One of the first questions I ask when I’m doing an initial consultation with a patient is, “how is your sleep?” Sleep is such a vital component to maintaining health over time. Many people struggle with either falling asleep, staying asleep, or sometimes both.
Some of the questions I ask that help me to understand the cause of sleep disruptions include:
Do you feel hot at night, do you have particularly vivid dreams or sweat at night?
If so, there may be some internal heat in the body which we may need to clear with acupuncture, herbs or both.
Others notice that they wake up in the middle of the night at the same time each night. A common time frame is between 1-3 am. This time period is related to the liver meridian (which does NOT mean that you have an anatomical liver disorder of any kind). The liver is the aspect of the system that is most impacted by stress.
If a person is waking between 1 and 3 am each night it may be appropriate to regulate the qi (or energy) in their liver meridian. Both acupuncture and Chinese herbs work wonders at regulating liver qi!
These are just a few examples of potential causes of disrupted sleep in Chinese medicine. Outside of pathology, sometimes people have trouble sleeping and it’s fairly obvious why. If someone is sensitive to caffeine, having it too late in the day can impact sleep that evening. For some people, caffeine, even after 1 pm is too late! Others tell me they are using the computer, their phone or are doing work just before bed. In general, I recommend that people start a wind-down routine approximately 1 hour before they would like to fall asleep. This routine should NOT include any electronics, as the light can affect your body’s ability to drift in to sleep. It might include a bath, essential oils, a good book or a guided meditation. In this culture, where we rarely allow our bodies to relax and are always on the go, it’s especially important to take time in the evenings to transition in to time for rest. There are absolutely ways that acupuncture and herbs can help people that are experiencing issues with their sleep, but there’s also a lot that you can do to help yourself get to sleep more easily too!