Welcome to Part 3 in our series on improving sleep with natural remedies! It’s my mission to inform you on every tool in my box that can help with sleep since high quality sleep is essential to our health and well being!
Sleep problems of any kind have a source and it’s important to discover that source to resolve them completely. If you want to get to the root of your issue, a good first step would be to alter your routine & habits with the natural rhythm of the day as we talked about in Part 1.
Changing my routine helped quite a lot when I had sleep issues years ago, but I would still have occasional insomnia. Doing a yoga sequence as a nightly ritual, as we discussed in Part 2, usually ensures that I fall asleep quickly and stay asleep.
Still, some people need more help, but that doesn’t mean that you need to reach for the big guns (sleep pills) right away. Do you want a pill to knock you out or do you want to truly understand the reason you’re having difficulties? If your response is the latter and you’re seeking an alternative approach to sleep problems, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which includes acupuncture and herbs, can help immensely.
How does TCM explain sleep disorders?
In TCM it’s said that abnormal sleep patterns can stem from an imbalance of vital energy (called qi, pronounced “chee”) and blood. Qi and blood flow through mapped channels that are named for the organs they traverse. When we are healthy, qi & blood are flowing freely through the channels. We feel great, we sleep great.
A dis-ease state progresses and we begin to notice signs such as sleep disturbances when qi & blood are deficient or stagnant. Points along the channels are energized through acupuncture (or even acupressure for sensitive individuals or kids) to balance the energy and return us to wellness. Often times we work with the heart, liver, and kidney channels to restore balance since they are closely associated with our emotional and mental state.
TCM vs. Western Medicine
I know, I lost some of you there. Blah blah, energy, blah, blah, sleep, blah, disease? And what is happening to my heart, liver, & kidneys?!
The approach to wellness through TCM is described with different terms because it’s an ancient system of healing and we (practitioners) see health and disease from a different perspective than Western biomedicine. There is definitely an emotional and spiritual component to TCM as well (that I wholeheartedly appreciate), but a client understanding it is not necessary in order to receive benefit from it initially.
From a biomedical perspective we can say that acupuncture effects blood circulation and blood components (white blood cells and immune system defenses), innervates tissues, and sedates the mind as the parasympathetic nervous system is activated.
Clinical studies have shown that acupuncture helps release extra neurotransmitters into the central nervous system, including serotonin which regulates sleep patterns.
Studies also show that acupuncture is superior to medications regarding the number of patients who’s sleep duration increased 3+ hours. And acupuncture added to treatments with medications showed a better effect than medications alone on total sleep duration.
Treatment with TCM
Consultation with a TCM practitioner is necessary for proper diagnosis. They will check your tongue and pulse, consider the symptoms you report, and come up with a plan before doing the actual treatment.
The most effective course of treatment for sleep disorders is a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs, which should be incorporated into the patient’s diet.
~ Treatment is individual to the patient ~
What can I do at home?
It’s highly recommend you see a TCM practitioner for a full treatment course, but there are a few things you can include in your nighttime routine at home in the meantime:
Drink organic chrysanthemum tea, maybe with some goji berries, to sedate the liver, resolve physical tension, and prepare the mind and body for sleep.
Perform the acupressure for stress series which stimulates many points that not only resolve stress but help you sleep.
And you can visit my meditation page for a guided Yoga Nidra meditation. It will not only help you sleep better, but will shift your mindset if you’re trying to make positive changes in your life.
By trying the suggestions in this blog series you are well on your way to understanding the reasons for your sleep issues and are hopefully getting results. Please let me know if you have any questions or want to meet for a consultation!
Of course if there’s been zero improvement in your sleep after following these guidelines, you may want to have an evaluation with a medical doctor or sleep specialist.
Well wishes and sweet dreams to all…
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