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Sleep is paramount in our health and well being. Many people have trouble sleeping and there are an estimated 60 million Americans with some type of sleep problem or insomnia. Modern medicine shows that during sleep, the production of growth hormone is at its peak. Growth hormone speeds the absorption of nutrients and amino acids into your cells and aids the healing of tissues throughout your body. The hormone also stimulates your bone marrow, where your immune system cells are born. Now I’m going to go over some things that you can do to ensure a better nights sleep. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), we have the philosophy of yin and yang. Yang corresponds to the sun, daytime, masculinity, activity and movement. Yin corresponds to the moon, nighttime, femininity and rest. Now yin and yang must be in balance in order to function optimally. So this means that in order to ensure good energy and movement during the day (activity) one must have a good nights sleep during the night (rest). Likewise, in order to get a good night sleep one should be physically active during the day. This leads to the first and most important thing to help get a better night sleep which is

  1. Exercise. Too many of us have desk jobs that don’t allow us to move and so our physical energy is not being burned. Exercise helps burn out this energy and so it’s vital that we move. And when you add stress to the equation then the problem is compounded. The reason is because we produce hormones from our adrenals, when under stress, if not burned will cause us not to sleep well either. So movement and exercise are important to getting sleep.
  2. Don’t eat late at night. Eating before bed will cause our food not to digest easily causing gas, bloating, distension and just a general uncomfortableness when trying to sleep. Sometimes you can even get acid reflux. Whatever the case try eating at least about 4 hours before bed in order to sleep well. However, if you need a little snack that’s OK because trying to sleep when hungry can also be difficult. Just make sure the snack is easy on your digestion and not heavy. This leads into the next point.
  3. Eat a light and simple dinner. Our bodies ability to metabolize in the evening/night is not as good as it is during the day so eat a lighter and simpler meal in the evening. This means avoiding heavy, spicy, greasy and sweet foods especially. Of course you should avoid all stimulants like caffeine and nicotine before bed also. Although alcohol is a depressant, it’s effect is not lasting and it does not allow you to sleep deeply. Furthermore, alcohol creates a lot of heat in your body and your body will sleep better when its cooler.
  4. For many of us our minds will not stop thinking. We’re always thinking about what we have done, what we need to do and what we’re going to do. We are all so caught up getting somewhere or becoming someone that many of us don’t stop and smell the roses. So this is where writing can help so much. If you feel overwhelmed, or have a lot to do, then your mind will get caught in this cycle of trying to figure out what or how to fix the “problem”. So when this happens pull out pen and paper and write down your thoughts on the issue(s) or just make a simple “to do” list. You will be amazed how after writing it down on paper your mind will become quiet and you will sleep better.
  5. Keeping a comfortable temperature at night. Generally speaking keeping the temperature a little cooler will ensure a better night sleep. However, if your body is susceptible to the cold then be cautious of keeping the temperature too cool.
  6. Sleep more during winter and cooler months than summer and warmer months.
  7. Avoid watching stimulating TV.
  8. Avoid drinking lots of fluid before bed otherwise you will have to wake up to empty your bladder and that can disturb your sleep especially if your prone to sleep problems.
  9. Sleep in the dark. This will keep you in the proper circadian rhythm otherwise your body will not sleep as well because of the light hitting your pineal gland.
  10. Sleep with your head facing north. The earth’s electromagnetic filed is negative in the north and that negative/cool energy will calm the mind and allow for a better nights rest. This is because our upper body/head has a tendency toward heat and positive energy and that’s why people can experience excessive thinking and clenching of the teeth amongst other symptoms.
  11. Use a magnetic pillow. A magnetic pillow will have similar effects as your head facing north. The negative energy from the pillow will allow the mind to be more calm ensuring a good nights sleep. I also have found that magnetic pillows can help those that clench their teeth too much.
  12. There are times that someone can have sleep issues more due to a deficiency rather than due to the excess symptoms as mentioned above. For example, if someone is suffering from anemia/blood deficiency, that can really disturb sleeping habits. Building the blood through diet and herbs can be beneficial in this case.
  13. Finally, many people with sleeping problems tend to worry about not sleeping. This of course creates the very same stress that should be avoided to promote sleep. So don’t get in bed and turn off the lights trying to force yourself to sleep. It wont happen that way. Distract your mind so that you wont think about not sleeping. Have a routine like reading while drinking a cup of tea (chamomile) or warm milk. If you have trouble staying asleep, then you may have excess heat in your body and/or your nervous system is hyper active. Clearing heat and calming the nervous system can also be helped with Acupuncture and Herbs.

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