You are getting sleeepy…

An Mian means peaceful sleep and in the diagnosis of disease in Traditional Chinese Medicine one of the important facts we need to know is if one has peaceful, uninterrupted sleep. Of the top conditions we see at Atlantic Acupuncture, insomnia and other sleep issues are at the top of the list.

A good night’s sleep makes you feel energized and alert the next day. Being engaged and active feels great and increases your chances for another good night’s sleep. When you wake up feeling refreshed and use that energy to get out into the daylight, do active things, and engage with your world. You’ll sleep better the next night and increase your daily energy at all levels. But why is that?

The TCM explanation of sleep is that the shen (mind/spirit) is produced by an abundance of jing (essence) in the body that is the result of normal physiological processes. The jing is produced mainly in the kidney and is transported to the brain via the heart along regular meridian pathways. Sleep is the nocturnal travel of shen to the heart and the jing from the kidneys to the heart to restore and refresh the shen.

If the heart is not quiet the shen cannot abide there, if the heart is weak it cannot move the shen to the brain. If the body is malnourished there is no production of essence and if the brain is confounded by substances like alcohol and drugs including caffeine, nicotine and refined sugars the shen cannot settle and is not calm.

So the main reasons for insomnia and difficult sleep are weakness of the heart, improper diet and nourishment and the use of mind altering substances. All three of these causes are a response to stress.

When your body is sleep deprived, it goes further into a state of stress. The body’s functions are put on high alert, which causes an increase in blood pressure and the production of stress hormones. High blood pressure can increase your risk for heart attack and stroke, and the stress hormones make it harder to fall asleep. Learning relaxation techniques like meditation and Qigong can counteract the effects of stress and help you to fall asleep faster.

Increased stress hormones caused by lack of sleep also raise the overall level of inflammation in your body. This again can create a greater risk for heart-related pathologies, as well as cancer and diabetes. Inflammation in fact, is thought to be one of the chief causes of physical deterioration as we age.

Sleep also plays an important role in a process called memory consolidation. During sleep, your body may be resting, but your brain is busy processing your day, making connections between events, sensory input, feelings, and memories. Deep sleep (Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep) is a very important time for your brain to make memories and links, and getting more quality sleep will help you remember and process things better.

It has been found that people who sleep fewer than 7 hours per night are more likely to be overweight or obese and it is thought that a lack of sleep impacts the balance of hormones in the body that affect appetite. The hormones ghrelin and leptin, which regulate appetite, have been found to be disrupted by lack of sleep. If you want to maintain or lose weight, don’t forget that getting adequate sleep on a regular basis is a huge part of the equation.

Sleep impacts many of the chemicals in your body, including serotonin. People with serotonin deficiencies are more likely to suffer from depression. You can help to prevent depression by making sure you are getting the right amount of sleep: between 7 and 9 hours each night.

Sleep is a time to relax, but it’s also a time during which the body is hard at work repairing damage caused by stress, ultraviolet rays, and other harmful exposure. Your cells produce more protein while you are sleeping. These protein molecules form the building blocks for cells, allowing them to repair the damage. Sleep is crucial for athletes because this is the prime time for tissue recovery.

Both acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can help in the recovery of proper sleep and one of the herbal medicines we have developed that helps most people with sleep disorders is Peace & Sleep. This formula contains herbs that act as precursors to the manufacture of serotonin and melatonin in your body. By helping your body create its own supply of these hormones you are assured of a proper balance that cannot be achieved by taking the raw hormones from and outside source. This use of precursor herbs is fundamental to how Chinese herbal medicine works.

Peace & Sleep is available at our online store.

Wishing you peaceful sleep for good health,

Robert Kienitz, DTCM

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