Solving Sleep Troubles with Naturopathic Medicine

It’s been a week since our clocks sprung forward by an hour. How are you feeling? If you are sluggish and having trouble adjusting, it’s more common than most realize. One hour doesn’t seem like a big change, but to our bodies it’s a big deal, so don’t ignore sleep troubles.

sleep troubles

For most people, the spring time change is harder than in the fall. It’s harder to go to sleep earlier and you may awake soon after falling asleep. It’s the same reason our body has a harder time traveling east than west on an airplane. And while we will eventually benefit from more daylight at the end of the day in the spring and summer, this shift resets our circadian rhythm, or our body’s internal 24-hour clock. When we set our clocks forward or back, our internal clock is very suddenly out of sync.

First, it is important to understand that sleep is critical to overall good health. Before you say that only a few hours of sleep are enough for you, our bodies need between six-to-ten hours. But as Catherine Darley, ND, explains in the video below, each person is different. Dr. Darley is a naturopathic doctor, sleep expert and founder of The Institute of Naturopathic Sleep Medicine. Some people can function on six hours, others need eight-to-ten hours of sleep. How do you know? A naturopathic doctor can help you establish your ideal sleep times based on your personalized health needs, family history and health status.

Naturopathic Sleep Support

Dr. Darley advocates for changes in school hours that better coincide with children and teen’s internal clocks for better mental health and school performance. She also helps nurses, doctors, firefighters, police and other essential shift workers find ways to get better sleep. The science of sleep shows that night shift work is a risk factor for cancer. The World Health Organization classifies night shift work as “probably carcinogenic to humans,” particularly cancers of the breast, prostate, colon, and rectum.

There is so much evidence showing that when sleep is lacking, health will suffer, including weakened immunity, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, stroke, kidney disease, diabetes and mental health issues and our emotional well being. “As naturopathic physicians, there are a couple ways we work with patients that are unique. For one, we aim to treat the cause of the disease. This helps get us to cure, rather than simply masking symptoms. Another piece of the naturopathic approach is “docere” which means to teach. In naturopathic medicine we help people understand what’s going on with their health, so they understand and are empowered to care for themselves better over time. Part of my mission is to lift the sleep health of the nation over the course of my career. Giving people sleep skills is a great way to do that, because once you know how to sleep well, you can pass that on to your friends and family. It’s a win-win-win,” says Dr. Darley.

The video below with Dr. Darley reviews what is known about sleep problems and when to get help. She recommends not waiting any longer than a month to see a doctor if you are having sleep troubles. She emphasizes that it takes only about three days for the body to be negatively affected by too little sleep.

“Each time a person has acute insomnia, it increases the likelihood of having insomnia in the future. So even when it’s understandable that we’re having an episode of insomnia due to a life event, it’s still important to get back to sleeping well soon. The other reason it’s important to address a sleep problem soon after it arises is that our sleep impacts every other organ system in the body. So not only is your sleep poor, but it will cause other conditions to worsen,” she says.

Dr Darley on Why You Should Not Wait to Get Help with Sleep Troubles

What Can You Do to Sleep Better?

As a naturopathic doctor, Dr. Darley uses naturopathic medicine to show people how to get better sleep. It’s never just one thing, better sleep requires a whole-person approach. Oftentimes doctors give a patient handout and send them on their way. Naturopathic doctors do things differently.

“The thing I love most is the way in which each person’s sleepless story is unique, even if each one is coming in for what appears to be the same ‘insomnia’ complaint.  Taking the time in the first appointment to really understand how the sleep problem developed, how it impacts their quality of life, and the individual lifestyle makes all the difference in making an individual treatment plan that works,” she writes in her blog.

When you see a naturopathic doctor for sleep problems, this is what the appointments will include:

  1. Two-hour assessment to establish a baseline of health;
  2. A review of your diet and nutrition habits;
  3. Whether you smoke, drink alcohol, use prescribed drugs or other drugs;
  4. Apprising the state of your microbiome and gut health;
  5. Inquire how your home or work environment may affect your sleep;
  6. Measuring your hormones for potential imbalances;
  7. Considerations of psychological wellness to improve mental health.

Naturopathic doctors are trained to know how sleep problems may be associated with other health issues. Since naturopathic medicine looks at the whole person and addresses underlying causes and supports your body’s self-healing capacity, naturopathic doctors are the ideal physician to help you with sleep problems.

Editor’s Note: If you need help with getting a consistent good night’s rest, Dr. Darley is offering classes in the near future. Sign up on her website for a free Seven Step Sleep Guide, and she will let you know about upcoming classes.

We all need a good night’s rest to power our day. Some of us struggle to get that needed rest, yet we don’t all need to see the doctor. There is so much going on in our lives, in our homes, that our sleep health can suffer. Sleeping well is a skill, and like any skill it’s best learned and practiced over time, and best taught by an expert. With Dr. Darley you will learn the seven essential steps to sleep well. Each step is taught through short videos, with exercises and step-by-step tasks or worksheets that make it easy to implement. These tools help you transform from tired, unable to enjoy your day or your loved ones, to someone who feels at the top of your game and is loving life! Get the Seven Step Sleep Guide Here.

Read more: How do Naturopathic Doctors Treat Insomnia and Other Sleep Problems?

This article is provided by the Institute for Natural Medicine, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, partnered with the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. INM’s mission is to transform healthcare in America by increasing both public awareness of naturopathic medicine and access to naturopathic doctors for patients. INM believes that naturopathic medicine, with its unique principles and practices, has the potential to reverse the tide of chronic illness that overwhelms existing health care systems and to empower people to achieve and maintain their optimal lifelong health. INM strives to achieve this mission through the following initiatives:

  • Education – Reveal the unique benefits and outcomes of naturopathic medicine
  • Access – Connect patients to licensed naturopathic doctors
  • Research – Expand quality research of this complex and comprehensive system of medicine

Kimberly Lord Stewart is the content and marketing director of the Institute for Natural Medicine. She gets eight hours of sleep per night and believes strongly that a good night’s sleep is important for good mental and physical health.

Stewart is an award-winning editor, food and health journalist and best-selling author of Eating Between the Lines, the supermarket shopper's guide to the truth behind food labels (St. Martin's Press).

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Deb Hubers

Debra Hubers is a serial entrepreneur and has started seven businesses; ranging from an advanced genomics to an employer health care purchasing cooperative. Deb has over 35 years of experience in healthcare finance, education, technology, and pharmacogenomics.

Ms. Hubers has dedicated her career to measuring and improving healthcare outcomes. Her expertise is leveraging technology to deliver personalized, preventative medicine. Ms. Hubers co-founded La Vita Compounding Pharmacy in 2007. Collaborating with her business partner, physicians and strategic partners, Deb has grown La Vita to be one of the most respected and sought-after personalized medicine providers on the west coast. She is also Co-Founder of EpigeneticsRx, a leading provider of precise, personalized, prevention which positively impacts genetic expression.

Alex Keller, ND

Dr. Alex Keller, ND, AFMCP is a graduate of the University of Ottawa with an Honours Bachelor in Health Sciences and Psychology. Although originally intending to attend conventional medical school, following a three-month volunteer internship at a rural Kenyan hospital where he observed how doctors used local food to treat patients, he shifted his career goals and pursued a degree in naturopathic medicine at the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto.

After one year of practicing with the esteemed Dr. Chris Pickrell, ND, RH in a community acupuncture setting, in 2015 he and his wife Dr. Jenn Keller, ND moved to rural Ottawa, Canada where they started an organic farm and retreat center. In the same year, Alex and his athletic therapist sister Jess Keller combined their practices to form Keller Active Health, an integrative physical therapy clinic.

Ever curious and passionate about the education of evidence-based natural medicine, in 2017, Dr. Keller joined a fledgling Ottawa-based health tech startup named Fullscript. He serves as its Medical Director and oversees the development of medical education content for practitioners across North America.

Prior to medicine, Alex worked in the renewable energy sector, where he developed a deep passion for sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship. This connection between medicine and agriculture now drives Alex to focus much of his energy on bringing awareness to the quality and sourcing standards in the supplement and organic agriculture supply chains.

Today, he splits his professional time practicing as a clinician, working for Fullscript, and expanding the farming operation while chasing his kids with Jenn and occasionally running ultra-marathon trail races. He is also currently completing an Executive MBA through the Quantic School of Business & Technology with a focus on supply chain innovation.

Pamela Snider, ND

Pamela Snider, ND, is Executive and Senior Editor for the Foundations of Naturopathic Medicine Project, producing a first of its kind international textbook of Naturopathic medicine through a series of international retreats and symposia. A nationally recognized integrative health and policy leader, she is active in both national and regional integrative health initiatives. Dr. Snider serves on the Board of Directors, was founding Executive Director and co-founder of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Health (ACIH/ACCAHCa consortium of the councils of schools, accrediting agencies and certifying bodies of the licensed, traditional and emerging integrative health professions, and is currently Vice Chair and co-founder of the Integrative Health Policy Consortium (IHPC).  Dr. Snider served as a founding Board Member of the Academy of Integrative Health & Medicine from 2014-2016. Her public policy work includes completing a two year appointment to the DHHS Center For Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) Medicare Coverage Advisory Committee (MCAC); serving as a Steering Committee Member for  the HRSA funded American College of Preventive Medicine NCCIM Integrative Medicine in Preventive Medicine Residency program, co-directing in USPHS Region X the Building Bridges Between Provider Communities Group, an exploration of interdisciplinary collaboration and common ground between public health and CAM; serving for 22 years on Washington State’s Health Professional Loan Repayment and Scholarship Program Advisory Committee (HPLRSP); providing technical assistance to and developing key language for the enabling legislation for NIH Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCIH/NCCAM); and staffing Joseph Pizzorno ND during his appointment as Commissioner on the White House Commission on CAM Policy.

From 1994-2003, Dr. Snider served as Associate Dean for Public and Professional Affairs and Naturopathic Medicine at Bastyr University, dividing her work between academic and public affairs activities, including chairing the Naturopathic Medicine Program Curriculum Review Committee.  Dr. Snider has been teaching, publishing and lecturing widely on Naturopathic philosophy, theory integrative health, public policy, and other topics for over 30 years. Currently, an Associate Professor at National University of Natural Medicine (NUNM) in Portland, OR, Dr. Snider also continues at Bastyr University in her 22nd year as a faculty member teaching naturopathic medicine history, clinical theory, and global context. Among her Naturopathic medicine professional roles she serves on the Institute for Natural Medicine’s Leadership Council.  In 1989, she co-led the naturopathic profession with Dr. Jared Zeff, in developing a unifying definition of naturopathic medicine and its principles of practice adopted unanimously by the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) House of Delegates. She was a co-investigator in the 2004 NIH NCCAM research study, the North American Naturopathic Medical Research Agenda and CAM Advisor in NIHCCAM’s Financing Integrative Health Care (University of Washington).  Her areas of experience include healthcare education; naturopathic and interdisciplinary clinical theory, curriculum development; clinical practice; government and legislative affairs, public policy, interdisciplinary collaboration, and community organizing.  Dr. Snider has received the Ontario Naturopathic Physician of the Year Award, the Physician of the Year Award from the AANP, the President’s Outstanding Vision Award and Distinguished Alumnus Award at Bastyr University, AANP’s President’s Award, an honorary Doctorate of Naturopathic Philosophy from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine (CCNM), the William A Mitchell Vis Award from the AANP and The Gathering – NMSA’s Beacon Award. She received her ND degree in 1982 from Bastyr University of Natural Health Sciences and is a licensed naturopathic physician in the State of Washington. She lives with her husband and children at their homestead in North Bend Washington, in the beautiful mountain to sea landscape and home of The Revival – Restore the Vis, an annual student-led community gathering.

Susan Haeger

Susan Haeger is Founder/Principal of Transformative Health Solutions Inc. She has applied her twenty plus years in executive leadership to help shape and drive adoption of progressive health policy for whole person healthcare. She was a section contributor to the 2021 INM/AANP published professional white paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists: The Future is Whole Person Health Care that provides supporting evidence for the profession’s significant and unique contributions to preventive, whole person care and models of integrative clinical practice.

Bruce Barlean

Bruce Barlean is an owner and founder of Barlean’s, a global dietary supplement manufacturer located in the Pacific Northwest in Ferndale, WA. Bruce has been actively involved in the Natural Products industry since 1989 and is passionate about making a difference in the world and positively impacting the lives of others.

Bruce believes that people can make a difference in the world through ordinary purchases. He is committed to improving the quality of life for every person on the planet by making the best products and by using the profits to support outreach programs. Bruce summarizes it simply, “We make good stuff to do good stuff”.

In the late 1980’s Bruce became passionate about how health could be dramatically improved with Flax Oil Supplementation. Bruce along with his entrepreneurial parents saw the potential to improve the lives of many people and in 1989 they began selling Flax Oil under the Barlean’s name. From 1989 – 2000 the business grew an average of 40% year over year. While most companies saw a decline in business in the 2001 recession, Barlean’s continued to grow and soon became America’s #1 selling flaxseed oil and continues to be to the present. The brand has since expanded to include additional oils, green food concentrates and other premium supplements. Bruce continues to drive innovation and over the years his products and company have won countless awards including: Eight consecutive Vity Awards for #1 EFA, Six consecutive Vity Awards for #1 Greens Food Supplement, Natural Choice Award for Best Specialty Supplement, Best Product of the Year, Best New Product, Gold Medal Taster’s Choice Award, Gold Medal American Masters of Taste Award, #1 Health Food Store Brand for Consumer Satisfaction by Consumer Lab, and Manufacturer of the Year.

In 2013 as the company was on the eve of celebrating the 25th year in business Bruce and his parents decided to take their desire to help people to a new level that they call Pathway to a Better Life – which is now seen in the Barlean’s logo. Bruce and his parents had always been generous in their giving and support of charities, but as part of the Pathway to a Better Life they decided to increased partnership with charitable organizations such as: Vitamin Angels, Compassion International, KidsTown International, Autism Hope Alliance, Engedi Refuge, Project 92, and others. And because so many people are unable to meet basic nutritional needs, Bruce created a comprehensive Omega-3 and multivitamin formula that he distributes free-of-charge to local food banks. In addition, Bruce decided the company would supply food banks with organic coconut oil to provide people with a health alternative to standard cooking oils.

Always generous with his time Bruce has served as a youth leader for his local church for several years and continues to mentor youth. He has been on several not for profit boards including; Whatcom County Pregnancy Center (2003-2006), Natural Products Association (dates?), and the Institute for Natural Medicine Leadership Council (presently).

The Barlean family have been avid supporters of Bastyr University since the 1990’s and in 2013 were given Bastyr’s most prestigious honor, the Mission Award, which recognizes their leadership over time in improving the health and well-being of the human community.

Bruce currently resides in Ferndale, WA with his wife Lisa and their two dogs: Heinz & Shadow. When he’s not helping others he can be found fishing (catch & release).

Get Involved!

Michelle Simon, PHD, ND

President & CEO

As president and CEO of INM, Dr. Simon brings her passion for working with organizations dedicated to improving the quality and delivery of healthcare. This desire stems from her years of practice as a licensed naturopathic physician. In addition to holding a Naturopathic Doctorate from Bastyr University she also holds a PhD in Biomedical Engineering from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

She has served on boards for the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP), the Naturopathic Physicians Research Institute (NPRI), and several advisory boards. Dr. Simon served nine years on the Washington State Health Technology Clinical Committee, as Ambassador to the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine (AIHM) and was recognized as 2018 AANP Physician of the Year. Dr. Simon shares with her husband a passion for adventure travel, preferably by boat or motorcycle. She also enjoys teaching a women’s off-road motorcycling class.