Enabling you and your family to heal in mind, body & spirit
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.

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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!

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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 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!

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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!

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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.

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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

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.

There are studies that show how insomnia and drug using are related, the addiction and insomnia frequently co exist as this lack of sleep comes from the many emotional issues the individuals create or have when self medicating drugs or alcohol. According to the Center for disease control and prevention half of the patients suffer from sleep disorders and regularly abuse of alcohol and narcotic drugs. It is necessary to seek for help in this situation.

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.
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5 Reasons Why You Can't Sleep And How Herbs Can Help - Ottawa Holistic Wellness

5 Reasons Why You Can’t Sleep And How Herbs Can Help

To discover deep sleep again, it is important to understand that insomnia is a symptom.

About half the people I see as a herbalist struggle with insomnia. Many people miss two, maybe three nights sleep every week. In the worse cases, sleep is elusive every night for months and months.

To sleep, I recommend you discover the underlying cause of your sleeplessness.

Let’s explore some of the possible root causes of insomnia and a few herbs that can help ease the cause of your sleeplessness.


Coffee is one of my favourite herbs! A cup of coffee is high in anti-oxidants, gently laxative and can be part of a liver cleanse. Coffee carries strong medicine. Like every plant that has strong medicine, it needs to be used with care and caution. The coffee bean’s medicine teaches us health is found with moderation.

Coffee is often a contributing factor to restless sleep. But before coffee is a challenge, usually multiple demands are being made. To meet the many demands on time and energy, coffee is reasonable for a short period.

However, when multiple cups of coffee become a way of coping with life for an extended period, caffeinism begins to take your body/mind on a journey of poor health.

Caffeinism is a clinical condition associated with being jacked up on energy drinks and coffee for an extended period!

Caffeinism is premature ageing. The list of symptoms associated with caffeinism includes greying or loss of hair, headaches, irritation, thinning skin, loss of appetite, increase sensitivity to pain, etc.

Caffeinism fires up adrenal glands sending out sparks of adrenaline which eventually causes burned out nerves. This results in sleeplessness.

If tossing and turning is a nightly ritual and you are drinking coffee all day, then quit the coffee!

Herbs for caffeinism

There are some herbs you can use to rebalance your adrenal glands and nervous system after extended use of coffee.

One of my favourites is Gotu Kola (Centella Asiatic). This gentle herb soothes frayed nerves, quiets down the adrenal glands and helps your body/mind rediscover relaxation.

Many herbs can be formulated into a tea to help combat the fatigue when reducing coffee.

One tea blend I frequently use contains Rosemary (Rosmarinus off.), Peppermint (Menthe Piperita), Damiana (Turnera diffusa) and ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba).

The Monkey Mind

I like the expression, what happens during the day, is what happens at night.

Sleep is time to let go of worry, planning, hopes and fears. During sleep, dreams sort out complicated emotions and unexpected moments during the day. If a day is spent with thoughts racing from one subject to another, rewinding thoughts and picking apart the past moment or conversation, these endless thoughts will continue into the night.

If this is the case, practice letting thoughts go during the day. This is not trying to shut off thoughts. That will create more feelings and stress.

You want to learn to reduce the speed of your thoughts and to enjoy the moment such as grass on bare feet in the morning, or the sweetness of watermelon, or the sun’s kiss on skin, or the thirst quenching clarity of the water.

Using the senses to ground oneself in the present moment takes care of those pesky repetitive thoughts that feed stress and interfere with sleep. This takes practice!

Herbs for Monkey Mind

Sipping a calming cup of tea offers a perfect opportunity to allow thoughts to settle and gather oneself into the present moment. I recommend a blend of chamomile (Matricaria recutita) and lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) to help you settle into the quiet moments during the chaos of daily life. Those quiet moments when we practice letting go will help you sleep once darkness falls.


Pain can be difficult to treat because, like insomnia, it is merely a symptom.

Many of the excellent herbal pain relievers are still illegal, or have been patented and are synthetically manufactured. However, there are still a few plants in the herbalist’s medicine bag that reduce pain. To use them effectively, it is important to understand the cause of the pain.Herbs for pain

For those suffering from chronic back, neck or joint pain a topical ointment which contains a small amount of aconite (Akoniton aconite) can be enough to numb the pain long enough for sleep to take hold. Aconite is a very powerful herb, and I do not recommend using it without proper guidance.

Other herbs that can be used to ease pain are California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Oat seed (Avena sativa) and Willow (Salix alba). When pain is aggravated by muscular tension a warm Epsom salt bath before going to bed can help relax tension in the body associated with pain (or a busy, busy mind). I also recommend adding ten drops of lavender (Lavendula Angustifolia) essential oil to the bath.

If the pain is eating away at your peace of mind scenting the pillows with lavender will also help calm the mind and body in preparation for sleep.

There was a study done in a prison where three drops of lavender were placed on each inmates’ pillow. The aggression and agitation in prison dropped significantly.

A balanced supplement of calcium/magnesium relaxes muscle tension and reduces pain. Once the body unwinds, often it is easier to let go of thoughts and ease into sleep. Choosing effective supplements is a bit of an art. Look for ones with few fillers and high bioavailability.


More than once I have discovered the underlying cause of insomnia is sluggish digestion. It could be said that during sleep we digest our day. Bloating, a grumbling gall bladder or even constipation can be effecting your ability to sleep.

Again, tools to ease stress in your life need to be used. Digestion is very sensitive on going tension in your day.

Herbs for Digestion

There is a class of herbs called “carminative” that reduce the effects of stress on the digestion, and many of them are also used in sleep teas. These herbs include chamomile and lemon balm which have already been mentioned.

Other such plants are catnip (Nepeta cataria) and dill (Anethum graveolens). Dill is a favoured plant to give to infants and young children suffering from sluggish digestion and poor sleep.

To ease gall bladder pain and help bring on sleep, dietary changes are needed. I also offer hops (Humulus lupus) to relax the gallbladder/liver and calm digestion and the mind.

Night sweats

Many woman struggle with insomnia during hormonal changes. Easing insomnia during menopause can be complex. Every woman experiences menopause differently, and as I have already mentioned, there are many plants that can be used to help ease that stress.

Herbs for hormone balance

Many plants support the body in balancing hormones. I use these within unique formulas specific to the woman’s health challenges.

The one universal recommendation I make for easing night sweats is a cold tea made with Sage (Salvia officinalis) before bed. Sage (yes, the plant used to season poultry), when taken as a cold tea, closes sweat glands and thereby reduces sweating.

It is important to remember the body is sweating for a reason and cold sage tea is a symptomatic relief. However, the tea will offer the woman a couple of weeks a good dry sleep while using plant medicine to help resolve the underlying reason for the dramatic hormonal swings.


If you are suffering from insomnia, it can be helpful to talk to someone who not only treats symptoms but also supports you in discovering and relieving the underlying causes. Find out more today!


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

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

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By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Ottawa Holistic Wellness, 356 MacLaren Street, Ottawa, ON, K2P 0M6, https://www.ottawaholisticwellness.ca. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

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