Sleep unsettled? Light sleep, broken sleep, can’t get to sleep, waken early? You are not alone. We are experiencing a sleep deprivation pandemic. Sleep, nature’s free medicine, is remarkable. We go to bed deplete and awaken replenished. Sadly, lack of sleep is significantly affecting the quality of many of our lives.
I am a professional acupuncturist which is a part of Chinese medicine. According to the Chinese 'nourishment of life' tradition, mind & emotions, diet, exercise and sleep are considered the keys to 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. This means that when you are looking for ways to improve your sleep these areas of your life also need to be examined.
The internet is swamped with sleep help information. In this Blog I begin by taking each of these legs in turn and sharing a few sleep tips. I then introduce you to my Guided Sleep Relaxation and Visualisation session.
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.
1. Diet for Better Sleep
When to eat
avoid eating late at night - food will sit in your digestive system overnight stagnating
avoid drinking liquid a few hours before sleep if you get up to wee.
What to eat
avoid rich and heavy food, stimulants (i.e. caffeine, sugar), alcohol, tobacco and drugs as the interfere with your body’s biorhythm.
be aware that if your diet includes prescribed medication these may have sleep disturbance as a side-effect.
2. Exercise for Better Sleep
any sort of stretching before bed should help sleep. Naturally, my choice is yoga. Yogic pranayama (breathing techniques) may help deepen and slow down breathing. As the breath settles the mind follows. Here's a link to my Mindful Yoga Classes
train your mind …
3. Mind & Emotions
avoid over-stimulating your mind before bed - no strong emotions or even happy chatter! No study, reading, watching intense films. Keep it bland.
worrying and fretting can be habitual. Our minds flit from one anxious thought to the next. Luckily, you can train your mind to be more present in the here and now. Mindfulness training can really help. It teaches you how to strengthen your mind - your muscle of Mindfulness. I shall be running Mindfulness for Living courses from Autumn 2021. Register your interest here.
have you tried a course of acupuncture?
Other Sleep Tips
ensure your bedroom is dark, quiet and cool. Even small amounts of light stimulate your pineal gland. You dip in and out of deep sleep so there are times when even a slight noise can wake you.
get physically comfortable - your aches and pains may be waking you up (if appropriate try taking 1/2 an aspirin before bed)
sleep lying on your side in a foetal position
bathe feet in hot water before bed, to draw active energy from your head down to your feet
keep to your sleep routine whether you are a night owl or an early bird.
Changing lifestyle habits you've had, sometimes for years, can take effort over time. It's not just your bedtime routine that may need an overhaul. Look at how you spend your day, how you wind down, what you do/how you react if you wake up at night, your morning routine.
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.
Instructions for listening to Guided Sleep Relaxation & Visualisation
In my Guided Sleep Relaxation & Visualisation I invite you to gently focus your attention on specific acupuncture points (see image). These points are ones that I commonly see benefit people with sleep disorders in my acupuncture clinic.
Take time before you listen to the session for the first time to familiarise yourself with these acupuncture point locations.
Throughout this session I use Chinese medicine terms such as Shen. Shen translates as spirit, mind, consciousness and is non-religious. Your Shen manifests in your worldly interactions. In Chinese medicine good sleep is dependent on the Shen returning peacefully to your Heart at night. Heart Blood and Yin calmly anchor the Shen.
The view is that If you are out of balance (perhaps your Blood and Yin are not sufficient/deplete) your Shen wanders at night causing sleeplessness.
In this guided visualisation I encourage your mind to settle comfortably for the night. Acupuncture points have names which reflect their actions on your body, mind and spirit. For example, Shen Men (HT 7 or Heart 7) translates as Spirit Gate and is a pathway to the Heart and to sleep.
Take some time for yourself to relax, replenish and let go.
Listen to Guided Sleep Relaxation & Visualisation.
Remember: acupuncture is a complex medical model and '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 bespoke acupuncture consultation. Remember you are unique and so is your sleep pattern.
For more information about how acupuncture may help insomnia and sleep disorders contact me.
Reference: Live Well, Live Long. Teachings from the Chinese Nourishment of Life Tradition, Peter Deadman, 2016, C&C Offset Printing co. Ltd. China (p.4)