How to Improve Your Sleep Quality with TCM
A lot of people who suffer from sleep or sleep-related disorders, tend to think that sleep issues, e.g. insomnia, interrupted sleep, or waking up at night and not being able to fall back asleep, are normal. We tend to accept the slight tiredness the day following the not-so-good night's rest, we accept that we just run on coffee and adrenaline that comes with the daily challenges. But it hasn't always been like that, has it? Earlier in life most of us used to enjoy deep, restful sleeps. Can we go back to sleeping like babies? The answer is simple - yes, we can.
In two easy steps!
STEP 1 - stop yourself from thinking that this bad night’s sleep is normal. Yes, you do deserve a good night's sleep and feel fully rested when you wake up in the morning.
STEP 2 - with specialist help, backtrack the imbalance that has tipped your mind-body out of equilibrium, and address it. Like with most health disorders, especially chronic disorders, it sometimes can take quite a bit of ‘digging deep’ to find the root of a problem so we can uproot it. But - it's always worth the effort.
Acupuncture and auriculotherapy are both great for sleep and sleep-related disorders (insomnia, restless legs syndrome, interrupted sleep, overactive dreaming, nightmares, bruxism) but I also work with my clients mental, emotional and behavioural patterns to see if reprogramming some of the habits can speed up the healing process.
Here are my top 5 ways to help you have a great, restful night’s sleep. Please note, that we’re talking about improving general quality of sleep, and not solving sleep disorders that are connected to other health issues that may require specialist medical attention.
Work on improving your sleep hygiene, or sleep habits:
Keep your bedroom well ventilated and at comfortable temperature
Minimise electronic devices at your bedside
Go to bed at the same time each night
Indulge in a cup of warm herbal tea an hour before bedtime
Read a book but set yourself a rule of NOT checking your phone, emails or social media in bed
Avoid large meals, coffee and alcohol before bedtime
DEEP ABDOMINAL BREATHING
Practice deep abdominal breathing in bed. From the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, intense emotions, such as anger, frustration or stress, can cause the vital energy, or chi, to stagnate, which can then affect one’s ability to fall asleep or stay asleep. From the physiological point of view, the liver gets a burst of heat. So aim to calm and cool your mind-body with deep abdominal breathing, which will activate your parasympathetic nervous system, as well as massage and oxygenate your internal organs, including liver. Spend five minutes focusing on your breath - inhale and exhale deeply and slowly into the lower abdomen, while letting go of any troubling thoughts.
Yes, it can sound like a bit of a grandma's recipe, but, believe it or not, it works. Add some Epsom, magnesium or herbal salts to a dish of comfortably warm water and soak your feet for about 15 minutes or until you feel light sweat. This easy procedure will help draw energy away from the head and ground through the feet.
Give yourself a quick acupressure massage. An acupoint, traditionally used in TCM called for insomnia, is called anmian, which translates as “peaceful sleep”. Anmian is located behind the ear, between the bottom edge of the ear lobe and the base of the skull, next to the mastoid process. Place your finger on this point (see picture below) and massage it lightly in circular motions for around 2-3 minutes.
Use adaptogenic herbs to balance your yin (coolness) and yang (heat) energy:
chrysanthemum tea clears heat (excess yang energy) in the liver and calms the nerves,
poria, a fungus known as fu ling or tuckahoe, added to a bowl of warm congee and consumed a few hours before bedtime can help fall asleep faster,
jujube seed (suan zao ren) is commonly prescribed to strengthen circulation and calm the mind, addressing irritability, restlessness and stress.