How Traditional Chinese Medicine can help you have a more restful nights’ sleep
Do you lay awake in bed at night unable to switch off your mind to get to sleep? Or maybe you can get to sleep but wake up multiple times throughout the night?
Regardless of your circumstances, we have all been the victim of a terrible nights sleep and we know when we are lacking those precious hours of rest, other aspects of our lives become affected. More alarmingly it can lead to a variety of health problems, such as depression, diabetes and heart disease.
In traditional Chinese Medicine texts, sleep disturbances are described as, “yang unable to enter yin” – the active unable to become passive. This usually means that Blood or Yin or both are deficient and incapable of nourishing the Spirit stored in the Heart. There is therefore a relative excess of yang, which is not balanced and unable to quiet down.
Here are 5 tips, using Traditional Chinese Medicine theory to help calm down your mind and rebalance any imbalances or disharmonies within the body causing disruption in your sleep.
1. Avoid stimulants
If you are having trouble sleeping, stimulants like caffeine and sugar can have a large impact on your ability to switch off at the end of the day. Caffeine is found in a variety of food and drinks and works by enhancing brain function and performance. This mechanism blocks the chemicals in the brain, which promote sleep. Instead, try drinking green tea in the mornings. It is extremely high in antioxidants and has significantly less caffeine compared to coffee.
2. Take a gentler approach to physical activity.
Traditional Chinese Medicine takes a more moderate approach to exercise, in order to conserve our energy. Generally, overly vigorous activity too often is said to deplete our qi (energy) and yin rather than improve our health. As discussed in Chinese Medicine texts, if our yin is depleted, there will be an excess of yang, which will disrupt our bodies ability to quiet down at the end of the day. Trying exercises such as yoga, walking, Tai Chi or Qi Gong help improve overall health and wellbeing.
However, if you love your HIIT classes or can’t go without running, ensure to include some yin-style nourishing activities into your week, like stretching, Pilates or yoga to maintain healthy and balanced qi flow.
3. Reduce screen time in the evenings
Bright unnatural light in the evenings disrupts your bodies circadian rhythm, meaning the signal telling your hypothalamus that it’s time to feel tired is switched off and that’s when we begin to feel ‘wired and tired’. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, this means you are disrupting your body’s natural rhythm of yang entering into the yin. Switching off all electronic devices 1 hour before bed, will allow your brain adequate time to release enough melatonin to make you feel sleepy.
In eastern traditions, the practice of meditation has been taught for thousands of years. It allows our racing thoughts to settle at the end of the day, by reducing your heart rate and increasing relaxation. Try working through a guided sleep-based meditation, to learn new techniques to ease yourself into a natural restful night sleep.
5. Try Acupuncture
In China, Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are the go-to treatments for insomnia and sleep disorders. In ancient texts, insomnia is described as an imbalance between yin and yang. Your Chinese Medicine practitioner will use a combination of acupuncture, herbs and dietary advice to help rebalance and restore any imbalances within the body.
6. Bonus tip
Ensure you establish a bed time routine and maintain a comfortable room temperature throughout the different seasons, as it is also important as your body temperature lowers in the evening to help you fall and stay asleep.
Traditional Chinese Medicine believes in a holistic approach to healing, so by incorporating all these tips into your lifestyle and taking the time to develop good habits, overtime you will begin to ease into more restful nights sleep at the end of the day.
By Georgia Fong – Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner at Health Space, Rozelle
*Note – Organs mentioned in this post correspond to the Chinese Medicine understanding of organ function, not the western medicine concept. Therefore, unless there is a western medical problem, the organs mentioned are unlikely to show up in blood test or ultra sound showing dysfunction.