According to the Chinese 'nourishment of life' tradition mind & emotions, diet, exercise and sleep are considered the most important practices for health. They are like the four legs of a chair.
"When all four legs are strong, the chair is stable. If even one leg is weak or broken, then the chair becomes unstable, and increasingly so if more than one leg is defective.1"
Your sleep may be affected by a weakness or break in any one or more of your chair's legs: mind & emotions, diet and exercise. Here, I provide some generic holistic help covering each of these areas. Take time to eat well, exercise and relax and hopefully you should sleep better. But remember, you are unique and so is your sleep pattern.
How Acupressure may Help
Acupressure is a traditional Chinese Medicine (tCM) technique I summarise some key aspects of tCM medical theory on my Acupressure page. During this time of social distancing face-to-face acupuncture consultations are impossible. Acupressure is a different way of stimulating acu-points to needling which enables you to benefit from your home.
TCM interprets insomnia - difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or waking early - as imbalance. As with acupuncture, the acu-points selected for your acupressure treatment depend on the type of your insomnia, how long you have not been sleeping well, your age, gender and the key lifestyle factors - emotions, diet and exercise.
From a tCM perspective there are a number of patterns which explain insomnia. Some arise from Deficiency (Xu) others from Excess (Shi): Heart & Spleen Blood Xu, Heart Yin Xu, Heart & Kidneys not harmonised, Heart & Gall-Bladder Xu, Liver Yin Xu, Liver & Kidney Yin Xu, Liver Fire Blazing, Heart Fire Blazing, Phlegm-Heat harassing the Mind, Heart Qi Stasis, Heart Blood Stasis, Residual Heat in the diaphragm, Retention of Food, Liver Qi Stasis2.
A tCM acupuncturist like me will identify your pattern/s of disharmony through careful questioning and observation and make a diagnosis. Your acupressure treatment plan will include your bespoke acu-point protocol and lifestyle advice. The acupressure points (acu-points) listed here are intended simply as a starting point - to help you out whilst we are unable to arrange face-to-face acupuncture consultations. Acupuncture is a complex medical model and these 'cookbook' protocols (i.e. for insomnia press x) are for you to try. If they help you that's great. If not, it may be that you would benefit from a proper consultation. Contact me to book your online acupressure consultation.
Anxiety and stress are commonly associated with sleep disorders and much of the advice here mirrors that in my Acupressure & Anxiety page. I include links to these British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) research factsheets: Anxiety, Insomnia, Stress, Headaches. Each factsheet includes a useful biomedical summary of how acupuncture may help.
Acupressure Sleep Routine
These acu-points are some of the most common that I use in my acupuncture clinic. Remember, you are unique and some may help you more than others. Experiment and note which work best for you. You don't have to follow the whole routine every night but you may choose to include some in your healthy sleep routine.
Work from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet. Your intention is to draw your energy down from the most Yang/active part of your body (your mind) to the most Yin (your feet).
If you have time for just two points try HT 7 and SP 6 - points 4. and 5. in the Acupressure for Sleep Routine. (please note SP 6 is not to be used during pregnancy)
How to apply acupressure: gently massage in slow circular movements applying medium pressure or press the acu-point with steady pressure. Duration: 20 seconds - 2 minutes. Breathe deeply and slowly. Travel bands may be used at PC 6 for continuous stimulation (Midwife and acupuncturist Debra Betts recommends wearing a band over KID1 to settle anxiety during childbirth. More details here.)
This routine may take up to 15 minutes, but if you apply pressure for just 30 seconds on each point under 5 minutes (you press KID 6 & BL 62 at same time).
1. DU 20
On top of head.
Visualise a line joining the tips of both ears.
Visualise a line running from the tip of your nose over the middle of your head to the back of your neck.
DU 20 is where the 2 lines cross. Gentle acupressure (will be tender if you are stressed)
2. BL 2
Place thumbs on upper ridge of eye sockets by bridge of nose.
Press up into dents.
These points can be very tender hence their name, Drilling Bamboo.
3. PC 6 (travel band nausea point/morning sickness)
On the inside of your wrist (the palm side).
Line your first 3 fingers up with your wrist crease.
The point is in between the two tendons you can feel (sometimes just 1 can be felt)
Place thumb of other hand on point. Acupressure
4. HT 7
Hold your hand out in front of you, palm faces ceiling
On inside of wrist.
On wrist crease.
At bottom of little finger.
On the inside (towards the middle of wrist) of the tendon you can feel
Place the thumb of other hand on the point. Acupressure
5. SP 6 (not to be used in pregnancy)
Find the tip of inner ankle bone
Line 4 fingers above the tip
Slide top finger off the edge of the bone (tibia)
This point is usually tender
6. KID 6(with BL 62) These points can be massaged at the same time
Your thumb can massage the inside point, forefinger outside point.
Find the tip of your inside ankle bone (the bit that sticks out the most).
Measure the width of your thumb below the tip.
Feel a little dip between two ligaments. Acupressure.
7. BL 62
Find the tip of your outside ankle bone.
The point is 1/2 your thumb width below the ankle bone tip. Acupressure.
8. KID 1
Divide the sole of your foot into 3
The point is in the centre of the top 1/3. If you point your toes you should see the dip.
Exercise - Yoga (under construction)
Any sort of stretching before bed should help sleep. Naturally, my choice is yoga. Yogic pranayama (breathing techniques) deepens breathing and as the breath settles the mind follows. Any of my Slow Flow Yoga videos should help prepare your body and mind for sleep.
Specific asanas (poses) which target some of the acu-points beneficial to good sleep include Camel and Butterfly.
Prepare your mind for sleep by listening to a progressive body relaxation like my Body Scan Meditation or this Turn off the Lights Visualization (under construction)
Diet (under construction) Eat well, sleep well, feel better. Not only what you eat, but how you eat. Choose foods that calm and avoid foods that stimulate or further deplete.
TCM: nourish Blood and Yin, Calm the Shen
Create your own Sleep Routine Changing lifestyle habits you've had, sometimes for years, can take effort over time. It's not just your bedtime routine that may need reviewing. Look at how you spend your day, how you wind down, what you do/your reaction if you wake up at night, your morning routine. Recently, I created a sleep kit for a thirteen year old girl - it covered tailored ideas based on her lifestyle and sleep patterns. She embraced some aspects that appealed to her - like using the sleep spray before bed, but wouldn't compromise on occasionally eating chocolate, also before bed. It's a balance, you weigh up how much good sleep matters to you with how much you are happy to modify how you live.
Travel sickness wrist bands - these may be worn on the wrist at PC6.
Biomedical interpretation of how acupuncture may benefit insomnia This information is a direct quotation from the British Acupuncture Council's research factsheet, Acupuncture and Insomnia, November 2014. "Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically be of benefit in people with insomnia by:
increasing nocturnal endogenous melatonin secretion (Spence et al 2004).
stimulating opioid (especially b-endorphin) production and µ-opioid receptor activity (Cheng et al 2009).
increasing nitric oxide synthase activity and nitric oxide content, helping to promote normal function of brain tissues, which could help to regulate sleep (Gao et al 2007).
increasing cerebral blood flow (Yan 2010)
reducing sympathetic nervous system activity, hence increasing relaxation (Lee 2009a)
regulating levels of neurotransmitters (or their modulators) such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA and neuropeptide Y; hence altering the brains's mood chemistry to help to increase relaxation and reduce tension (Lee 2009b; Samuels 2008; Zhou 2008).
Acupuncture can be safely combined with conventional medical treatments for insomnia, such as benzodiazepines, helping to reduce their side effects and enhance their beneficial effects (Cao et al 2009)."