Sleep is wonderful, when you get enough of it. A good night’s sleep will make you feel great in the morning as well as energetic and productive for the rest of the day. But how many of us suffer from some form of insomnia, quite a few! About 1 in every 3 people suffers from some form of insomnia. I see a lot of patients come through the clinic complaining of not being able to sleep properly, weather it is temporary caused by stress when work or home get hard. Or others that have very few full night’s sleep complaining of either not being able to fall asleep for hours or others that wake multiple times a night. All of which causes major physical and mental changes. I want to help you understand the importance of a good night’s sleep and what you can do to get the rest you need.
Sleep is a necessity. It is just as important if not more important that eating and going to the bathroom. All of these basic needs ensure that our body functions properly. Sleep helps regulate hormones, decrease stress hormones, improve memory, increases the immune system and allows your body to repair and restore.
Let’s get an understanding on what a normal cycle of sleep entails. We usually cycle through 4 stages of sleep through the night. Each cycle will last 90-110 minutes long and it is crucial that we enter all stages particularly stage 3-4 throughout the night in order to feel refreshed and restored. Below is a snippet of what each stage is and what our body is doing.
* Between being awake and falling asleep
* Light sleep
* Onset of sleep
* Becoming disengaged from surroundings
* Breathing and heart rate are regular
* Body temperature drops
Stages 3 and 4
* Deepest and most restorative sleep
* Blood pressure drops
* Breathing becomes slower
* Muscles are relaxed
* Blood supply to muscles increases
* Tissue growth and repair occurs
* Energy is restored
* Hormones are released, such as: Growth hormone, essential for growth and development, including muscle development
REM (25% of night): First occurs about 90 minutes after falling asleep and recurs about every 90 minutes, getting longer later in the night
* Dreaming (maybe a method that helps store and process memories)
* Provides energy to brain and body
* Supports daytime performance
* Brain is active and dreams occur
* Eyes dart back and forth
* Body becomes immobile and relaxed, as muscles are turned off
It is very important for us to cycle through each of these stages several times during the night. These stages help the brain process our experiences and convert them into memories, sleep helps to clean up the byproducts produced by the brain during the day, sleep regulates the immune system and balances our hormones, maintains and regulates our metabolism and much much more. So the next time you think that you’ll pull an all nighter to study for that exam or binge watch a tv series, think again. Our sleep is much more important.
Now if you want to sleep and just can’t get to sleep or stay asleep there are a lot of natural remedies that can help. The cause of sleep disorders according to Traditional Chinese Medicine is complex and one that generally resides in the bodies balance in Yin and Blood. If either of these components are lacking, sleep is disrupted. Stress, Food, age are some of the external factors that can impact the flow and balance of yin and blood. Identifying how exactly your sleep is disrupted is important in getting the proper diagnosis and treatment. For example do you:
Have trouble falling asleep taking 1-2 hours?
Do you wake multiple times during the night?
Do you wake because of your dreams? Or wake anxious?
Do you wake up early in the morning and can’t get back to sleep?
Do you wake to go to the bathroom?
All of these questions will tell your Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner something different and allows a more accurate diagnosis. Once diagnosed properly these may be some of the tools your practitioner may suggest that can help.
Supplements that help:
Melatonin: Naturally produced by your body to help get you to sleep. This can help those that have trouble falling asleep. Used to help regulate the body’s own production of melatonin and will help re-set your circadian rhythm.
Magnesium: Helps to decrease cortisol levels (stress hormone) and relax muscles to help you get to sleep.
5HTP: is naturally occurring also and is required to produce serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is required to help produce melatonin. The hormone that gets us to sleep and when created throughout the night steadily will keep us asleep.
Teas that help relax and promote sleep: Valerian, Chamomile, Lavender take 1 hour before bedtime to help you relax and get to sleep.
Chinese Herbs: Chinese herbs can get to the root cause of your sleep disorder and correct the imbalance that is causing you to lose sleep. Some common herbal prescriptions that can be used to help improve yin and blood and induce sleep include:
- Suan zao ren tang can help to reduce Anxiety, irritability, restlessness, inability to or difficulty in falling asleep, palpitations, night sweats, dizziness, vertigo, thirst, dry mouth and throat.
- Gui pi tang can help to reduce forgetfulness and metal stress, trouble falling asleep, fatigue and loss of appetite. Sleep is important. We all need a restful nights sleep. If you are having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep there is help. With the right solution you can get back to feeling refreshed and energized.
- Acupuncture: If stress is a major factor in your life Acupuncture can help your body regulate and manage stress better. Acupuncture will allow your body to function better, promoting better blood flow and intern relaxing your muscles as well as your mind. All of which is helpful in getting you to sleep and maintaining a sound sleep.