It’s 2:37 am. Why Aren’t You Sleeping?

by Dr Brad Matthews, Dr TCM

June 4th, 2019

It’s 2:37 am. I’m normally a good sleeper. Not tonight, though. It’s been one of those nights - that I’m certain we all have. Tonight, my mind Just. Won’t. Stop. Thinking. It’s 2:37 am, and my thoughts?

“Octopus. OCT-O-PUS. Octo-pus. That’s a weird word. Octopus. I wonder if animals know that they have names?”

Sleep. It’s something we all need, and something that many people have a difficult time achieving. Insomnia, characterized as dissatisfaction with sleep, difficulties initiating or maintaining sleep, along with substantial distress and impairments of daytime functioning, is not only unpleasant, it’s unhealthy.i Chronic and persistent insomnia has been associated with adverse health outcomes, such as reduced quality of life, and negative impacts on the cardiovascular, endocrine, immune, and nervous systems resulting in obesity, diabetes, hypertension, anxiety, depression, and excessive alcohol use, to name a few.ii

If you suffer from insomnia, you’re not alone. Nighttime insomnia symptoms in persons aged 18 and older increased by 42% over the eight-year period 2007-2015.iii In reality, that means that almost one-quarter of Canadian adults are not sleeping well. Think about that: 25% of adults are dissatisfied with their sleep. That’s not good, so what can we do about it?

Sleep Hygiene

Quite simply, this talks about sleep habits, and a few simple tips can help.

  • Keep a regular bedtime and waking schedule. Nowadays we have apps that can remind us when bedtime is approaching, and this can be very helpful if routine is something you struggle with.
  • Avoid napping.
  • If you find your mind racing, don’t stay awake in bed for more than a few minutes. Get up, maybe find a chair and sit quietly in the dark until your mind begins to quiet. Do NOT check Twitter, open a book, turn on the lights or TV. Just remain quietly in the dark. If you tend to constantly stare at the clock, then hide the clock.
  • Avoid caffeine. Should be obvious, but it should be noted that the effects of caffeine can last several hours, so just don’t do it.
  • Drugs (including some over-the-counter medications), cigarettes, and alcohol can all impair sleep.
  • Bedrooms should be dark and comfortable.
  • Exercise


Some foods may be beneficial for those who have difficulty with sleep. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, halibut, as well as chick peas, are high in vitamin B6, which can be helpful to increase the body’s production of melatonin, the sleep promoting hormone. As well, the Omega 3 fatty acids combined with the vitamin D in fatty fish can stimulate increased serotonin production, which is a sleep-promoting brain chemical. Potassium / magnesium -rich foods such as bananas and almonds are natural muscle-relaxants. Magnesium, may help reduce cortisol levels (the stress hormone that can interrupt sleep). Foods that are high in calcium like cruciferous vegetables such as kale, collard greens, broccoli, as well as yogurt may be beneficial, as lack of calcium has been shown to have a link to sleep difficulties. Finally, while getting somewhat of a “bad rap” these days, moderate amounts of carbohydrates - particularly whole grains - can actually help boost serotonin in the brain.

Mindfulness Practices and Acupuncture

In a study published in “JAMA Internal Medicine” a few years ago, 49 middle-aged and older adults who had difficulty sleeping were divided into two groups. Half completed a mindfulness and meditation training program, while the other half received education in proper sleep hygiene. At the end of the six-week study, the participants in the mindfulness group had less insomnia, fatigue, and depression than the participants in the sleep hygiene group.iv

Acupuncture has also been shown to have positive effects for sleep difficulty. It is one of the most commonly-used methods of treating insomnia in China, and in a study of 46 randomized trials involving 3811 patients, acupuncture was shown to be effective in the treatment of insomnia.v

Japanese Red Reishi

Mikei and Reishi cultivationThe health benefits of this amazing fungi have been recognized by practitioners of traditional medicines of China, Japan, and other Asian countries for over 2000 years. Ganoderma lucidum (red reishi) polysaccharides exhibit a broad range of bioactivities, including anti-inflammatory (think arthritis), hypoglycemic (think diabetes), anti-ulcer, anti-tumour, and Rich in triterpenes which are the compounds believed to result in lipid-lowering and antioxidant effects, this is what gives the herb its distinct bitter taste. In Chinese medicine, the bitter flavour is said to enter the heart, and thus can calm and relax the mind. An adaptogenic herb that helps combat the effects of stress, red reishi has been used for hundreds of years to treat anxiety, insomnia, weakened immune system and more, and modern studies indicate that certain cytokines in the herb may be responsible for its sleep-promoting effects.vii

Sleep difficulties and insomnia affect a significant proportion of the Canadian population. In many cases, using an herb such as Japanese red reishi, in combination with healthy lifestyle choices outlined above, can mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and a sleepless night.

Dr Brad Matthews is a registered doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine, practicing in North Vancouver, BC, since 2000. A competitive triathlete since 2012, he’s an expert in the treatment of acute and chronic pain, with training in herbal medicine, acupuncture, acupoint injection therapies and prolotherapy.


  1. Morin CM, Drake CL, Harvey AG, et al. Insomnia disorder. Nature Reviews Disease Primers 2015; 1: 15026
  2. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Sleep Medicine and Research; Colten HR, Altevogt BM, editors. 2006.
  3. Tjepkema M, Insomnia. Health Reports 2005; 17(1): 9-25.
  4. Black, DS, O’Reilly, GA, Olmstead, R. Mindfulness Meditation and Improvement in Sleep Quality and Daytime Impairment Among Older Adults With Sleep Disturbances; JAMA Internal Medicine, 2015;174(4):494-501.
  5. Huijuan C, Xingfang P, Jianping L. Acupuncture for Treatment of Insomnia: A Systemized Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. 2009.
  6. Miyazaki T, Nishijima M. Studies on Fungal Polysaccharides. Chem Pharm Bull. 1981;29:3611-16.
  7. Cui XY, et al. Effect of Ganoderma lucidum prolongs sleep time in rats. Department of Pharmacology, Peking University, School of Basic Medical Science. 2012 Feb 15;139(3):796-800.

> Back to Health Articles

All information on this site is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Information presented here is not intended to substitute the advice provided to you by your physician or healthcare practitioner. You should not use any information contained in our site to self-diagnose or personally treat any medical condition or disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical condition, you are urged to contact your healthcare practitioner.

Taking natural health supplements should be a decision made by the individual themselves and based on personal research. It is recommended for all individuals to consult their healthcare practitioner prior to starting any new medication. Individuals should not discontinue current medication without first consulting their doctor.

Privacy Policy

This Privacy Policy describes how your personal information is collected, used, and shared when you visit or make a purchase from our websites which includes,,, and (the “Sites”).


When you visit the Sites, we automatically collect certain information about your device, including information about your web browser, IP address, time zone, and some of the cookies that are installed on your device. Additionally, as you browse the Sites, we collect information about the individual web pages or products that you view, what websites or search terms referred you to the Sites, and information about how you interact with the Sites. We refer to this automatically-collected information as “Device Information.”

We collect Device Information using the following technologies:

Additionally, when you make a purchase or attempt to make a purchase through the Sites, we collect certain information from you, including your name, billing address, shipping address, payment information (including credit card numbers, expiration date), email address, and phone number. At your discretion, we may also be collecting your birthdate and title information. We refer to this information as “Order Information.”

When we talk about “Personal Information” in this Privacy Policy, we are talking both about Device Information and Order Information.


We use the Order Information that we collect generally to fulfill any orders placed through the Sites (including processing your payment information, arranging for shipping, and providing you with invoices and/or order confirmations). Additionally, we use this Order Information to:

We use the Device Information that we collect to help us screen for potential risk and fraud (in particular, your IP address), and more generally to improve and optimize our Sites (for example, by generating analytics about how our customers browse and interact with the Sites, and to assess the success of our marketing and advertising campaigns). We may also use the Device Information for remarketing and retargeting purposes to provide you with targeted advertisements and offers we believe may be of interest to you.


We share your Personal Information with third parties to help us use your Personal Information, as described above. For example, we use an outside shipping company to ship orders, and a credit card processing company to bill users for purchases. We also use Google Analytics to help us understand how our customers use the Sites. You can read more about how Google uses your Personal Information here: You can also opt-out of Google Analytics here:

Finally, we may also share your Personal Information to comply with applicable laws and regulations, to respond to a subpoena, search warrant or other lawful request for information we receive, or to otherwise protect our rights.


As described above, we use your Personal Information to provide you with targeted advertisements or marketing communications we believe may be of interest to you.

You can opt out of targeted advertising by:

Additionally, you can also visit NAI’s opt-out page


Please note that we do not alter our Sites’ data collection and use practices when we see a Do Not Track signal from your browser.


The Sites contain links to other websites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the content or privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of any other site that collects personally identifiable information.


If you are a European resident, you have the right to access personal information we hold about you and to ask that your personal information be corrected, updated, or deleted. If you would like to exercise this right, please contact us through the contact information below.

Additionally, if you are a European resident, we note that we are processing your information in order to fulfill contracts we might have with you (for example if you make an order through the Sites), or otherwise to pursue our legitimate business interests listed above. Additionally, please note that your information will be transferred outside of Europe, including to Canada and the United States.


From time-to-time, the Sites may request information via surveys, contests, or offers. Participation in these surveys, contests, and offers is completely voluntary and you may choose whether or not to participate and therefore disclose this information. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and shipping address), and demographic information (such as postal code, age level, gender). Contact information will be used to notify the winners, award prizes, or redeem offers. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the use and satisfaction of the Sites and the products offered on the Sites.


When you place an order through the Sites, we will maintain your Order Information for our records unless and until you ask us to delete this information.


We may update this privacy policy from time to time in order to reflect, for example, changes to our practices or for other operational, legal or regulatory reasons. This policy was last updated on October 27th, 2019.


For more information about our privacy practices, if you have questions, or if you would like to make a complaint, please contact us by e-mail at or by mail using the address provided below:

Nikkei (Canada) Marketing Limited Unit 170 - 12868 Clarke Place, Richmond, BC, V6V 2H1, Canada