Insomnia is a very common issue, and one we hear about frequently here at Selby Acupuncture, especially during the summer months. Longer days, warmer nights, and vacation time, while fun, can lead to irregular sleep cycles.
In Chinese Medicine, insomnia is usually related to the Heart and to your “Shen”, which translates to “spirit” or overall psychological state. The Heart is responsible for housing the Shen, and any disruption to the Heart or Shen can lead to insomnia, particularly when anxiety, stress, and overthinking are a factor. The Heart is also easily impacted by heat, which can cause insomnia to worsen during the warmer summer months.
Acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas can play a strong role in ensuring a good night’s sleep, but there are also a number of options easily implemented at home. Paying attention to good sleep hygiene is the most important thing you can do to maintain good sleep, just follow some basic do’s and don’ts:
- Keep a regular sleep cycle – go to bed and get up at the same time every day.
- Get regular exercise each day, preferably in the morning. There is good evidence that regular exercise improves restful sleep.
- Get regular exposure to outdoor or bright lights, especially in the late afternoon.
- Keep the temperature in your bedroom comfortable, or on the cool side.
- Keep the bedroom dark to facilitate sleep (this increases production of melatonin, the sleep hormone). Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
- Remove electrical devices (radios, cell phones, multiple outlet connectors) from around your head when you sleep, and turn off your home’s Wifi. Electromagnetic fields have been found to reduce melatonin (sleep hormone) levels.
- Use a relaxation exercise just before going to sleep (e.g., muscle relaxation, imagery, massage, warm bath, etc.).
- Eliminate caffeine. Even a small amount of caffeine in the late morning can affect sleep patterns. (This includes coffee, soda, many types of tea, chocolate, etc.)
- Meditate or utilize deep breathing exercises to calm your mind and body. I like this one from MindBodyGreen.com, or just google “breathing exercises for sleep” to find an exercise that feels right for you.
- Exercise just before going to bed.
- Engage in stimulating activity just before bed, such as watching a dramatic or exciting TV program or movie, playing a competitive game, or having important discussions. Avoid reading or watching TV in bed.
- Use alcohol to help you sleep. It may initially make you feel more relaxed, but alcohol interrupts the body’s natural sleep rhythms.
- Go to bed too hungry or too full.
- Take long naps. Limit daytime naps to 15-20 minutes or less. Avoid altogether while trying to regulate your sleep cycle.
- Lie in bed awake trying to command yourself to sleep. If you lie awake for more than 20-30 minutes, get up, go to a different room (or different part of the bedroom), participate in a quiet activity (e.g. reading that doesn’t excite you or television), then return to bed when you feel sleepy. Do this as many times during the night as needed.
Sweet dreams, everyone!
(written by Sara Beth)