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Getting to Sleep with Traditional Chinese Medicine

By Maggie Tracey O.M.D.

How many people do you know who suffer from occasional (or frequent) sleeplessness? Approximately 15% of the adult population in the United States is regularly affected by insomnia, and most of us have dealt with sleep problems at some time in our life. A variety of factors can contribute to a lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep, including stress, diet, pain, and other lifestyle issues. To make matters worse, lack of sleep, often exacerbates the factors that caused it in the first place!

At the root of the sleeping problem is an imbalance in the Central Nervous System (CNS), or in terms of Chinese medicine, an imbalance between yin and yang. Unfortunately, unfortunately, with the stressors of every day life, the imbalance can become so ingrained that it can become more and more difficult to quiet our mind and body to get a restful night sleep. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) are incredibly powerful tools and stopping the insomnia cycle. By resolving, the underlying imbalance, the insomnia can be effectively treated, and an improved quality of life will be enjoyed. Acupuncture and TCM work to restore the fundamental balance between yin and yang. And other words, the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the nervous system. This means a treatment that addresses the root of the problem, as well as the manifestations. Here are some important steps to take for improved sleep:

• Wind it down: according to TCM, each organ and Meridian system has a specific time associated with its energy. Because of this association, it is very important that one goes to bed by 11 PM to help establish a balance to sleep/waking cycle.

• Shut it off: generally we spend our days surrounded by noise. Why not get at least eight hours away from all of it? Turn TV, cell phones, and computers off at night. You will sleep because your body will be able to make the transition into parasympathetic mode (yin) without the outside stimulation of technology.

• Prepare the body: avoid caffeinated beverages or foods (yes, that includes chocolate) after 12 PM. This gives your body the chance to fully process the caffeine before you are ready to go to bed. Avoid foods that are high in sugar after 6 PM to allow your blood sugar to settle before bed. Your body has to generate energy to digest food so if we are still processing and digesting, when we climb into bed, it can make a good nights sleep all the more elusive.

• Restore balance: because most of us spend a disproportionate amount of time in the Yang/sympathetic side, we have a harder time winding down into a yin/parasympathetic state when it is time for sleep. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine work to restore the balance between the forces of yin and yang in the body. Sleep does not have to be as elusive as it sometimes seems! 


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