4 Natural Ways to Improve Sleep

Sleep is divided into three primary stages: Light sleep, in which we spend most of our sleep time; deep sleep, when we are least likely to awaken, and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, when memories appear to be consolidated. Dreams mostly take place during the REM sleep phase. The average person completes five to seven sleep cycles a night.

Researchers have known for some time that deep sleep is of vital importance to the body, as it is mainly during this stage that the secretion of growth hormone helps repair and rebuild body tissues such as muscle and bone. A 2013 mouse study also showed that the brain’s glial* cells form spaces during sleep, allowing the glymphatic system to literally wash out the toxins believed to be associated with neurodegenerative diseases. (The glymphatic system is the name given to the series of channels that run alongside the brain’s blood vessels, and drains away waste.)

While winding down before bedtime certainly plays an important role in helping you fall—and stay— asleep, research has shown that daytime activities can also help you sleep more soundly as well as boost your immune response.

Let There Be Light

Although melatonin secretion is an important cue that nighttime has arrived and it’s time for bed, you don’t want melatonin levels to be high after waking in the morning. Daylight is the time for cortisol levels to rise—especially in the first hour after waking—if you want to sleep sounder at night.

Daylight contains blue light, which suppresses melatonin. Studies indicate that higher cortisol levels in the morning make it easier to fall asleep at night. Increasing your cortisol can be as simple as getting outdoors for a brisk walk, or sitting on your balcony for your cup of coffee. Outdoor light, even when cloudy, is brighter than indoor lighting.

Conversely, in the evening, you will want to reduce your exposure to blue light, to ensure melatonin is released. Many apps that block blue light are available for mobile phones and computer screens, or you can order blue light-blocking glasses from online sources.

Get Physical

Physical activity during the day is also important for sounder sleep. A study* involving 2,600 participants showed that people sleep significantly better and feel more alert during the day if they get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a week. (This averages out to roughly 21 minutes a day.) The study was conducted at the University of Oregon, and reported in the December 2011 edition of the journal Mental Health and Physical Activity. Walking 100 steps a minutes is considered “moderate” activity.

Make a Date with Nature

The Japanese practice of shinrin-yoku (“forest bathing”) involves walking through forests and connecting with nature through the five senses—sight, hearing, taste, smell and touch. Studies show that regularly practising shinrin-yoku produces health benefits including heightened immune response and improved sleep. The takeaway is, whenever possible, exercise outdoors. This advice is particularly relevant when gyms, rec centres, and other indoor exercise studios are closed.

Practice Winding Down

Are you guilty of fast-paced living right up until bedtime? Our ancestors knew that when dusk arrived, it was time to wind down in preparation for rest. If after work is your time for working out, make sure you get your run in early, or switch to morning and perform gentle, relaxing stretches in the evening.

Switch off TV and say goodnight to tablets and mobile phones at least an hour before retiring. Do your best to develop a special wind-down routine that signals to your brain that it will soon be time to sleep.

If you drink caffeinated beverages throughout the day, be sure to switch to something decaffeinated after noon. Remember that decaffeinated is not the same as caffeine-free, and make sure that evening beverages are completely free of caffeine.

* Paul D. Loprinzi, Bradley J. Cardinal. Association between objectively-measured physical activity and sleep, NHANES 2005–2006. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 2011; 4 (2): 65
[accessed March, 2020.]


Tips on Getting a Full Night’s Sleep

Tips for Getting a Better Night's Sleep

Is a lack of sleep messing with your mojo? You’re not alone. Thirty percent of adults claim to have trouble sleeping, says London Drugs Pharmacy Manager Gianni Del Negro. And up to 10 percent of those are experiencing problems during the day because of their sleep difficulties.

Understanding Your Sleep Problem and its Cause

Understanding how and where your sleep is going awry is the first step to finding a solution.

Sleep problems come mainly in three different categories:

  • Difficulty falling asleep
  • Waking up in the middle of the night and not being able to get back to sleep
  • Inability to get into a deep, restorative sleep

There are many reasons you could be experiencing sleep problems, says Del Negro, including medical conditions such as sleep apnea or asthma, pain resulting from certain conditions, stress or depression, or even medications you’re taking.

Poor sleep is often a result of poor sleep habits, particularly the use of electronics too close to bedtime, or too much caffeine, nicotine or alcohol late in the day.

While a few nights of bad sleep might not hurt too much, prolonged poor sleep can have severe consequences, including a weakened immune system, obesity and risk of accidents at work or on the road.  

Help for Better Sleep

The first step is to ensure you maintain a regular sleep routine, which means waking up at the same time and going to bed at the same time every day. Yes, even on weekends and holidays.  

Other lifestyle habits such as regular exercise and winding down a couple of hours before bed can also help in the sleep department.

While Del Negro says it’s always best to try non-medicinal ways of promoting sleep, if nothing is working, pharmaceuticals can help you get some much-needed rest.

One category of short-term sleep aids you can try is Diphenhydramine, which is an antihistamine that causes drowsiness. You’ll find it in products such as Benadryl, Sleep-eze and NyQuil.

Melatonin is another product you can try for better sleep. It’s most effective for resetting your body clock in the event of jet lag or shift work.

Finally, valerian root is an herbal supplement that can promote faster and better quality sleep. But be aware that it can have some side effects and may not be safe to take with other medications. Please consult your doctor before taking it.

If you’ve tried all of these remedies and you still can’t sleep, come speak to a pharmacist at your local London Drugs. We can help!

How to Maintain Quality Sleep As We Age

If you’re of a certain age, there’s a good chance you wake up much earlier than you used to, or wake up frequently in the night. But should these common sleep behaviours be of concern? Well, yes. It’s actually a common misconception that sleep needs decline with age. In fact, research shows that our sleep needs remain constant throughout adulthood. So, what’s keeping you awake? And what can be done to help you get the 7-9 hours of that glorious, healthy sleep you really need?

Increase Mental Stimulation

One of the newest discoveries about sleep is that increased mental stimulation during awake hours can encourage deeper sleep. Because retirees and seniors tend to have more downtime than younger adults, they likely have decreased cognitive stimulation.

It’s actually a cycle: the more we stimulate our intellect when awake, the better we sleep; and the better we sleep, the more we remember, and the better we learn.

So, do your best to keep your mind active: volunteer, take a walk in a new neighbourhood, go to a museum, learn a new skill, spend time with friends and family — anything that gets you out of a boring, repetitive routine will challenge your brain.

Regulate Circadian Rhythms

Another discovery in the science of sleep is something called advanced sleep phase syndrome. As you age, you may find yourself getting sleepy earlier and earlier in the day, prompting you to go to bed earlier. The earlier you fall asleep, the earlier you wake up, and the cycle continues. Earlier wake up times can also lead to increased napping, which can have an even greater effect on sleep quality.

Doctors don’t really know why this happens as we age, but they do know that sticking to a regular bedtime and avoiding long naps can help regulate your sleep rhythms.

Exposure to bright light can also help tell your body when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to sleep, so make an effort to get outside in the sun every day (late afternoon is best), or talk to your London Drugs pharmacist to see if a light therapy device would be right for you.

Treat Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Snoring and sleep apnea can wake you up multiple times per night and disrupt your REM cycles (the deepest and most restorative part of your sleep cycle). These problems become more common as we age, but there are things that can be done to prevent them.

If you snore or stop breathing while you sleep, be sure to see your doctor about solutions, which can include a custom pillow, decongestants, weight loss, or even a breathing mask that helps to open up airways. Learn more about snoring and sleep apnea.

Address Overall Health Problems

Many health issues also contribute to sleep deprivation. Chronic pain, restless leg syndrome, depression, and dementia are all common conditions for seniors and can affect quality of sleep. Consult with your doctor about the right treatment for any issues, and adjust medication to effectively treat disruptive symptoms.

One thing to keep in mind when talking to your doctor is that some medications can actually keep you awake at night, so make sure she knows about all the medications you are currently taking and ask for suggestions about optimal timing and dosage to preserve your sleep.

Consider the Effects of Menopause

Sleep issues can effect men and women differently, and menopause specifically affects women’s sleep. If you were ever pregnant, you’ll remember that those hormones can radically affect your sleep patterns, and the same goes for menopause.

When talking to your doctor about menopause symptoms, don’t forget to mention sleep troubles so he can help you find the best treatment for all of your symptoms.

Manage Life Changes

Even if you’re retired and the kids have moved out doesn’t mean that your stress is gone. Health issues, financial problems, or the death of a loved one cause stress, and that can make it hard to sleep. Don’t struggle alone: talk to a friend or family member, a counsellor or your family doctor about help for managing stress. Other things you can do to help with stress are gentle yoga, tai chi, meditation, creative hobbies, journaling, and deep breathing exercises. Make time for yourself every day to take care of your mental health as well as your physical health.

There are many other things everyone can do to help encourage healthy sleep:

  • Exercise every day, but do it least three hours before bedtime, if not earlier. The increased adrenaline, body temperature, and heart rate can interfere with circadian rhythms.
  • Take a warm bath or shower before bedtime. The drop in body temperature after you get out of the hot water may help you feel tired.
  • Avoid alcohol three hours before bedtime. Alcohol reduces the amount of deep sleep and REM sleep and increases waking times. In addition, alcohol can exacerbate any symptoms of sleep apnea.
  • Avoid drinking fluids before bed. A full bladder is more likely to wake you up between sleep cycles.
  • Avoid caffeine if you can. If you can’t live without your morning coffee, limit it to right after after you wake up – caffeine stays in your system for up to 6 hours.
  • Turn off electronics at least an hour before sleeping. The light quality from screens mimics the blue light from sunlight and tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime.
  • Create a restful environment in your bedroom. A good rule of thumb is to reserve your bedroom for sleep. You can also try things like an ambient sound machine or aromatherapy in your room to help you drift off to dreamland.

What You Need to Know About Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Understanding snoring and sleep apnea

Sweet, sweet slumber. A good night’s sleep always recharges the mind and body. Unless you snore or have sleep apnea.

Statistics Canada reported that in 2016 and 2017, 6.4 per cent of Canadians (approximately 2.3 million) had been diagnosed by a health care professional with sleep apnea – more than double what was reported in 2009.

While snoring and sleep apnea are not the same thing, they can be related. Most people who have sleep apnea will snore, and snore heavily. However, if you snore – and that’s your only symptom – you don’t necessarily have sleep apnea. Consult with a physician if you’re worried about either condition.

Why Snoring Can be Debilitating

What You Need to Know About Snoring and Sleep Apnea

Snoring is actually common and can happen occasionally or regularly. Snoring is caused by the vibrations made when air passing through your mouth and nose is partially blocked. In many ways, it’s like a poorly tuned wind instrument – loud and blustery.

While snoring alone isn’t considered to be of immediate concern, the effects of snoring can be debilitating. Even having just one restless night’s sleep can lead to extreme fatigue – at work, on the road – while ongoing snoring can affect heart health, weight maintenance, oral health and, of course, energy levels. Factor in sleep partners, and the number of affected people doubles.

Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

What You Need to Know about Snoring and Sleep Apnea

There are actually several different classifications of sleep apnea, with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) being the most common. All forms of sleep apnea affect breathing while you sleep, to the point where you will actually stop breathing intermittently or breathe extremely shallowly. These episodes can last from a few seconds to a few minutes and can occur up to 30 times per hour.

In addition to snoring, other symptoms of sleep apnea include waking up during the night gasping for air, waking up with a dry mouth, morning headaches, inability to focus, insomnia and, of course, extreme daytime sleepiness.

How to Treat Snoring and Sleep Apnea

What you need to know about snoring and sleep apnea

While you should always consult with a physician if you’re concerned about any of these issues, there are several at-home treatments you can try to help mitigate the symptoms of snoring and sleep apnea.

  • Maintain a healthy weight range. Excessive weight can lead to more mass in the throat, physically obstructing the airway.
  • Manage alcohol consumption. Alcohol can cause the throat muscles to relax too much, causing them to become slack and block airflow. Avoid drinking alcohol three to four hours before bedtime.
  • Avoid sleep aids. This might seem counter-intuitive, especially if your symptoms include insomnia, but like alcohol, over-the-counter sleep aids (or any product with a sedative effect) can result in throat muscles losing their tension, which is necessary for keeping airways open and clear.
  • Try nasal strips. If you’re a light snorer and if your snoring is caused by blocked nasal passages or a deviated septum, nasal strips could be extremely effective at keeping your nasal passages open wider.
  • Go see your dentist. Remember that the tongue and jaw are part of your mouth, which is what your dentist specializes in. Dentists can sometimes provide relief for snoring and sleep apnea with a variety of appliances such as mouth guards. Or you can pick one up yourself in store or online.
  • Prop yourself up. Try using a pillow to keep yourself on your side while sleeping, which can help keep airways clear.
  • Clear the airways. If you feel your nose is constantly stuffy and you’re always sniffling even when you’re not sick, it’s possible your nasal airways are congested. Give them a clean with a natural nasal irrigation wash, such as a Neti Pot.

Shop our selection of sleep products to help you get a good night’s rest. If you are looking for some more self-care support, you can also talk to an LD Pharmacist.

10+ Tips to Wake Up Happier and More Energized

Summer is coming to an end and the days are getting shorter, which means we all want to feel as energized as possible as we wake up. When it comes to getting out of bed fresh, happy, and ready to tackle the world, there are a bunch of tricks to try. Start your morning feeling more rejuvenated with these tips.

Maximize your beauty sleep

Beauty Sleep to Wake Up with Energy on the London Drugs Blog

No screen time before bed

With advances in technology over the last decade or so, it’s common practice that in the hour before bedtime, you’re likely to check your phone, write a late night email, or watch your favourite show on Netflix. BUT! Studies have shown that excessive screen time can make it difficult to relax. Instead, try turning off your phone an hour or two before bed. Opt for a good ol’ paperback to read instead of using your tablet, or even try for a sleeping mask to completely block out any light source.  

Create a comfortable space

Avoid using your bedroom for day-to-day activities and turn it exclusively into a sleep haven. This may involve investing in black-out or dark curtains for your windows, adjusting the thermostat to reach the perfect temperature (not too hot, not too cold), or even buying a new pillow that meets your comfort needs. If you have noisy neighbours, live near a busy street, or share the bed with a snoring partner or pet, make your space as quiet as you can by using earplugs at night. At first this may seem excessive–but just remember how good it feels when you wake up after a soundless, restful slumber.

Get a good night’s sleep

How you wake up in the morning is affected by how you fall asleep at night. A regimented schedule is a great place to start, but with busy lives and spontaneous occurrences, it’s nearly impossible to keep a completely consistent schedule at all times. If you occasionally have difficulties falling asleep, try diffusing an essential oil such as lavender (well-known for its sleep-inducing properties), or another relaxing oil. Alternatively, a small dose of natural melatonin can also be helpful to nudge you to sleep without any groggy side effects the next morning.

Develop a morning routine

Avoid hitting the ‘snooze’ button

Hitting the “snooze” button in the morning is a habit most people have developed at some point in their lives. It can be too easy to put off getting out of bed with a simple smack of the button. Wearing a Fitbit or similar device will closely track your sleep schedule (so you can see the times you have uninterrupted, REM sleep), and it can also provide a gentler, built-in alarm that wakes you up gradually. Another method that is less enticing, but very effective, is to set your alarm clock across the room, so no matter what, you can’t simply turn over and “snooze,” but have to get out of bed to silence it. And if you’re already up–what’s the point of going back to sleep?

Open the blinds

Like we mentioned above, because the presence of light simulates daylight (and alertness), when you’re falling asleep, it’s best to avoid it. On the other hand, if you’re having trouble waking up in the morning, simply flood your space with natural light; open the blinds, crack open a window for fresh air, and bask in the morning sunshine. We all know the feeling of feeling lethargic whenever the weather is dull or rainy–so when this is the case, switch out your regular light bulbs for some power-saving and daylight-duping LED bulbs around the house.

Create an upbeat playlist

When it comes to getting ready in the morning, some people prefer listening to the news on TV, early morning radio programs, podcasts, or the new album from their favourite band. Whatever it is, as long as it elevates your mood and helps you feel energized, prepare your sound of choice the night before. Create a playlist that speaks to you, and choose something that gets you excited in the morning and pumped for your day. Sync your phone up with a hands-free speaker to switch from the traffic report to your ‘90s playlist effortlessly while you turn on the coffee maker and pack your lunch.  

Nourish your body and mind

Choose a healthy breakfast to wake up with more energy from the London Drugs blog

Drink water

For many people, the idea of mornings without caffeine may seem impossible to bear. The truth is, though your routine cup of coffee or tea may be non-negotiable, make sure your habit doesn’t become an addiction. To supplement the benefits of caffeine, always keep a tall glass or bottle of water next to your bed so you can grab it and gulp immediately upon waking. Water rehydrates the body after hours without it, it will de-fog your brain and amp up your alertness, and it can help stimulate your metabolism for the rest of the day. Just incorporating one glass of water every morning (before your coffee) will pay dividends for your focus and liveliness.

Eat a healthy breakfast

Your first meal is what keeps your brain sharp and provides your body with energy until lunchtime. If the idea of eating something heavy right upon waking makes you nauseous–don’t worry. You don’t need to eat a whole plate of eggs and bacon every day for energy. Instead, you can make quick, simple smoothies to take with you on the go. If you’re pressed for time, prepare overnight oats the day before, or dive into a bowl of muesli. Though scientific communities are divided about the importance of breakfast, as long as you feel satiated and energized, you won’t have to worry about any uncomfortable cravings before your next meal. 


For some people, getting to a yoga or spin class, or even a 30-minute jog in the morning is difficult; especially if you have a busy family, career, or unpredictable schedule. But taking just a small amount of time out of your morning for exercise can have lasting benefits. Not only will you not have to bother hitting the gym after an 8-hour work day, but the endorphins stimulated during your workout will get you revved and happy in the morning. If you’re the type of person who exercises to relax and unwind, you should definitely move this activity to the morning–that way, when you head to work, your mind (and body) will be fully refreshed. If time really isn’t on your side, pop in a morning yoga DVD that you can do in your bedroom or consider an active commute–getting your heart rate up and blood flowing will set a solid foundation for the rest of your day.

Take time for yourself

Finally, be sure to take time for yourself in the morning. Whenever you have just a moment or an hour, do something that makes you content and peaceful before diving back into the real world. Meditation is a fantastic way to embrace every day as a clean slate, where you can create positive energy by appreciating the little moments in life. If meditating isn’t your jam, try journaling, reading, or simply sitting in your pajamas with your tea or coffee (and glass of water!).

Whatever you do to start your morning, find what makes you the happiest, get a good night’s sleep, and prepare your day feeling your best.

5 Simple Ways to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

Tips to Sleep Better London Drugs Blog

Sleep is essential for both our physical and mental wellbeing. And yet, so many of us are sleeping poorly. Experts say adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep per night to feel refreshed. In 2017, Statistics Canada released a report stating that one third of Canadians sleep fewer than the recommended hours.

Insufficient sleep not only leaves us tired, but it can also be linked to health issues such as weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. So what can we do to combat common sleep issues?

Limit Caffeine, Alcohol, Eating, and Liquids at Night

Sleep Habits Coffee in Bed London Drugs Blog

While we might love our afternoon java, it is not doing our sleeping patterns any favours. The stimulants in caffeine and alcohol can impair our sleep when consumed up to six hours before bed. Experts recommend sticking to decaffeinated coffee at night and limiting alcohol intake. Drinking too many liquids after dark might have you rising often to empty your bladder, and eating late at night can leave you feeling too full or make it uncomfortable to sleep.

Maintain a Consistent Bedtime Routine

Studies have shown that maintaining a consistent routine helps keep our sleep rhythms on track. As tempting as those weekend lie-ins are, it may be messing with your circadian rhythm. If you’re struggling to fall asleep on Sunday nights, try adjusting your weekend sleep to be more similar to your workday routine.

Create the Right Bedroom Environment

London Drugs Homedics Soundspa EnlivenTemperature, noise, and light in your bedroom may be affecting your ability to fall asleep—and stay asleep. We all know how hard it can be on hot summer nights! Similarly, if your bedroom thermostat is set too high in the cooler months, it can impact your ability to sleep. Keeping your bedroom environment dark is also recommended for a good night’s rest, and if you are hearing traffic noise, consider using a fan or white noise machine. Try the Homedics Soundspa Enliven from London Drugs with eight soothing sounds and an auto-off timer to gently relax.

Consider a Sleep Supplement

Better Sleep Habits Sleeping Dog London Drugs Blog

Melatonin is a very popular supplement to help with falling asleep, and is often used to treat insomnia. Alternative options are Ginko-biloba, Magnesium, and Lavender. You can find a full range of sleep supplements at London Drugs.

Talk to an Expert

Visit a London Drugs location near you and speak to one of our friendly pharmacists who can provide expert advice on improving your sleep habits. Also, are you having trouble getting your baby to sleep? Read our Q&A with Baby’s Best Sleep for answers to some common questions. Sweet dreams!

Could One Sleep Position Be Better Than Another?

You generally don’t think about how you sleep until you can’t sleep. But not being able to sleep can have adverse affects on life—and sleep position might be a factor.

Sleep Positions - London Drugs Blog

An adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night, and if you’re not meeting that need, you might want to think about the position you’re sleeping in instead of fruitlessly counting sheep all night.

But is one sleeping position really “better” than another? We delved deep and here’s what we found out about these common ways to get some shut eye and the pros and cons of each position.

Back Sleepers


Congrats, back sleepers. Sleeping on your back is widely considered to be a good position for your spine and neck, as the back is straight and not bending haphazardly, as with some of the other positions. In fact, the best possible sleeping situation for your spine would be to sleep on your back, but with no pillow. Not that we are suggesting that (it sounds terrible)!

Bonus: there’s also some evidence that sleeping on your back leads to fewer wrinkles! 


Sleep apnea is so directly linked to sleeping in this position that doctors literally recommend sleeping on your side to combat it. And any snoring associated with sleep apnea, of course, may impact partners or anyone nearby. Studies have also shown that those who sleep on their backs tend to be worse sleepers overall.

Side Sleepers


A very popular position. Sleeping on one’s left side in particular is good for pregnant women, as well as for those who deal with acid reflux and heartburn, making it easier for people dealing with those conditions to nod off.


Sleeping on the left side is thought to be hard on the stomach and lungs (it puts pressure on those organs), and, as side sleepers will know well, the chances you come out of the morning with the dreaded dead-arm due to numbness are high. Switching sides can help.

Fetal Position Sleepers


A slight variation on side sleeping, the fetal position has you curled up with your legs tucked in. This position has some of the same benefits as sleeping on the side: it’s great for those who are pregnant (but not too pregnant!) and for overall blood circulation, and it’s actually more popular than the standard side sleep. It’s also good for snorers.


Curling up too tightly in this position might become a bad habit as you get older, as it can restrict breathing in your diaphragm. It can also leave you aching in the morning, especially if you have arthritis. If you’re a fetal sleeper, try to straighten out when you can to help ease your breathing.

Stomach Sleepers


There’s a virtual guarantee that you won’t snore. 


Sleeping on your stomach can be hard on your back, as it tends to flatten the spine. Stomach sleepers can also strain their necks if the head gets turned to one side all night.

If you are already in the habit of sleeping on your stomach, you might want to try using pillows to train yourself to eventually sleep on your side. Your back and neck will thank you for it.

The Verdict on Sleep Position

The fact of the matter is that people sleep in whatever matter they find the comfiest, and knowing the pros and cons of each position may not change that. But if you’re experiencing aches, back pain, or an angry partner due to your snoring, it might benefit you to try out a different position. Here’s to peaceful nights and restful days. 

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