A good night's sleep is the best! Yet most people are sleep-deprived on a regular basis, either because of too many life obligations or trouble sleeping. Sleep deprivation makes you cranky, hurts your concentration, and predisposes you to a number of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart problems. In addition, it takes a toll on your appearance as well. The phrase, “I must get my beauty sleep” is not just an excuse to end a bad date. Bags, dark circles under the eyes, sallow, dull or blotchy complexion, and lack of sparkle to the eyes are all results of poor sleep quality.
A deep sleep helps repair the damage done to our bodies during the daytime. Eight hours of sleep may not be the magic number for everyone. Some people require more, others less. When you can fall asleep easily, stay asleep, and wake up refreshed in the morning, you are sleeping the the right number of hours. If you are suffering from sleep problems, here are a few tips:
Keep a regular sleep schedule. It is best to try to retire for bed and wake at the same time each day, including weekends. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, around 10 o’clock or earlier is the ideal time to retire. Nighttime is yin time, a time of stillness, quiet and darkness. Daytime is yang time, a time of action, activity, brightness and warmth.
Limit your caffeine intake to before noon or have none at all. Some people are sensitive to caffeine and even consuming one beverage in the morning can affect sleep quality. If you are a coffee drinker, switch to green tea and slowly decrease your intake to avoid the dreaded withdrawal headaches. Initially you may feel more tired, but after a few days your energy will perk up.
Limit alcohol consumption before bed. You might think a glass of wine will help you sleep better but it actually does the opposite. If consumed close to bedtime, you initially feel relaxed and sleepy but there's a rebound effect a few hours later when sleep is interrupted and you often wake up.
Put the smart phones, tablets & laptops away at least an hour before getting into bed. These devices emit blue light which disrupts circadian rhythms and affect melatonin production. This causes poor sleep quality. If you are really compelled to use your device, you can purchase blue light filters to put on the screens of your devices. Or, you can wear blue blocker sunglasses.
Visit your acupuncturist. Traditional Chinese medicine is effective at treating sleep issues. According to TCM, the organs that influence sleep quality are the Heart and Liver. The amount and quality of sleep depend on the state of the mind. The mind is a reflection of the heart. If the Heart is disturbed by too much heat or undernourished, the mind will not be properly grounded and there will be difficulty falling asleep. If the Liver is stagnant because of stress and tension, irritated by too much heat, or undernourished, sleep will not be sound and you may wake frequently or have restless sleep.
What causes the heart and liver to be disturbed by too much heat? Stimulants, too many spicy foods, alcohol, smoking, television (especially shows that cause a lot of excitability) and anything else that causes our emotions to get ‘worked up’. What causes the heart to be undernourished? Poor diet, worry, stress, and inadequate rest.
Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, nutrition and lifestyle adjustments can improve sleep quality quite a bit. An acupuncturist will assess and diagnose the imbalance that is causing poor sleep quality. Points will be chosen that either release heat, circulate stagnant energy or give nourishment to the heart, liver or spleen.
Other factors can disrupt your sleep (pets, children, pain, the need to urinate, etc.) but I've addressed a few modifications to your lifestyle you can make to improve your sleep quality.
Nothing feels better than waking up from a sound, restful sleep! Commit to some good sleep hygiene and visit your acupuncturist for help to get a better, sound sleep.