this build up is through the presence of gut infections including Parasites and SIBO.

Infections in your gut stimulate the production of histamine which then spreads throughout the body. Moreover, if you consume foods that are high in histamines, such as fermented foods, reheated meat, and tomatoes, this will further increase levels and worsen symptoms.

One of the most usual symptoms of histamine intolerance is chronic headaches. Other typical symptoms include anxiety, dizziness, heartburn, and hives.

If you suspect that histamine intolerance is the cause of your headaches I suggest the following steps:

  1. Cut down on your consumption of high histamine foods.
  2. If you feel better removing these foods then seek out a functional medicine practitioner or naturopathic doctor who is experienced in dealing with Histamine Intolerance and in particular identifying and treating SIBO and Parasite infection

2. Low Thyroid Function

One of the less well-known symptoms of low thyroid function is morning headaches. Other symptoms of low thyroid include fatigue, dry skin, hair loss, brittle nails and cold intolerance.

Low thyroid function is more common in women than men. The most common causes of low thyroid I see in my practice are Hashimoto’s Disease and SIBO.

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune condition that is often triggered by gluten and or casein (a protein found in dairy).

Low thyroid is often poorly diagnosed by doctors due to poor interpretation of blood test markers. If you suspect that low thyroid function might be the cause of your headaches I suggest the following action steps:

  1. Consult your family doctor and ask them to run a full thyroid panel. A full thyroid panel should include TSH, Free T4, Free T3, and Thyroid Peroxidase and Thyroglobulin antibodies. If your doctor is reluctant to run the full panel, then seek out a naturopathic doctor who can order these tests for a fee.
  2. If your doctor says your results appear within normal ranges, then find a Functional Medicine Doctor or Naturopathic Doctor, who are trained to look at thyroid blood markers from a more optimal perspective. If they see any abnormalities, they will then help you find the root of the problem.
  3. If you are unable to do either of the above, I suggest removing both gluten and dairy from your diet for two weeks to see if your symptoms resolve. If avoiding dairy and gluten helps you can try reintroducing each food on at a time to find out which foods trigger your symptoms.

3. Barometric Pressure Changes

If you live in Ottawa, you will be well aware that the weather can be very changeable and with this will come huge swings in barometric pressure.

For most people, this is just a way life, but for others, these swings in pressure can bring on headaches. Currently, there is no scientifically validated reason for people reacting to pressure changes.

That being said in my experience of treating people with weather-related headaches in the majority of cases there was an emotionally traumatic event that preceded the onset.

For example, one client developed headaches after a very stressful week at work during which there had been several thunderstorms over Ottawa.

If you suspect that your chronic headaches are triggered by barometric pressure changes I suggest the following steps:

  1. Think back to when you were first starting getting the headaches and try and remember what was going on in your life at that time and whether the weather was particularly changeable.
  2. If the answer is yes, then I suggest that your body has been conditioned to react to pressure changes, and I recommend you investigate some therapies that I have found useful in dealing with such issues. These treatments include Emotional Freedom Technique, Hypnotherapy and Natural Allergy Therapy.


This article in not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Now I would like to hear from you. Do you suffer from Headachese? What have you tried to help your symptoms? Let us know in the comments below.

Like what you’ve read? Sign up for FREE updates delivered to your inbox.

By submitting this form, you are granting: Ottawa Holistic Wellness, 356 MacLaren Street, Ottawa, ON, K2P 0M6, permission to email you. You may unsubscribe via the link found at the bottom of every email. (See our Email Privacy Policy (http://constantcontact.com/legal/privacy-statement) for details.) Emails are serviced by Constant Contact.
6 Nutrients To Help You Sleep

6 Nutrients To Help You Sleep

There are many nutrients which are essential for us to get a good nights’ sleep.

Some of these are:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamin B
  • Vitamin D
  • Amino acids

Often we eat poor diets, on top of which, if you have allergies and sensitivities to foods you will not digest these foods and absorb the available nutrients efficiently.

Magnesium and Calcium

A lack of these two nutrients can lead to muscular cramps, or ‘charlie horse’, in calves and feet, and restless legs. They also play a part in having a calm mind.

Most North Americans are deficient in magnesium, and you can ask your family doctor to test for this in your annual blood work.

It is always best to get your nutrition from ‘real food’, however, this is not always possible, and there are various nutritional supplements on the market that provide these two essential minerals. Choose magnesium as glycinate or dermal spray (skin) application and calcium as citrate. These forms are easy to absorb.

Foods that will provide calcium and magnesium include

Nut: – walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, brazil nuts

Seeds: however- pumpkin seeds, pine nuts, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, chia seeds

Bananas, avocado, dark leafy green vegetables and dark chocolate

Milk products will provide. However, they can cause restlessness and insomnia.

Vitamin D

There is research that shows Vitamin D to be essential for good sleep. OHIP no longer tests for this as it considers us all to be deficient. You can ask your doctor to check your level; it costs around $35.

It is safe for most adults to take 1 – 3000 iu daily and a blood level between 150 and 200 is sufficient. Liquid supplements that are absorbed in the mouth are the best way to increase your D levels as they are readily absorbed. Take them in the morning as they may keep you awake if taken at night.

Vitamin B

B vitamins are mostly found in fish, eggs and meat along with milk products. In particular, Vitamin B12 only comes from animal sources and foods that have been artificially fortified. If you take a supplement, it should also be taken in the morning as taking it at night may keep you awake.

Amino acids – the building blocks of protein

Several of these are essential for sleep. You will need to speak with a health care practitioner to determine which, if any, of these, may be playing a part in your insomnia.

Another cause of insomnia is going to bed hungry, with low blood sugar. Make sure to eat enough during the day, having your last full meal at least 2 hours before going to bed. You can also have a small snack 30 minutes before bed.

Melatonin as a sleep aid

If you are having problems falling asleep taking 0.3 – 5mg of melatonin an hour before bed can be helpful. It is a natural chemical produced in our bodies that tell our brain to prepare for sleep. Start with the lowest dose and monitor its effectiveness. It should be discontinued once you have created a habit of falling asleep more quickly.

Want to find out if you have deficiencies?

Your family doctor can test for most of these nutrients. However, the level that is considered ‘within normal range’ by them may well be very sub-optimal as the reference range is quite wide. A visit to a naturopathic doctor or functional medicine practitioner will provide you with more information.


How Cranial Osteopathy Can Help Insomnia

How Cranial Osteopathy Can Help Insomnia

Most of the time sleeping disturbances such as insomnia are related to issues in the neuro-vegetative system. They may also be due to anxiety, tightness in the body and to vascular issues.

The two components of the neuro-vegetative system are the parasympathetic and sympathetic systems. These two systems manage the unconscious activities in the body, such as heartbeat, muscular contraction, digestion, etc. and also, importantly, rest.

You can easily imagine that if you have tightness in your body, the correct information cannot reach the different organs.

The spine is directly related to the nervous system. We can address the problems using the diverse range of osteopathic techniques – energetic, soft tissue and adjustments.

Cranial Osteopathy and Insomnia

In particular, Cranial Osteopathy techniques can be very helpful. By giving more mobility to the sacrum and every bone in the skull, related to each other, it is possible to have a significant effect, especially on the vagus nerve that is related to the parasympathetic system.

The parasympathetic system is responsible for rest in the body. By improving its function, we can reduce tensions in the body, and thus improve sleep.

Less tightness also means less pain, another factor that could be impacting your sleep.

Cranial Osteopathy can, therefore, help you to fall asleep, stay asleep and enjoy better quality sleep!

Usually, 2 or 3 sessions are required to improve your sleep. However, many people will experience some benefits after as little as one session!

Other factors may be impacting your sleep, so if necessary, your osteopath may recommend other therapies. Along with this meditation, yoga, acupuncture and homoeopathy are very useful to relieve insomnia issues.

Insomnia, Osteopathy and Stress

Cranial Osteopathy can also be beneficial for preventing sleeping problems during stressful periods. If you know you have professional stress or stress in general in your personal life, then book an appointment and find out how Cranial Osteopathy can help prevent that from becoming a bigger problem. It’s one of the best ways to avoid fatigue, inattention, irritability and more.. prevention is always better than cure!

A few recommendations for better sleep:

  • as soon as you feel tired go to bed, don’t doze on the sofa
  • avoid stimulating activities for mind and spirit such as TV, computer, iPad and exercise just before bedtime
  • eat at least an hour before retiring to bed

Want to know more? Book a complimentary introductory consult to find out how cranial osteopathy can help you.

Transforming Insomnia into restful sleep

Transforming Insomnia into restful sleep

During our day we can be overwhelmed with stress, which will often trigger our kidneys and adrenal glands to be in a state called ʻfight or flightʼ.

This condition, often unbeknownst to us, can become silently chronic, leading to adrenal fatigue.

Adrenal fatigue is becoming an epidemic in our society, and can impact all aspects of our lives, and, for many, it can trigger sleep issues or insomnia. You may find that you are restless and unable to fall asleep, with your mind racing, or that you fall asleep only to wake in the early hours, wide awake and unable to relax enough to go back to sleep.

So what can you do?

Valuable tools, such as breathing exercises, and visualisations can help you bring your kidneys and adrenal glands back to a state of balance. These are best done regularly and can also be used when you wake in the night or before bed.

Genetic patterns

Your ʻEmotional Blueprintʼ is the patterning of your emotional tendencies, which mirrors your family members and usually the significant people in your lives.

Emotional upset or ʻtriggersʼ enliven the cells of the body to act out this patterning, and we can often feel overtaken with emotion. This response can significantly affect our sleep without us even knowing it!. This patterning was awakened within you somewhere between birth and age 8.
As science has now proven, you have the ability to recode your genetic patterning, or ʻEmotional Blueprintʼ, and claim back your health, and in your lives. Re-coding your Emotional Blueprint will lead you back to a state of peace, joy and tranquility and ability to have a restful sleep once again!

Book a complimentary meeting with me to find out more about your emotional blueprint and how to shift your patterns. Be free to live your life to the full!

Is your bed causing your insomnia?

How to choose the best mattress and pillow for a good nights sleep

Do you suffer from insomnia? Do you wake up some mornings with back or neck pain worse than the night before? Not getting a good night sleep can leave you tired and grumpy throughout the day. Many people are confused about how to create an optimal sleep environment. Straightforward and practical changes can be made to help, decrease, or prevent back pain throughout the night.

What Mattress Should You Buy?

Mattress shopping can be tricky and will be different for everyone. Ultimately, personal preference should be the number one factor in determining what is right for you. Your mattress should be flexible enough to adapt to your body’s shape, but firm enough to support the spine.

The coils/springs in a mattress provide the support, and the top cover thickness provides the comfort. Often, the softness of a mattress is what helps you fall a sleep, but the firmness helps you stay a sleep. Finding the right combination will differ for everyone. If you share your bed, look into buying a mattress that has independent support systems for each sleeper. It is a good idea purchase a mattress from a supplier that allows you to try it in your home risk-free for a few nights before making the commitment to buy it. Another great tip is to test out different hotel mattresses when travelling to determine what you like.

Knowing when to buy a new mattress is also important. If it is no longer comfortable, or if your mattress sags in the middle, this might give an indication that you are ready for an upgrade. Keep in mind that the price of the mattress does not always mean it will be better for you. Go to many stores and test out several before spending big dollars assuming it will be the best.

What is the Best Sleeping Position?

There is no single best sleeping position. Often what works for one person, may not be the best for another. Sleeping on your stomach is not the best option. This position causes your neck to be twisted awkwardly for an extended period. Stomach sleepers who wake up in the morning with headaches may find it helpful to try and sleep on their back or side. Furthermore, sleeping on your stomach contributes to a flattening of the spine’s natural curves, which increases the load on the surrounding muscles. If you insist on stomach sleeping, try putting a pillow under your hips to increase the low back’s natural curve.

For low back pain sufferers, sleeping on your back with a pillow under your knees can take pressure off the lower spine. If you do not find this comfortable, try lying on your side with a pillow between your legs. Do not worry about trying to stay in the same position all night. Moving around can decrease the pressure on your back over the course of your sleep.

What is the Best Pillow to use?

If your tossing and turning at night, changing up your pillow could be the answer. No matter what position you sleep in, your pillow should fill the gap between your neck and the mattress while still maintaining your natural spinal curves. To maintain proper spinal alignment, most pillows should be propped up about 4-6 inches. However, if you must sleep on your stomach, the pillow should be thinner to prevent your neck from twisting even further sideways.

Since everyone is unique, find a pillow that can be adjusted to work for you. For example, water pillows allow you to adjust for firmness based on the amount of water put in them. Memory foam pillows conform to form the head and shoulder shapes. It is also important to remember that pillows lose firmness over time; therefore, changing up your pillow now and then is a good idea.

Before purchasing a pillow, make sure you are not allergic to any of the materials. Hypoallergenic pillows are available for people who are allergic to certain fabrics or feathers. At the end of the day, our pillow gives us a sense of comfort. While pillow shopping, make sure you test them out to find one that is perfect for you.

Good Night!


3 Ways Allergies May Affect Your Sleep

3 Ways Allergies May Affect Your Sleep

Allergies and sensitivities have an impact on many aspects of our health and are often overlooked when seeking to determine the causes of sleep issues. Over the last 12 years, I have had many clients who come in complaining that nothing they do seems to resolve their sleep issues.

Frequently they have been forced to resort to sleeping pills from their doctor to finally get the sleep they need. In many of these cases, I have found that food allergies and sensitivities are a large part of the problem. They can cause

  • increased anxiety and restlessness
  • an inability to fall asleep
  • difficulty staying asleep


Clients may find that they experience a faster than usual pulse rate, thirst, excessive urination, sweats and even shivering. They may experience dreams and nightmares or complain that their brain “just won’t shut off”.

Common foods linked to these problems include cow’s milk products, artificial additives and colours in foods, and the night shade vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers and potatoes.

There is some truth in the old wives’ tale that eating cheese before bed causes nightmares!

Of course, if your food allergies are causing you to experience digestive issues such as cramping, gas, reflux or indigestion then this too will affect your sleep. They can also lead to inflammation and pain in the body making sleeping uncomfortable.

In my practice I often find cow’s milk, wheat and corn to be triggers for digestive issues, inflammation and body pain. If you suspect that food allergies may be a cause of your sleep issues, try removing the common triggers of wheat, milk products, artificial additives and nightshade vegetables for a week and see if that helps.

Environmental allergies

Food allergies, along with environmental allergens such as dust and dust mites, moulds, pets and feathers can trigger stuffiness, sore throats and cough, leading to poor sleep. In this case, it is hard to avoid the triggers, but you can reduce them by withdrawing feather pillows, using protective covers on your mattress and pillows, and removing carpets from the bedroom. You could also seek treatment from a natural allergist or NAET practitioner who can efficiently eliminate the allergies.

Electromagnetic Frequencies (EMF)

Another area to consider is the significant presence of EMF in our modern world. We are bombarded, sources including TVs and cell phones, wifi routers, bedside clocks, smart meters, household wiring and electrical outlets on the wall.

Just as an example, at my workplace I can pick up 32 different wifi networks from surrounding businesses and condos. These EMFs can have a stimulating effect on your body and mind.

You may want to remove all electronic devices from your bedroom and make sure that your bed is positioned such that you are sleeping at least 5 feet away from them; whether they are in your bedroom, the other side of a wall or in the room above or below.

If this is not possible then make sure they are switched off and unplugged from their power source.

For at least 2 hours before bed try to avoid using electronic devices, especially phones, computers and games, and preferably TVs too. This strategy gives your body and brain time to calm down and prepare for sleep.

So, to summarise, allergies and sensitivities can play a big part in your insomnia. I have only touched the surface here so come and see one of my colleagues at Ottawa Holistic Wellness or me to find out more about how these are affecting you.

Stop guessing and get the answers you need!

Simple ways you can sleep better - Ottawa Holistic Wellness

Simple ways you can sleep better!

There are so many things going on in our lives these days. We are constantly busy, rushing around, keeping “to do lists” in our heads and racing through life at 100 miles an hour.

Phew.. is it any wonder we have trouble sleeping?

It doesn’t help that other people constantly pressure us, and that we feel guilty if we do take a little time for ourselves. The thing we often lose sight of is that unless we look after ourselves, we cannot be there for everyone else.

So what can we do about it?

Often, we cannot change our lives – kids still have to be taken to hockey games, we have to prepare meals, and workplaces all sorts of demands on us, add to that the need to fit some exercise in somewhere and that makes for a full day every day.

If we want to improve our sleep, we need to allow our minds to slow down, and to be restful. The only way most of us will ever get the time to unwind and relax a little is if we schedule it into our days. Just 20 – 30min can make a world of difference.


Try getting up 20minutes early, before anyone else, practice being still and quiet. Enjoy the sound of the silence.

During the day

Allow yourself to take lunch, get out of the office, go for a walk, or to a coffee shop, or, even better, sit outside in a park or by the canal. Breathe, watch the world go by and taste your lunch.

In the evening

Schedule some me time before bed. Turn off the electronic devices, dim the lights, be quiet and still, maybe listen to music or have a bath.

Meditation – try a mindfulness practice – even 10minutes in the morning and at night can bring real improvements in your sleep.

One simple way to be more mindful is to use your breathing. This could be done in bed, when you wake up, sitting in a chair before you go to bed at night.

Focus on your breathing, just watch and notice whether you breath only in your upper chest or lower down, and how long it takes for each breath in and out.

Then slow the breath down, count the breath in and count it out, make sure that the in is as long as the out and that you breathe all the way down into your belly, not just into your ribs. If your mind wanders, simply bring the focus back to the breathing – the more you practice, the easier it gets.

Some therapies that can help:

Massage – regular sessions relax your body, lower blood pressure and provide you with time dedicated just to YOU.

Reiki, Chakra Balancing and Energy Healing will also calm the body, release emotions and stress and bring a deep sense of calm. So often we are stuck in our heads, with our busy minds – be more grounded and connnected to the rest of your body.

Acupuncture, acupressure and reflexology all balance the whole body, improving circulation, and lowering

Book yourself for a session every few weeks, or as often as you can afford. Health plans usually cover some of these therapies, but if not its worth investing in yourself!

And finally..

Remember, there is no judgement and no guilt if you cannot commit to a regular time to slow down.. whatever you manage to fit in, however little or irregular, it is all better than nothing!


This article in not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Now I would like to hear from you. Do you suffer from sleep problems? What have you tried to help your symptoms? Let us know in the comments below.

Like what you’ve read? Sign up for FREE updates delivered to your inbox.

By submitting this form, you are granting: Ottawa Holistic Wellness, 356 MacLaren Street, Ottawa, ON, K2P 0M6, permission to email you. You may unsubscribe via the link found at the bottom of every email. (See our Email Privacy Policy (http://constantcontact.com/legal/privacy-statement) for details.) Emails are serviced by Constant Contact.
Insomnia: When Counting Sheep Won’t Help Ewe

Insomnia: When Counting Sheep Won’t Help Ewe

If you have constant trouble sleeping, then chances are you are one of the estimated 3.3 million Canadians struggling with insomnia.

‘Insomnia’ refers to the disruption of time taken to fall asleep, the amount of time asleep (versus time in bed) through the night, waking up too early, and feel unrefreshed on waking.1 Insomnia is incredibly frustrating and can be a fearful prospect knowing that it can lead to impaired memory and concentration.1

As a result, insomnia can predispose you to be more accident-prone at home, on the road, and in the workplace.1

Insomnia exists as its own disorder, but it is also associated with a significant number of physical and mental illnesses. For example, mood disorders like depression and anxiety are both associated with insomnia.1

So what can be done to help you get a better night’s sleep?

First, it is important to identify the underlying cause of your insomnia.

Light and Noise

If you are sensitive to light and sound, make sure your bedroom is as dark as possible and remove any electronics that might be distracting you from falling asleep.


The ‘blue light’ emitted from our TVs, laptops, and mobile phones all affect the release of melatonin from our brains.2

A small amount of melatonin, one of the most well known natural sleep aids, is secreted by your pineal during the day. At night, melatonin secretion spikes to help us get to sleep. Exposure to ‘blue light’ before bed suppresses melatonin secretion and tricks our bodies into thinking we should be awake.2

If you are not willing to give up your bedtime electronics, you can reduce ‘blue light’ exposure by turning down the brightness of the device, and download an app (e.g., Twilight).

The long-term use of benzodiazepine medication for anxiety and panic disorders can deplete the brain’s supply of melatonin.3 Over time, a disruption in circadian rhythm reduces regular sleeping habits.

Melatonin supplementation can help with normalising circadian rhythm and alleviating withdrawal symptoms from anti-anxiety meds.3

Insomnia, fatigue, ADHD, IBS, and breast cancer risk, are all associated with melatonin deficiency.3

Symptoms of fibromyalgia, bulimia, neuralgia, certain forms of depression, and certain postmenopausal problems improve with melatonin supplementation.3

Other causes

Other common underlying causes of insomnia include mood disorders, hormone imbalance, sleep apnea, chronic pain, and exercising too close to bedtime.

Cortisol and Adrenal fatigue

The need to be busy has left us overworked and overtired.

When our bodies are in a constant state of stress, our systems shift from ‘rest and digest’ to ‘fight or flight?’.

As a consequence, our adrenal glands secrete more cortisol; a hormone responsible for increasing blood sugar, and the breakdown of fat & muscle, for the energy to get us away from danger. Normally, cortisol spikes in the morning to get us out of bed, and is very low at night to help us fall asleep.

In a chronically stressed state, high cortisol will worsen insomnia and, if left untreated, will eventually lead to adrenal fatigue.

We are here to help

Speak to your naturopathic doctor about your health concerns to assist in determining the underlying cause(s) and help tailor a treatment plan specific to your individual needs. Acupuncture, nutritional changes through diet and supplements, counselling, and sleep hygiene advice are all parts of naturopathic treatment that can help get you back to sleep and leave you feeling well rested.


  1. Tjepkema M. “Insomnia”. Statistics Canada Health Reports. 2005 17(1): 9-25.
  2. Schmerler, Jessica. “Q&A Why is Blue Light Before Bed Bad For Sleep?” Scientific American. Nature America, September 2015.
  3. Rohr UD, Herold J. “Melatonin deficiencies in women.” 2002 Apr 15(41): 85-10.