How Can I Improve My Sleep?

4 Tip Top Tips for A Better Night’s Sleep

A good night’s sleep is one of the best things for our health. When we are down or feel like we are getting sick, a good night’s sleep can generally take care of things. In childhood, sleep is a time when the body does much of its growth and development. As adults this is when our body takes the time to repair, renew and recalibrate itself.  Sleep is brilliant and wholesome medicine. 

Growing up in a culture that has historically placed performance or production over taking care of ourselves, getting enough sleep is generally challenging for people. With all the things to get done in a day, sleep hours have shortened significantly. And this takes a serious toll on our health. What’s more, when we are stressed, we actually need more sleep to repair! 

Rest is the juiciest medicine there is…

Rest is the juiciest medicine there is…

We all know what dental hygiene means and have daily habits of brushing and flossing our teeth. We perform these without question, knowing we are doing what we need to do for best oral health. And especially if there is something specific going on with our teeth, like the discovery of a few cavities, we pay extra attention to our oral hygiene.

Similarly, there are habits that we can adopt around sleep to make sure our body gets the most benefit from our precious hours in bed. Backed by a lot of new research, sleep and the focus on getting the rest we need is becoming more hip, and our culture is changing because of it. So is our health. 

Here are a few tips to keep your sleep as deep and restful as possible. 

  • #1 Numero uno is No Screens! Taking your phone or computer to bed is equivalent to coating your teeth in chocolate before you cozy in for the night. The blue light, among other things, activates the brain and interferes with your natural day/night cycles. This has an immediate effect of too much stimulation before bed, but the long term effects are cumulative and damage the circuitry of the brain responsible for circadian rhythms, which are essential to our health and sanity. Stop using devices or watching shows at least 30 minutes before bedtime. If you use a kindle or iPad for reading in bed, set to grayscale screen. 

  • #2 Keep to familiar sleep hours. Go to bed and get out of bed at generally the same hours everyday. Allow your sleep hours to fluctuate a little with the seasons; keeping longer sleep hours in the winter, and shorter hours in the summer. Let daylight be your guide. 

  • #3 Don’t eat right before bed. The digestive energy of the body starts to wane around 7pm or 8pm, so it is generally best to not eat after this time. Food in the belly can interfere with the rest and repair that is essential at night. 

  • #4 Take note and pay attention to how it feels to be well rested. What do you feel like in the morning after a good night’s sleep? This reinforces the new healthy pattern within your symptoms. You can literally enhance it with your awareness. 

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Already have Sleep Troubles?

Here are a few extra things you can do if your sleep is disturbed in any way; if you have trouble falling asleep, you wake to frequently, or wake in the early hours and cannot get back to sleep.  

  • Calming Hand Practice - Start by holding the right thumb with the left hand, gently wrapping the fingers of the left hand around the right thumb. Hold there until you can feel a pulse in the thumb. Once felt, hold for 10 or so seconds. You can do this with both hands resting on your belly. Then move to the pointer finger of the right hand, feel pulse and hold.  Repeat with all fingers breathing gently. When finished with right hand switch sides and hold each finger of the left hand. This brings all the organ pulses of the body into resonance and switches your central nervous system to rest and digest. 

  • Yoga Nidra - A guided meditation to consciously relax the body can be listened to when you get into bed. If this is helpful, it is the only reason a phone or device is in the bedroom with you. 

  • Warm bath with lavender - 30 minutes to an hour before bed. Soak for at least 20min. (Not recommended if you have hot flashes or night-sweats.)

  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Both interfere with the regular cycle of active and restive Qi moving through the body. This is important if you have trouble sleeping.

  • Breath - turn your attention to your breath, keep your attention on your inhale and exhale, continue and allow your body to relax. Place your hands on your belly and feel the rise and fall of the breath. 

Other things to note:

  • If you have a long history of sleep trouble... You are going to need to add to my suggestions above. And what works for one person, doesn’t necessarily work for everyone. I am happy to consult with you to create your perfect sleep hygiene rituals. 

  • Are you a nurse, pilot, truck drive, flight attendant?  If your occupation keeps you from getting regular sleep hours, I highly recommend you utilize acupuncture and East Asian Medicine to support your body through the toll that this takes. 

  • Sleep medications, although helpful in a pinch, do not take care of the root of your problem and your body starts to depend on them. 

  • Do you sleep well, but wake between 1am and 3am every night? Many of my patients report that they wake up at the same exact time, whether it is 1:45 or 3:10, it happens for them like clockwork. This is because our organ systems operate on a biological clock that generally works in unison with linear time. If there is an imbalance in an organ system, then we tend to have symptoms at the specific time of day that correlates to that organ. Early waking is usually a sign that there is something going on with the Qi of the Liver. In Western terms, this has to do with stress and the adrenal system. If you tend to wake up at this time in the am and especially if your mind turns on and starts creating lists of things you need to do, you may need to get your Liver Qi balanced. 

Just like dental hygiene, there are beneficial daily habits to adopt, and if there is some difficulty with sleep, a little extra attention is needed. Enjoy adopting your sleep hygiene habits and let me know if you have any questions