How well do you sleep? – Scott Stephens, Acupuncturist

 How well do you sleep?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory considers that good health is experienced when there is a balance of Yin and Yang. Yin and Yang is the complimentary nature of two aspects of the same object combining to create a whole.

Sleep in both Western Medicine and TCM is viewed as a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to good health. Sleep is part of the natural Yin Yang rhythm of the body. The night is Yin, a restorative time when we become quiet, slow down, replenish and repair. Yin time lends itself to activities such as relaxing, sleep and digestion. Day time is Yang. It is a time of energy and movement. This is the time when we are in the best space to be social, work, exercise and eat. Sleep disturbances or insomnia is indicative of an imbalance of this Yin Yang cycle.

While this seems straightforward enough, we as a modern people are no longer operating in the circadian rhythm that we were intended. With the introduction of sophisticated technology keeping us connected, awake and online our working and socilaising hours are now extended well past sundown. Not to mention the exposure to ever growing electromagnetic fields that we live, play and work in. These are also interacting with and disturbing our personal vibration.

While we are excellent at ‘soldiering on’ and our bodies are doing a great job of attempting to harmonize to this new pace of living, the reality is that over-stimulation upsets our fragile balance and drains Qi. The impact of this is simple. If we are no longer getting the same allocation of Yin time to rest that we used to, then the long-term result equals an over stimulated, under rested, sleep poor and unwell group of people.

I’ll hazard a guess that if you are reading this article then you are one of the many who are suffering the effects of inadequate sleep. You may already be familiar with the impact this can have on your ability to function well daily not to mention your overall health.

Sleep is when the body restores and replenishes. It is necessary to have this time to recharge the physical body and promote strong flow of Qi. It is when the body eliminates toxins, builds strong defences and promotes self-repair. During childhood and adolescence good sleep is a critical time for growth and development. From a mental health point of view experiencing good sleep allows for optimal mental functioning and clarity. It cannot be overstated the overwhelming impact lack of sleep has on our health.

TCM identifies that Qi (energy) circulates through our bodies meridian’s and organs in a 24-hour cycle. This is referred to as the Meridian or Horary clock. Over the day our Qi moves every two hours between organ systems. By observing the Meridian clock, you can see the times of day that correlates to each organ system, this is when those systems are at their strongest and most productive. This is a useful tool when experiencing a re-occurrence of nocturnal wakening, trouble falling asleep, or light disturbed sleep as it can point us in the direction of imbalances in the correlating organ system.

For example, the Gallbladder and Liver’s optimal time for function and repair falls between 11pm and 3am. This means that for our body to best ability to cleanse we should be at rest during this time. If we are finding it difficult to settle during these hours or waking overnight, it also may indicate that there is an imbalance in that system.

The Liver time (1am – 3am) is a common nocturnal waking time. The Liver is related to the emotions of anger and frustration, it is not unusual to find a link here with patients experiencing sleep difficulty or wakeful periods at this time. Elimination of toxins is a chief job of the Liver so this is another area that may impact on the ability to rest. If the Liver is dealing with an excess toxic load from too much alcohol or other chemicals, you may find this keeping you awake at night.

The reality is that we can’t exactly escape the modern world back to the old circadian rhythm. It’s all about making some small adjustments to give our bodies the best chance at re-balancing and for optimal rest.

Here’s some take away tips to get you started:

Step away from the phone

Could you leave your phone at home sometimes? Remember the good old days where we managed to leave the house without carrying a phone in our back pocket. If you do your work on the phone, I understand that makes it harder, it’s the way of it these days. Can you get specific about logging off and walking away from 6pm at night until morning? Think about it…

Get outside

Expose yourself to the natural light patterns of the day, allow daylight into your home and work space. Incorporate light outdoor exercise into your daily routine. This brings awareness to the natural Yin Yang pattern of night and day and assists your body to fall back into circadian rhythm.

Say goodbye to caffeine

Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol are all going to work against you getting a good night’s rest. Actively limiting or better still removing these from your daily consumption will make a world of difference.

Create a bedtime routine

You know what is commonly recommended for kids and teens that can’t wind down? A good bedtime routine. Treat yourself the same. A warm bath or shower, cup of tea, a book in bed all for the hour or two before sleep. Allow yourself to completely unwind and disconnect from the day. No computer, no phone, no tv.

Create a ‘clean’ sleep space

What’s around you when you sleep? Remove clocks, radios, tv’s, mobile phones (or place on aeroplane mode) from the bedroom, they are all part of the electro magnetic minefield playing havoc with your own personal vibration.

If you are experiencing issues with sleep and would like some support to get back on track, Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can help bring your body back into balance and I would love to help.

Scott is available at Mornington Chinese Medicine every Wednesday from 2pm – 8pm.

To book your appointment please call ph: (03) 59736886.