Why Sleep Really Matters
Ever wonder why Acupuncturists always inquire about your sleep? With every new patient I make it a priority to ask about their quality and quantity of sleep.
It is important information even if sleep is not the main issue for coming in (often sleep is not even on the patient’s radar). But research shows sleep is related to more than we may be giving it credit for, including premature ageing, chronic pain, anxiety and a reduced immune system.
Sleep is related to Overall Health
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the time spent asleep is a time when the body and mind are meant to rest and repair. Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, disrupted sleep or troubled, violent dreams are all indications of possible disruptions in health according to the TCM diagnosis. Good sleep is needed to function properly, and there are no shortcuts about it.
Even if you feel ok and think you naturally do fine on only a few hours of sleep – your body inherently disagrees. Signs of this may be showing up as issues related to poor sleep.
Modern science agrees, and much has been written about the adequate amount of sleep humans need and how this affects our functioning and overall health. “If you are operating on less than five hours of sleep for five days in a row, you are actually functioning as if you were legally intoxicated” says Lt Gen. Patricia Horoho, former US Army Surgeon General.
So whether you are focused on repairing your health, improving fertility, slowing down the aging process or getting a higher quality of energy – sleep quantity and quality must be addressed.
Sleep Quality and Quantity are Important
Unfortunately, the number of hours logged in bed does not always mean a good enough night’s rest. Even getting the “recommended” 8 hours of sleep may not be enough, especially if it is only on the weekend or frequently interrupted throughout the night. More and more research now shows that interrupted, poor quality sleep is a factor linked to diabetes, chronic fatigue, depression and obesity.
5 Tips for a Healthier Sleep Tonight
A dark bedroom is best, without any lights on at all during the night. Light interrupts the body’s production of melatonin – the hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. Even if you are getting up to use the washroom, try to keep lights off as much as you can.
Keep it cool
A cool bedroom is optimum, as our body’s temperature also drops at night.
Store worries in a box
If you have trouble winding down due to constant worries or thoughts of things that must get done, try this simple visualization: picture sitting at a desk with an empty box in front of you. Picture each worry as a miniature item in front of you on the desk.
For instance, if you’re worried about work, picture a tiny desk. Then, when all the worries are assembled in front you – pick them up one by one and drop into the box. Close up the box and set it up high on a shelf. Consciously tell yourself that nothing will change between now and tomorrow and the worries will be there for you to take care of in the morning.
Aim to be in bed by 10.30pm and asleep by 11pm
In TCM, each organ system has a time slot on the “Body Clock” – which is also related to the more familiar Circadian rhythm. 11pm is the start of the time slot when the Liver and Gallbladder organ systems begin to detoxify the body and restore blood. In TCM, these organs are also related to “emotional processing”, which is an important function that happens in the body at night. This may show up as dreaming, or you can think of it as clearing or detoxing on an emotional level. According to modern research this is typically the period of your deepest, most restorative sleep. It is also the most crucial part of sleep in terms of your health.
Acupuncture can help with sleep. Sleep quality and quantity can be greatly improved with acupuncture in combination with the above sleep guidelines. Read our Guide to Getting the Most out of Acupuncture.