Good sleep is a principal element of a healthy life. Its importance is underrated, in my opinion. Your body needs quality rest in order to reboot itself, boost its immune system and regulate your hormones. Your mind also needs good sack time to recharge, catalog daily memories and learnings, and reset for a new day. But not sleeping is a major concern, if not the driving concern, for many of my patients. In fact, in a recent CDC study, 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep. This is not surprising considering the generally elevated stress levels we’re all dealing with. But why is it important and how can you set yourself up for success when it’s time to catch Zzzz’s? I have a few ideas.
Why Is Sleep Important?
First off, sleep is more critical to your health than your current Keto kick or daily spinning class. It revitalizes your body by giving it the time it needs to rebuild tissues, renew cells, and in general, refill your tank. Without sleep, the rest of your body cannot function optimally.
Sleep is a primary function of your body
so LISTEN to your body.
Your body doesn’t shut off when you’re asleep, unlike what you may have read or heard. In fact, it’s hard at work recharging and rebooting. As it replenishes itself, it puts your hormones “back in formation” so they work optimally the next day and the day after that. Your body is also working diligently to strengthen your immune system and optimize blood flow.
Our body is inherently hardwired to sleep. From the moment you wake up, your body is producing adenosine which is a chemical that regulates throughout the day and eventually causes sleepiness telling you it’s time for bed. I often cringe inside when I hear my patients say they’re going to pull an all-nighter or even worse, “push through it.” Uh, no thank you. Sleep is a primary function of your body so LISTEN to your body.
What Is Circadian Rhythm & How Does It Get Out of Whack
When we talk about sleep, circadian rhythm is also a main factor. Circadian rhythm is a natural, internal process that regulates your sleep-wake cycle and repeats on each rotation of the Earth, roughly every 24 hours. It’s your body’s internal clock, and it can be affected by light and darkness. If you have a strong circadian rhythm, you will typically wake and fall to sleep on a regular schedule.
You can throw your rhythm out of whack in many ways like falling asleep in front of a screen, eating the wrong foods before bed, and having a few too many cocktails. For example, your brain interprets the light from your iPad as outside light, so it thinks, “Ok, it’s still daytime, I need to stay awake.” But in reality, it’s dark outside and you are tricking your brain. Repeating this cycle for just a few nights will most certainly take your circadian rhythm off-kilter.
Acupuncture For Sleep
So how do you “reset” your circadian rhythm? Glad you asked. Acupuncture can stabilize your circadian rhythm by regulating your yin and yang, and by bringing balance to your Qi. It stimulates blood flow and helps clear pathways to receive newly oxygenated blood. This “clean rinse” as I often refer to it, internally reboots your body so it can steady your circadian rhythm and get you back on a regular schedule.
As I mentioned earlier, acupuncture is great for regulating your hormones. Because serotonin is a neurotransmitter that also functions as a hormone, it is positively affected during acupuncture treatments. Its primary responsibility is to regulate your mood as well as your sleep cycle. By incorporating acupuncture into your routine for general health and well-being, you’re also paving the way for a good night’s rest.
Chinese Herbs Can Prolong Sleep
Another way to steady your circadian rhythm and return to receiving quality sleep is with Chinese herbal medicines. Recent and historical studies have shown that over-the-counter Western herbs like valerian root, passionflower, and hops are all effective for improving sleep quality. A popular Chinese herbal formula for sleep disorders is Suan Zao Ren Tang. However, true sleep magic happens through customizing the right herbs to address the root cause of your sleep disruption. An accurate herbal prescription will help you fall asleep quicker and prolong your sleep time. And even better, it will do so without the side effects that you may experience from Western medicines.
If you’ve been reading my blogs for a while now, you’ll know I’m a big proponent of a teatime ritual. I love a warm cup of tea at night and chamomile tea not only calms my mind from the day but it’s also a beneficial herb for helping me fall asleep.
How To Go To Bed
Setting yourself up for a peaceful night’s sleep should start hours before bedtime. I advise my patients to make dinner their lightest meal of the day if possible and limit their alcohol intake. I know, that’s not a lot of fun, but neither is waking intermittently throughout a long night, closing your eyes but never really finding sleep. We’ve all been there–it’s brutal.
Additionally, and I can feel you rolling your eyes already, no screens at bedtime. At one time, I used to like to nod off scrolling through the ‘gram or being lulled to sleep with an episode of Law & Order in the background, but you’re better off without it. It’s best to read an old-school book, listen to some soothing music or meditate. Trust me. It works.
Try to keep your bed as a sanctuary for sleep. This one is a bit challenging for me as I sometimes get my best work done in my bed…guilty! But typing on your laptop is not ideal near sleep time, so if you must be on your computer in bed try limiting it to daytime so the blue lights don’t destroy a healthy night of sleep.
Finally, make sure your bedroom is prepared for the deepest sleep. Keep it dark, blackout shades and eye masks are saviors! Quiet is great unless you like soothing sounds at night like a wave machine, just be sure to keep electronics far from your bed. Keeping your thermostat set for a cool 65*, give or take a few degrees, is an optimal setting for sleep. Sleep is serious business so it warrants your attention to detail and your dedication to creating healthy habits around it.