09 Nov How To Make Your Sleep Work For You
Getting a good night’s sleep is an important factor of health, wellbeing and vitality during the day, and allows the body to rest and recover. In Chinese Medicine, good sleep is even an indicator of health in the elderly.
Sleep can be affected by many things including emotional issues, imbalances in the body and environmental factors to name a few. Unfortunately, it can be easy to get into a vicious cycle of having difficult sleep onset and poor sleep quality which leads to poor health and mental wellbeing that in turn leads to further poor sleep. It can also create imbalances in the nervous system.
Here are some tips to help break the cycle of poor sleep and improve your health and wellbeing:
Warm the belly before sleep, but do not eat a heavy meal
According to Chinese Medicine, the “Blood” is meant to flow inwards and reside within the Liver while you sleep. If eating a heavy meal your body will redirect the “Blood” to the digestive system and disturb the natural flow. Not only will this affect the quality of your sleep, it can also lead to weight gain due to reduction in digestive efficiency. This is why it is preferable to have a light snack or ideally a hot caffeine-free drink (like ginger or barley tea) 1 hour before bedtime. Why we recommend an hour difference is to limit the possibility of your sleep being disturbed by the need to pee in the middle of the night. Go one better by massaging your abdominal area in a clockwise direction until the abdomen feels warm.
Keep calm and quiet before sleep
In a similar fashion, if you exercise vigorously before sleep or stimulate the body, like you would when working night shifts, playing video games or becoming overly emotional, you will disrupt the flow of “Blood”. For those with sleeping problems, less movement after sunset is desirable and the only exercise done should be passive exercise that promotes relaxation, like meditation.
Because Chinese Medicine associates speech with the heart and spirit, talking excessively at night can lead to a restless spirit and a restless spirit can lead to restless sleep and poor sleep onset (this is also related to the topics that you talk about at night). Simply, a peaceful spirit leads to a peaceful sleep.
We warn that it is not a good long-term solution to exercise at night to force yourself into feeling tired enough to sleep. Over time we have seen this issue become worse and the body become overexerted. There may be some reasons for this occurring, but a proper Chinese Medicine diagnosis will be required.
Make sure you use 1am to 3am well
In Chinese Medicine it is believed that the hours between 1am and 3am are the most important in giving you the quality sleep you need to experience optimum rest and relaxation. Make sure you are in bed before these hours so you are using them to their maximum benefit.
Have a warm footbath, or even better – a herbal footbath!
Because temperature and sleep are linked, you will find that if you have cold feet you will not find it easy to fall asleep. In Chinese Medicine, warming your feet redirects attention and energy to the lower body and not to the upper body, which is especially beneficial for those who overthink at night. While normal warm to hot water will suffice, having an herbal footbath will be much more beneficial. This is because the herbs will be able to stimulate certain foot acupuncture points and general circulation in the feet. Our recommendation for some footbath additions are grated ginger, moxa leaves, Epsom salts, lavender essential oil and Chinese black vinegar. Experiment with any of these to find what works best for you in your footbath and make it at least a 15 to 20 minute soak.
Take a hot water bottle to bed
Similar to a footbath, a hot water bottle on the lower back or lower belly can draw the energy into the lower body and out of the head, creating a feeling of relaxation and peacefulness to give you a fulfilling sleep.
Herbal pillows for heavenly sleep
Herbal pillows work in a similar way, as they can stimulate the acupuncture points in the head and neck and it is beneficial to breathe in the aroma of the herbs. They can have varying health benefits as 1/3 of your day is spent sleeping and breathing in their beneficial scents. One of the more common in Western traditions is lavender scented pillows or apply some essential oil to the pillow. One of the traditional Eastern methods involves placing Moxa leaves (Artemisia) under your pillow.
Use acupuncture points to your advantage
Acupuncture points can help to regulate and restore the body’s balance as well as normalising sleep patterns. You can stimulate these points yourself using acupressure. While this is not as effective as having an acupuncture treatment, it can provide temporary benefits. Three beneficial points are Zhong Wan, known as Ren 12, San Yin Jiao, known as Spleen 6, and Tai Chong, known as Liver 3. These points can be massaged with light pressure for a few minutes in a clockwise direction.
(Please note: that it is important to avoid using Spleen 6 when you are pregnant)
Experiencing poor sleep and lowered ability to fall asleep properly can be very frustrating. It can really take a toll on health and wellbeing when coupled with the endless cycle of poor sleep patterns. With these tips and lifestyle changes you can help to regulate your sleep patterns so that you can be your best self during the waking hours.
If you are experiencing more serious sleep issues then we recommend you consult your general practitioner or book in to see Peter for a Chinese Medicine appointment.
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