The Importance of Sleep!
Sleep is not important - it is essential. Sleep and health are strongly related - poor sleep can increase the risk of having poor health, and poor health can make it harder to sleep. Sleep disturbances can be one of the first signs of distress and that the body is out of balance. An old Chinese quote says that “replenishing health with medicine is not as good as replenishing health with diet, but that replenishing health with sleep is the best treatment of all”
How much sleep should I get?
Sleep needs vary across ages and are especially impacted by lifestyle and health. To determine how much sleep you need, it's important to assess not only where you fall on the "sleep needs spectrum," (what age you are) but also to examine what lifestyle factors are affecting the quality and quantity of your sleep such as work schedules and stress.
The National Sleep Foundation released the results of a world-class study that took more than two years of research to complete. The panel agreed that, for healthy individuals with normal sleep, the appropriate sleep duration for newborns is between 14 and 17 hours, infants between 12 and 15 hours, toddlers between 11 and 14 hours, preschoolers between 10 and 13 hours, and school-aged children between 9 and 11 hours. For teenagers, 8 to 10 hours was considered appropriate, 7 to 9 hours for young adults and adults, and 7 to 8 hours of sleep for older adults.
Why do I wake at the same time every night?
In Chinese Medicine theory, night time is Yin, while daytime is Yang. That means that Yang activities, such as working, eating and exercising should be done during the day, while Yin activities such as relaxing, digesting and sleeping should be done at night. Many people report that they fall asleep easily, but wake at the same time in the middle of the night. This can be incredibly frustrating, especially if you can't fall back asleep and wake up tired the next day. The concept of an “Organ Clock" in Chinese medicine is a useful tool in understanding why this occurs. In Chinese medicine, energy or qi, moves through the body’s meridians and organs in a 24 hour cycle. Every two hours the qi (or energy) is strongest within a particular organ and its functions within the body. And that's not all - the body, mind and emotions are inseparable in Chinese medicine - meaning that if you have disharmony in your physical body, it is tied to your emotional state. So if you wake up at 3 AM, when Liver energy peaks, you may be suffering from Liver Qi stagnation, which could be related to an unhealthy diet, excess alcohol consumption, unresolved anger or high levels of stress. If you consistently wake at 4 AM - it could be due to an imbalance in your Lungs, which is related to grief and sadness, fatigue, or reduced immune function.
Check out the guide below to find some insight into why you might be waking up at a certain hour.
11 PM - 1 AM // Gall Bladder (strongly tied to the Liver)
Functions: The Gallbladder stores and excretes bile to facilitate proper digestion. It also rules the decision making process, controls the sinews and tendons and governs dreams.
Symptoms of imbalance: Indecision, frequent sighing, rash decisions, poor judgement, difficulty making decisions, shyness, timidity, high cholesterol, resentment, dream-disturbed sleep, weak tendons, tendonitis.
Tips: Avoid alcohol, transfats and spicy foods. Eat a small dinner well before bedtime and avoid snacking before bed.
1 AM - 3 AM // Liver
Functions: The Liver is responsible for detoxifying our bodies and processing emotions each night. The Liver stores the blood and governs the qi of the body. It is associated with the tendons, nails and eyes. Think back to a night when you had too much to drink or a period of intense frustration at work. Did you wake up around between 1-3am unable to fall back asleep? From a Chinese medicine perspective your liver was overloaded with and struggled to do its work.
Symptoms of imbalance: Explosive outbursts of anger, bottled up emotions, resentment, irritability, moodiness, frustration, high blood pressure, chest distention, PMS, bitter taste in mouth, digestive upset, dizziness, migraine headache, breast tenderness, blurred vision, eye floaters, red face, tendonitis, frequent sighing.
Tips: Make sure to drink alcohol in moderation and eat your last meal a few hours before bed. Consider a whole foods cleanse. Cut out coffee for a week and replace it with green tea. Find ways to deal with your anger and frustrations in a healthy way. Get regular exercise.
3 AM - 5 AM // Lung
Functions: The Lungs govern the respiratory and immune system, regulate the sweat glands, and moisten the skin.
Symptoms of imbalance: Feelings of sadness or grief that have not been dealt with, shortness of breath, sweating easily, weak voice, shallow breathing, fatigue, cough, frequent cold/flu, fever with chills, sore throat, runny nose, headache, allergies, asthma, chest pain, pale complexion, dry skin, depression, crying.
Tips: Try breathing exercises, meditation or yoga to improve your lung capacity. Consider getting counseling or talking to a friend about feelings of sadness or grief. Write in your journal about your emotions before bed each night.
What time should I go to bed?
Many of us are creatures of habit and think nothing of it, especially if we get a decent amount of sleep each night. But, according to Chinese medicine, it’s not only how much sleep you get that matters, but also when you get it. A bedtime of 10:30pm (at the latest) is advised so that you are asleep by 11pm when the Liver and Gallbladder start to regulate qi, process emotions, balance hormones and detoxify the body. According to Chinese medicine, the window from 11 PM - 3 AM, which correlates to the Liver and Gallbladder, is most important in terms of maintaining health, especially as we age. Many of us have heard the old adage: “Every hour of sleep before midnight is worth two after midnight.” This idea is supported by modern sleep science - we experience the deepest part of sleep during the first third of the night. This deep sleep, or Slow Wave Sleep (SWS), is the most restorative part of our sleep. During these hours the stress hormone cortisol is reduced and parasympathetic nervous system activity increases, which allows us to fully rest and move away from the fight or flight responses that dominate during waking hours. SWS is associated with memory and learning. A lack of this type of sleep can lead to reduced daytime functioning and alertness as well as waking feeling unrefreshed. Further, human growth hormone, which is essential to repairing our bodies from daily injury and maintaining health, is released from 9pm-7am, making each hour of sleep during this time critical.
Message from Co-Founders ~
Irregular sleep patterns, poor sleep hygiene and insomnia are some of the most common complaints that we treat in clinic. Many of our clients don’t even recognise it as a problem and can fail to see the links between poor sleep quality and dis-ease in their body. When we don’t get sufficient quality sleep, our bodies start to give out to us. The beauty of Chinese Medicine is that it aims to treat the root of the problem as to why the client is struggling with their sleep. Taking a sleeping tablet is not solving the root of the problem , it may be poor sleep hygiene, stress, anxiety, unresolved grief or even imbalanced digestion.
Because we see these problems so much in our clinics, it inspired us to create a full retreat around this topic as it is so important to get it right for an individuals health. Dedicating a full four days to sleep hygiene, the importance of sleep and rest, is simply the best way we can show how essential it is to get it right and to get yourself into a good sleeping routine. See full details below:
Stay tuned for our next E-Magazine which will focus on our top tips for establishing a good sleep hygiene routine and some yummy night time recipes from Ingrids Kitchen to send you off to Zzzzzzzzz land.
Lots of love,
Maeve & Emilia