Insomnia is one of my favourite conditions to treat! Not because it is easy to treat, but because people suffer so much when they can’t sleep – so it is gratifying to help change that.

When it comes to the inability to sleep well, there are many potential causes. The first thing I do is ask about the current sleep pattern and what the experience is like for you. Do you fall asleep like a rock but wake with a start at 3am? Do you lie there with “to-do lists” and “what-ifs” running through your mind and can’t fall asleep? Do your eyes pop open at every little sound? All of these types of insomnia require different solutions.

There are so many different potential solutions when it comes to treating insomnia. Sleep hygiene is an important foundation: go to bed at the same time every night, wake up at the same time every morning, bedroom should be cool and dark, no screens for two hours before bed, exposure to bright light in the morning, one hour moderate exercise every day, etc.

Beyond sleep hygiene, we try to determine the cause and then address that. We can use nutrients, diet, herbal medicine, and acupuncture. I find Chinese herbal products and acupuncture particularly effective, especially if sleep trouble is longstanding. This approach is slow but effective. It can be combined with prescription sleeping pills if you are already taking them, with the goal of weaning off the sleeping pills once sleep is stabilized. The general rule is one month of treatment for every year you’ve had a symptom – but this is a very crude estimate. Other people just need something on an “as needed” basis, so herbs for stress and anxiety are very effective and can help that same day.

We do our best to find a solution for each person we work with. There is no one size fits all approach, so be patient with yourself as you embark on your journey to better sleep!


Dr. Tracy Cook, ND