By Dr. Yvonne Farrell, DAOM, LAc
According to the National Institute of Health, it is estimated 50 to 70 million Americans chronically suffer from a disorder of sleep and wakefulness, hindering daily functioning and adversely affecting health and longevity. That is an enormous number of people who cannot achieve restorative sleep.
Lack of sleep can lead to decreased productivity in the workplace and absenteeism. The National Department of Transportation that estimates drowsy driving is responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries annually in the United States.
As if that is not bad enough, lack of sleep has been linked to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and many other chronic disorders. Bottom line: not getting enough good quality sleep is really bad for your health!
So how do we get better sleep? For starters, most medical professionals recommend improving sleep hygiene. That doesn’t mean you should take a shower before bed, although if you need one I am sure your significant other would appreciate it. The word hygiene has become synonymous with cleanliness, though what it actually refers to are the practices or habits one develops to maintain health, including cleanliness. So, sleep hygiene is the routine that one develops when preparing for sleep.
It is pretty safe to say that most people who have trouble sleeping have some issues with their sleep hygiene. So, here are 5 tips that can help you to prepare better for a good night’s sleep.
Make restful sleep a priority
Just like you prepare for a workout by wearing the right clothes, stretching and warming up, you need to take some time to figure out what to do to prepare for sleep. Starting you preparations at bedtime is too late. You need to be thinking about what your body needs 2-3 hours before you get to bed. Take your sleep seriously.
In Chinese Medicine,“sleep depends on the state of blood and yin.”
What that means is in order to prepare for sleep you need to start gathering yin energy and reduce yang energy. So, you need to be less active (yang) more quiet (yin). You need to have less sensory input, like computers, TV and bright lights (yang), and more internalized behavior like meditation or a warm bath (yin). The nature of yin is calm, quiet, cool, soft, yielding and that is the state that makes the best sleep possible.
Cooler temps are more yin, which are better for sleep. A room temperature around 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for good sleep.
Get adequate exposure to natural light during the day.
At night you want things dark and cool. During the day exposure to sunlight helps support the shift between wakefulness and sleep. If you are in a poorly lit environment all day it confuses the brain and makes transition to sleep difficult.
Avoid stimulants in the evening.
Everyone knows that caffeine will keep you awake at night but did you know that exercise could do the same thing? You want to avoid ingesting anything that stimulates the nervous system or circulation but you also want to avoid activities that stimulate them too.
There are dozens of other little tips and tricks that can help you to get a better night’s sleep. A good start would be to Google “sleep hygiene”. One last word, not all sleep problems are related to poor sleep hygiene. Sometimes, insomnia is a symptom of a more serious underlying medical condition or a reaction to medication. So, if sleeplessness has affecting you more than a few weeks, it’s a good idea to see your doctor or your acupuncturist. Wishing you deep and restorative sleep. Nighty-night!
Dr. Yvonne Farrell, DAOM, LAc is a senior practitioner at LA Herbs and Acupuncture, where she maintains a private practice and offers continuing education courses to acupuncturists locally and globally through Pro D Seminars. You can read her bio here.