ask the doctor: depression & insomnia | natural alternatives

Hi Dr. Corinne,

I’ve had depression off and on for about 10 years. I’ve been off and on anti-depressants and just started a new one that was supposed to help me sleep at night (I stay up til 3-4am some nights, then have to get up at 7-8am with the kids) and kick the depression, but I felt like a zombie on it so I stopped taking it after a few days. I feel really good when I tan but I don’t because it’s not good for me, and it’s only a quick fix for the day after I tan. That boost of vitamin D must work then wear off or something. Are there any natural alternatives? I’ve stopped taking my anti-depressants because I need to see if I can do this without drugs.


Hello there,

This is a difficult question to answer specifically, because I would need to do a much more detailed intake to figure out why you’re not sleeping (because of the depression or another reason?), the onset of the depression (perinatal or did this exist before pregnancy/childbirth?), the intensity of the depression (ex: have you lost all interest in things you previously enjoyed?), and then from there assess the severity of your situation. That being said, Naturopathic Medicine has some effective tools to help treat mild-to-moderate depression usually without the need for (or in conjunction with) pharmaceuticals.

Studies have shown statistically significant outcomes of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (most of us know of these as fish oil, and specifically the EPA) use in patients experiencing depressive and anxiety disorders. It is fairly safe and very effective, but as always safety first!  So this, of course, should be recommended by your family Naturopath or other health care professional. Also, definitely consult your MD before taking any kind of supplementation if he/she has prescribed you any antidepressant medication already. Aside from its mood-enhancing effects, other benefits of fish oil are that it decreases inflammation in the body, modulates the immune system, lowers cholesterol, and benefits cardiovascular health. Of course, fish oil can also be found in fish (go figure!!), so incorporating some good quality fatty fish (salmon or smaller larger fish generally have higher mercury contamination) into your weekly diet will achieve this same goal.

You mentioned feeling better after going to the tanning beds. This is a good indication that Vitamin D may be part of the answer to your depression! This is great news, because it is fairly easily remedied! It is true that nearly all Canadians are somewhat Vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin) deficient in the wintertime. We spend less time outdoors (because it’s COLD!), and on top of that, the sun rises later and sets earlier so we have less opportunity for exposure. Vitamin D is a very important vitamin for many aspects of our health, but especially mood and perception of well-being. Do you notice your depression worsens in the wintertime, a sort of “winter blues? A good daily dose of Vitamin D is about 3000-4000IU, and can be achieved with 15-20mins of un-sunscreen-protected exposure to the sun everyday. If this is impossible for you because of work hours, weather, etc, then alternatively, Vitamin D supplementation is available.

And finally, a note on sleep — the more I think about it, the more I realize the importance (no, NECESSITY) of sleep. As we all know, sleep is your body’s opportunity to heal, rejuvenate, recharge. It is also a hormonally-controlled essential function of the human body, and as discussed in previous posts our bodies are very tightly run hormonal ships when working optimally. When our hormones get disrupted, it opens up possibilities for more serious disruptions further down the line. Melatonin is the hormone produced in cyclical patterns which tells our body when it’s time to be awake and when it’s time to be asleep. This hormone is currently being researched in association with depression, nerve and heart health, as well as cancer specifically breast. I bring up sleep and Melatonin for three reasons:

1)It is important to recognize that sleep is something so basic and crucial for the human body’s proper functioning that (wayyy back when) the body created a hormone specifically to ensure it had time to rest and repair!

2) Your insomnia could be playing a part in the depression you are experiencing.

3)Your insomnia (and depression for that matter) may be due to something else going on in your life/body/mind, and getting to the root of that is definitely worth your while.

A little quiz you can take on your sleep hygiene can be found at the following link:

I consider myself a pretty good sleeper and I only got a 74% on this quiz! So we all have work to do, but it’s definitely an important thing to make a priority in your life. Poor sleep habits are just that a habit! They can be broken one step at a time with patience, commitment, and lots of self-care.

And as always, making an appointment with your family Naturopathic Doctor would greatly benefit your symptoms there are many botanicals that are very effective for both sleep and depression, as well as acupuncture, homeopathy, and additional lifestyle counseling following a more detailed intake.

I hope this information helps, good luck and thanks for your question!

In health and happiness!

Dr. Corinne

Have a question for Dr. Corinne? Send her an email at and your question will be answered here. These suggestions are not intended to provide diagnosis or substitute a private consultation with your healthcare practitioner.


About Dr. Corinne, Health & Wellness Editor

Naturopathic Doctor, Corinne Brown BSc, ND, established her Naturopathic practice, Brownroots Wellness, in May of 2011. Her practice focuses on women’s health, weight loss, chronic stress and adrenal fatigue. Corinne also focuses her practice on pre-and-post natal health, fertility, and offers Naturopathic Perinatal Classes. She is very passionate about pregnancy and birth, and is also a trained Birth & Labor Doula. Dr. Corinne is the Natural Mommie Health & Wellness Editor who posts a Q&A series of natural health and wellness topics as well as healthy living tips for women, moms and moms to be.

4 thoughts on “ask the doctor: depression & insomnia | natural alternatives

  1. I feel like this article was written for me. Thanks so much for posting!

  2. I watched a show on TV the other day and a Dr. on it said they are showing a higher percentage of Colorectal cancers in persons who don’t get at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Our bodies really do need that rest.

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