11 Mar Sleeping and waking up
There are many scientific studies linking poor sleep patterns with increased risk of developing diabetes [i], obesity, heart disease, stroke [ii], high blood pressure, asthma [iii], and inflammation [iv]. This illustrates that the amount of quality sleep you get can determine the the level of energy, vitality and overall health you have.
Our preparation for sleep is guided by our circadian rhythm, an internal mechanism that regulates the release of our sleep hormone melatonin.
In today’s busy lifestyle we often disrupt this natural sleep rhythm by stimulating the body with caffeine or alcohol causing us to stay awake, or staying up late on a computer or watching television which tricks our body into thinking it is still daylight. Between 1 to 2 hours after our eyes no longer detect light, our body secretes Melatonin which prompts the muscles to relax, the breathing rate too slow and begins the “wind down” process in preparation for sleep. So when we are up late looking at a screen, then turn it off around 11pm, we often toss and turn until 1am as melatonin hasn’t been released until then. Then many people wake to an alarm clock, which gets the heart racing before we are even out of bed, then consume a quick cup of coffee which elevates the heart rate even more, then either get off to work or look after family members, or both, then leave the house usually within only an hour or so of waking up. Then go about their day only to stay up late trying to wind down to begin it all again the next day.
Traditional Chinese Medicineand Insomnia
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has a long history with addressing sleep issues through the use of Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine (CHM), dietary and lifestyle changes, gentle exercise and meditation. [v]
Some of the Acupuncture and CHM protocols used to assist in better sleep include- replenishing the fluids of the body, nourishing and moving the blood, calming the mind, and clearing heat out of the body. [vi]
TCM and Waking
When we wake in the morning our body can feel stiff and heavy. TCM practice incorporates the use of tai qi and qi gong exercises to gently wake the body by promoting blood flow to the muscles with gentle stretching and rotation of the joints to waken and stimulate movement of ligaments and tendons, and to gently massage our internal organs to release toxins and prepare ourselves to begin a new day.
The constant fluctuation between waking up, being active, and then winding down in preparation for sleep is something that can be managed and boosted with TCM practice and treatment.
Some tips for better sleep
- have a light meal early in the evening, our body doesn’t like to use energy to digest a meal as we sleep
- avoid strong aromatic herbs and spices like garlic and ginger at might as it may stimulate your energy and get your mind racing as you try to sleep
- avoid drinking large amounts of fluids at night as it may wake you in the night to urinate, best to stay hydrated during the day and minimise fluid intake after 6pm
- give yourself some time at night to “wind down” with reading a book by low light, stretching out on the floor with relaxing music on, meditation, warm bath by candlelight, to assist you with preparing for sleep
- get into a pattern of getting to bed around 9:30pm so that the Melatonin release can send you to a deep sleep earlier.
[i] Ferrie, J.E., et al., Change in Sleep Duration and Type 2 Diabetes: The Whitehall II Study. Diabetes Care, 2015. 38(8): p.
[ii] Kim, K.T., et al., The prevalence and clinical significance of sleep disorders in acute ischemic stroke patients—a questionnaire study. Sleep and Breathing, 2017. 21(3): p. 759-765.
[iii] Sheen, Y.H., et al., Poor sleep quality has an adverse effect on childhood asthma control and lung function measures. Pediatrics International, 2017. 59(8): p. 917-922.
[iv] Opp, M.R. and J.M. Krueger, Sleep and immunity: A growing field with clinical impact. Brain, behavior, and immunity, 2015. 47: p. 1-3.
[v] Yeung, W.-F., et al., Chinese herbal medicine for insomnia: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 2012. 16(6): p. 497-507.
[vi] Kuoch, D.J. Acupuncture Desk Reference vol2. Acumed West Inc, 2008