In our society we put a premium on our waking hours and have the tendency to underestimate the importance of a full-night’s sleep. Millions of people who suffer from insomnia look for quick fixes instead of exploring the root causes of the problem. Sleep hygiene is an afterthought for many people. Evening is a time to allow our minds and bodies to turn inward to our subconscious. Sleep deprivation is the root of many health issues like memory impairment, a weakened immune system and stress that can lead to cardiac disease, heart disease and digestive disorders.
Exposure to the diminishing light at dusk helps regulate sleep hormones in the body. Excessive lighting at night, evening shift work, evening computing, video games, television and late-night eating all serve to counteract the body’s natural rhythms. It’s no wonder people have trouble sleeping. Rather than embrace nighttime as rest time, we tend to let our minds wander from one element of stress to another keeping us up for hours or perhaps an entire evening. We are then forced to approach the new day without having benefited from the regenerative powers that night time brings.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) sleep occurs when the yang energy of the day folds into the yin energy of nighttime. Yin energy of the body is cooling and restorative. It is the time of day when our bodies turn inward and regenerate. This is the time we dream and explore the caverns of our unconscious mind. Conversely, daytime is yang, which is expansive. We expend the energy we have built up from the process of sleeping. Together, this is the cycle of yin and yang.
To apply this yin-yang concept to your everyday life try eating your last meal at least three hours before going to bed. For example, you can “cool” your yang energy down by avoiding hot and spicy food and drink. Avoid alcohol, coffee, chocolate and any other stimulants, especially late in the day.
To improve your sleep cycles, help circulate your body’s energy by working out or by gentle exercising. Build your body’s nutritive aspect by eating marrow-based soups and stews, dark pigmented vegetables and fruits. Avoid overworking or over rumination as well.
An invaluable tool to help your brain unwind is meditation. It helps the body create a sense of calm. Meditation can reduce stress, increase feelings of well-being, and improve overall health. It can help one increase alertness, relaxation and reflection even in “waking” states. Meditation is best practiced during the day to help improve your sleep patterns at night.
If you or someone you know suffers from insomnia call All and One Acupuncture today to learn what acupuncture can do for you! Portland acupuncturist Boynn McIntire may incorporate acupuncture or herbs, as well as private meditation and yoga instruction, to help address your health concerns.