How was your sleep last night?
Our generation is more sleep-deprived than ever. Even though the amount of sleep can vary slightly for each individual, between 7-9 hours of snooze is what we should try to aim for, according to renowned neuroscientist Matthew Walker.
What I see most commonly in my practice is that people are overly caffeinated and stimulated during the day - their adrenals heavily taxed and their sympathetic nervous system in overdrive. This results in people having trouble ‘switching off’ at night time, which in turn affects their quality of sleep. Over time, the nervous system can gradually lose its ability to modulate effectively.
On top of that, smartphones are interfering with people’s sleep hygiene. For most, checking their phone is the last thing they do before falling asleep. The bright screens emit blue light that can reduce melatonin levels and keep the brain active, interfering with our ability to fall soundly asleep.
Impact of Poor Sleep in TCM Theory
It’s well understood that sleep deprivation can lead to countless health issues ranging from poor memory to weakened immunity. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, sleep is essential to help cultivate the Yin aspect of the body, that nourishment of the mind and the body. According to Chinese Medicine (TCM) theory, the meridian clock tracks the circadian flow of Qi in the body. It depicts the optimum time in a day for eating, working, and of course, sleeping.
Some of the most important organ systems go through their routine detox and replenishment during the hours of 9 pm-5 am. Between the hours of 9 pm - 11 pm, the Triple Burner is the most active. The Triple Burner is associated with the organ-complex of water/ fluid metabolism and the endocrine system, a newly discovered system called the interstitium by Neil Theise in 2018. It’s advisable not to eat after 9pm and instead use this time to wind down. This assists the endocrine system‘s transition to sleep mode, as the pineal gland increases the production of melatonin.
Similarly, between the Liver meridian active hours of 1-3 am, the liver needs the energy to process waste and cleanse the blood. If one is not sleeping during this time, the Liver meridian can get burnout and congested over time. This can lead to health issues characterized by poor metabolic and filtering functions, deficiency or stagnation of the Qi and blood ensue. Some clinical symptoms are depression, breast distention, digestive issues, high blood pressure, menstrual disorders, vision issues.
Acupuncture is A Natural Solution for Improving Sleep
Acupuncture helps to bring our nervous system back to homeostasis. It gives the nervous system a gentle nudge to modulate back to its parasympathetic state, which can improve not only sleep, but mood, digestion, metabolism, and sexual functions. It's ability to calm anxiety and boost mood, can also have a positive effect in quieting the mind.
The beauty of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is in its ability to treat each patient as an individual. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. At your initial consult, we will go through your health history and differentiate the root cause of the sleep issue from reading the tongue and pulse. For example, sleep disturbance can be caused by an imbalance of the Heart, Kidney, or Liver meridian. From there, a treatment plan can then be constructed with a combination of unique points that aim to correct the imbalance of the meridians that are out of whack.
Other Tips for Quality Sleep
Besides getting regular acupuncture and taking prescribed herbal medicine by your practitioner, here are several things you can do to promote good sleep:
WARM FOOT BATH
Our feet have lots of blood vessels and nerve endings. A warm foot bath at night with Epsom salt and calming essential oils like lavender, can help calm the nervous system, and drain overactive energy from the head.
Acupressure on the point Kidney 1 on the feet can also help to calm the mind. Kidney 1, or Gushing Spring, is the entry point on the Kidney meridian and has the ability to guide overactive energy from the mind back to the source, the Kidney. To locate Kidney 1, divide your foot into 3 equal parts. The point is on the midline of the sole, about 1/3 the distance down from the tip of the toes.
PRACTICE GOOD SLEEP HYGIENE
Take time to wind down before bed, keepgo electronics out of the bedroom, and going to sleep at the same time every night to regulate your internal body clock.
GET ADEQUATE DAYLIGHT DURING THE DAY
This might sound counter-intuitive, but getting adequate sunlight during the day is also crucial for a good sleep at night. This is because sunlight exposure is essential for the body to produce optimal melatonin levels. Similarly, exposing your body to the natural light intensity changes from dawn to dusk also seems to regulate the body’s circadian rhythm.
If you’re concerned with your sleep issue, it’s generally more effective to start treatment sooner than later. Visit us at our Brooklyn or Manhattan office.
About Hima Acupuncture Williamsburg
Hima Acupuncture is a premier acupuncture service located in Flatiron, Manhattan, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn in New York City. Hima Acupuncture specializes in pain management, stress, digestive, and women’s health concerns. As a whole-system medicine, we also offer herbs, cupping, Eastern nutrition, lifestyle tips as needed to supplement acupuncture treatments. Hima Acupuncture owner, Snow Xia, L.Ac has been recognized by Expertise.com as one of the best acupuncturists in NYC from 2019 to 2022. Snow frequently writes for MindBodyGreen and is an expert contributor to many health publications. It’s her passion to help busy New Yorkers take control of their own health while living ambitious lives.