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Halifax-based pharmacists leads effort to move people towards healthier solutions for insomnia

A photo of pharmacists David Gardner and Andrea Murphy taken on October 3, 2023. (Paul Hollingsworth/CTV Atlantic) A photo of pharmacists David Gardner and Andrea Murphy taken on October 3, 2023. (Paul Hollingsworth/CTV Atlantic)

At the age of 95, Helen Murray has lived a good life and for the most part has had solid sleep habits.

“Well, on and off,” said Murray, who added that whenever insomnia sets in, she has a go-to move to help her sleep.

“I listen to the talking, because if I listen to the music, I would pay more attention I think.”

That would be what David Gardner and Andrea Murphy call a cognitive exercise.

Gardner and Murphy are married, and both are pharmacists who work to help people with sleeping disorders.

“What we developed is a program called Sleep Well,” said Gardner.

Sleep Well comes with two main overarching goals.

“One, to help people who are currently taking sleeping pills, long-term, learn to safely and effectively stop taking them,” said Gardner. “Also, how to get their sleep back, using behavioral cognitive approaches.”

In short, teach people to replace sleeping pills with a more productive approach.

“We just did a study, called Yawns NB that we did in New Brunswick,” said Gardner. “Sending people a booklet on how to get a good night sleep, and how to get off sleeping pills was really effective.”

The primary goal is to teach new and innovative ways to help people improve sleep patterns, and their overall mental health.

“And also help pharmacists as well as other healthcare professionals,” said Murphy. “We work with folks to empower them to take some self-help and self-steps to improve their own sleep.”

Some steps and tools are fairly basic.

“Don’t drink your coffee late night and don’t go play hockey late at night and expect to sleep,” said Gardner. “Do your exercise earlier in the day. Also, nap wisely and make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet.”

As for help for people who have Chronic Insomnia?

“If you’re in bed longer than 20 minutes awake without being asleep, leave the bedroom,” said Gardner. “Because you are starting to associate with being in bed with being frustrated. Go back to bed and try again.”

There is also Bedtime Restriction Therapy.

“When people have long-term sleep problems, they say I am going to go to bed earlier,” said Gardner.

Going to bed later and shorten sleep time will give you a better opportunity to fall asleep, he adds.

David Gardner and Andrea Murphy will share their findings and advice for best sleep practices, at Tuesday’s Let’s Keep Talking event, hosted by the Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia. Top Stories

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