Proper rest is essential to good health, and sleeplessness is a sign of imbalance. If your sleep is habitually disturbed it can be very damaging to the vital energy of the body and immune system. If this is the case it is important that you inform your acupuncturist so that you can work together to determine the cause of the imbalance and treat it appropriately. You will be amazed at how a good night’s sleep can change your life. With more rest your energy and focus improve, the immune system and your body’s ability to deal with stress are strengthened, and nagging health conditions resolve more easily.
In Chinese medicine, sleep is seen as one’s yang energy moving inward to be enfolded by yin. Many different patterns of imbalance can hinder this process. Sleep can be disrupted by pain, hormonal imbalances, digestive or cardiovascular disorders, anxiety and depression, and many medications have the side effect of sleeplessness. The effects of imbalance can be as simple as difficulty quieting the mind when preparing for sleep, or sleep which is easily disturbed by light or sound, to very restless, agitated or dream disturbed sleep.
Our own energy is ruled by the energy of the world around us and the rhythm of our days should naturally reflect the sun’s course. As the sun is setting the ruling energy is that of yang (day) transforming into yin (night). This is the appropriate time to start slowing down, quieting the mind and preparing for sleep. This of course is not always possible, but those suffering from sleeplessness should be aware of the influences of universal energy and try to adjust their habits to better reflect this natural pattern. Stimulating food and drink including spicy foods, heavy meats, rich sauces, alcohol and caffeine should be avoided in the evening. Stressful mental work should be avoided if possible in the evenings and vigorous exercise should be scheduled earlier in the day. Activity should be restful, meditation or gentle stretching and breathing exercises can help prepare the body for sleep. Some people find a tea of chamomile or valarian beneficial, for some soaking the feet in warm water helps to draw the energy down from the head and quiet the mind, a gentle foot massage can relax the body and the mind as well. For more serious sleep disturbance a personalized herbal remedy can be prescribed along with acupuncture treatments directed at benefiting sleep and restoring balance.
Children will also benefit from proper sleep. Many parents whose children are poor sleepers, or wake frequently or early, worry that an earlier bedtime would make things worse. Just the opposite can be true. An earlier bedtime can lead to a deeper more restful sleep with fewer interruptions. Chronic or frequent colds, ear infections, extremes of energy (highs and lows) throughout the day, can be brought into balance with good restful sleep.
In our fast paced society sleep can be taken for granted, and many of us develop unhealthy patterns of sleep early in life, but lack of proper sleep does eventually take its toll. Those with chronic sleep disturbance know too well what they are missing. If you feel that you are not getting the rest you should, take steps to change it now; you will be truly grateful for the benefits you receive.