Wonderful, glorious restorative sleep can be one of life´s greatest pleasures, if you are someone who gets enough sleep that it. Most of us occasionally find it difficult to get to sleep, more often if we are experiencing stress or after too large a meal. For others getting the sleep they need is a chronic source of frustration. If you have ever laid awake at night trying to wish yourself to sleep or tire yourself to sleep you will know exactly what I mean. And generally the more you try, the less you achieve that elusive sleeping state.
Chinese medicine and insomnia
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep, waking during the night, sleeping restlessly, waking too early or dream disturbed sleep. Chinese medicine identifies several causes to sleep disorders, but they can be divided into two main categories: deficiency and excess. In the case of deficiency there is a lack of calming/grounding energy for the mind to take root and allow sleep . When there is an excess condition, usually involving heat, the mind is agitated, therefore causing insomnia. Overexertion, excessive thinking, worrying, loss of blood such as after childbirth or a surgery, anger, irregular diet (overeating or eating too much spicy, greasy and hot food), and heat in the body can all cause insomnia.
Tips For Great Sleep
We all know that sleep is important to keep our energy up and our immune system strong. It is also during sleep that our liver cleanses the body, restorative sleep increases our ability to focus, improves memory, and the list goes on. A few things we can do to help us get better quality sleep are:
- Avoid screen time for at least 30 minutes before shutting your eyes. Yes that includes your phone screen too, and Kindle especially if you are finding it hard to fall asleep. Reading a real book can be helpful for some people (as long as it is not one that keeps you reading into the night). It can also help to actually keep technology out of the bedroom: have the TV switched off or better do not have it in the bedroom, leave tablets, phone and other electronics in another room. This may require buying an actual alarm clock!
- Exercise. Move your body during the day so you feel physically tired comes nighttime.
- Eat a whole foods diet (ideally mostly plant based) diet to ensure you get the appropriate vitamins and minerals
- Avoid processed, fried or hot spicy food, alcohol, caffeine, and sugar, which can disrupt sleep.
- Meditate or do some deep breathing exercised while in bed. There are plenty of guided meditations to listen to. Just don’t pick one with a video or the screen time could counteract the meditating. A body scan like this one by Jon Kabat Zinn can be a good option.
- Essential oils can have an instant relaxing effect. You can try lavender or chamomille, or even better a custom made blend to be applied to specific acupuncture points before bed.
- Acupuncture and Chinese herbs have a very long history of effectively treating insomnia and other sleep disorders. Not only does acupuncture help with better sleep but also can get to the root of why those symptoms are occurring in the first place and help restore systemic balance. After one session, regardless of what you are being treated for, many notice better sleep that same night, reduced stress, and a feeling of calm and well-being.
- Try sleeping on your right side with knees slightly bent and your left arm resting on your right thigh. According to traditional Chinese views, this is the optimal position for your body to recuperate and function during sleep.