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Traditional Tips for Insomnia
When you consider that Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM) dates back over 3,000 years, it is easy to see the vastness of theory and history involved. This fascinating complementary medicine arms practitioners with a plethora of unique diagnostic tools. These tools include an ability to detect Qi imbalances, define the underlying problems and correct them. When it comes to Spring, Traditional Chinese Medicine recommends MORE activity. In order for one to become more physically active, it is imperative to have and maintain a healthy sleep schedule. However, recent statistics show nearly 60 million Americans experience insomnia and other sleep-related problems daily (and this statistic was taken before the Covid-19 global crisis). With these numbers, understand that if you are suffering from insomnia or unable to get a good night’s rest, you are absolutely not alone. The good news is, implementing some basic TCM practices could help you get back on track.
Acupuncture and TCM continue to come out on top of the list of suggested treatments for sleepless nights and improper circadian rhythms. The reason TCM is so effective has a lot to do with the adaptability of treatment modalities. TCM does not only suggest herbs and acupuncture, or massage and physical exercise but also lifestyle changes to introduce healthy habits. Here are some of our favorite lifestyle adaptations you can consider if you or someone you love is struggling with insomnia.
Spend time outside: Camping has been shown to help reset the sleep cycle of insomniacs. Your body will be able to reset itself after a couple of days, allowing your circadian rhythm to get you back into a proper sleeping pattern. This theory goes hand in hand with some of TCM’s primary principles; staying in tune with nature. Ask me for some of my favorite springtime outdoor activities.
Digital detox: The digital stimulation we experience these days is overwhelming. This past year was absolutely no exception. In 2020, virtual meetings and classes took over our homes, near-constant attention to news updates became a necessary evil, and social media became the primary means of community. With the “go-go-go” attitude of mainstream culture, sometimes digital stimulation alone can make it hard to slow down enough to find rest. Turn off the devices at least 2 hours before bed. Better yet, create a digital detox day of the week: one day where you and your family unplug and allow yourself to reacclimate to the natural world.
Plan for sleep: Setting a bedtime, and sticking with it, can help reset your sleep cycle. Implement a routine and do the same things nightly before going to bed. If you are struggling to fall asleep on time, consider a wind-down routine. Create a routine for yourself that may include a cup of tea, a yoga or tai chi session, reading or writing. Experiment with what feels best for your mind and body.
Change the lighting: We are all sensitive to light. Before the regular use of artificial lighting, humans spent their evenings in a slow transition to nighttime darkness. In the evening create a darker environment in your home to help your brain ease out of the daytime stimulation and start slowing down. Alternatively, when you wake up in the morning, be sure to open the shades and turn the lights on again to help tell the brain to wake up and get going. Consistency is essential and will help train your brain and balance your circadian rhythm.
Late-night binges: Stop ingesting caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine and go easy on the late-night snacks. Eating too late is common and can cause indigestion and restless nights. If you’re still hungry right before bed, try something light and healthy, like a tablespoon of peanut butter or a handful of almonds.
Schedule your TCM evaluation: Traditional Chinese Medicine has been proven by many studies to be a safe and effective treatment for insomnia. Treatments include acupuncture, at-home acupressure routines, breathing exercises, lifestyle changes, environmental adaptations, herbal prescriptions, even nutritional recommendations and so much more. Your specific symptoms and patterns of disharmony will be addressed all in an effort to find the root cause(s) of your sleeplessness.
Spring TCM Life Tips
This transition allows for the ability to get more done and spend more time outdoors, possibly shedding those extra pounds gained over the holidays and reconnecting with nature. But as with any seasonal change, there are organ systems that need specific attention. This is where Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) excels in helping make a smooth transition.
As we transition from winter to spring, it’s important to understand that in TCM, the season of winter is associated with associated with the element of water and it corresponds to the kidneys. The kidneys house our life force or jing and therefore, they must be constantly fed and replenished, as jing dissipates over time. Winter is the perfect time to do this.and is done by sleeping more, eating hearty, warming seasonal foods, and avoiding excessive sweating or exercising.
The season of spring is associated with the element of wood and it corresponds to the liver. As everything around us blossoms in the spring, so too should we embrace this time. But the liver tends to be a bit of a bully for many people and it must be kept in check. Often the winter months leave some stagnant feelings, which can manifest in different areas like relationships, work, or even our bodies. If there is frustration, physical pain, or sadness, it may be a sign that energy is not flowing properly or optimally.
Eating according to the seasons is very important in TCM. As the weather gets warmer, most people gravitate towards healthier food options in an effort to lose some of the winter weight. But according to TCM, eating lighter, more natural foods actually gives the liver a chance to repair itself and that alone can help us feel more energetic and improve our clarity of thought. The immune system also functions better when excess sugar and dairy are removed.
Acupuncture is one of the tools in the TCM toolbox that can help make the transition from winter to spring easier. Acupuncture can balance the body as it reacts to the changes in the weather and activity levels. Regular acupuncture treatments have also been shown to boost immunity. Spring can cause flare ups associated with seasonal allergies and acupuncture treatments can help with the inflammation, sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes that accompany the allergic reactions. But most of all, acupuncture can help regulate those emotional imbalances that are often common during this transitional period.
Feng Shui is another way to make the transition from winter to spring easier. You might have heard of Feng Shui referred to in the Western world as similar to interior design. However, in Chinese culture, feng shui is understood as a far more complex system. It is a practice intended to create harmony in our interior space and relates to our personal energy, the natural world, and our environment.
The ultimate goal of feng shui is to create energized and balanced spaces by drawing in positive energies. It draws on a system of interactions and laws about how humans perceive our physical environment. The art of feng shui governs spatial arrangement and orientation in relation to the flow of energy or Qi (pronounced “chee”). Tossing out old clothing, magazines or just going through that one junk drawer we all have, will create an empty space that will then allow for growth throughout the spring season.
By incorporating some simple TCM techniques into your life you may just have a more enjoyable metamorphosis from winter into spring.
Self-Care and Preventative Medicines
Should I get acupuncture even when I’m not sick? This is a question I get often.
For thousands of years practitioners of acupuncture & Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM) have emphasized the importance of preventing illness and disease. So the answer is yes, by definition acupuncture and TCM work to keep the body in balance, not only to revive you when you when stricken by illness.
Going to the doctor when healthy is an obscure thought to those in the Western medical system. TCM practitioners look to many aspects of their patient’s lives beyond the physical aches and pains. According to TCM, there are many contributing factors that can bring the body out of balance. These include both internal and external factors such as seasonal changes, diet, physical activity, and emotional wellbeing.
Western allopathic medicine usually doesn’t recognize the role of emotions in creating illness beyond acknowledging stress exacerbates or causes 80 percent of all illnesses. According to TCM theory, specific emotions are linked to specific parts of the body: being stuck on any one emotion can bring that part of the body out of balance. Acupuncture and TCM can help us stay healthy by balancing these tendencies before chronic imbalances set in.
In one of the oldest books on TCM, “The Inner Classics of the Yellow Emperor,” compiled around 100 B.C.E., it’s written that excess joy slows and scatters qi, excess anger causes qi to ascend, excess sadness and grief weakens qi, excess worry knots and binds qi, fear descends qi and fright induces chaotic qi. The good news is each excessive emotions can be ‘harnessed,’ transformed and channeled into a virtuous emotion, which restores harmony and wellbeing. This transformation of emotions from excess to virtue is a vital aspect of the Yang-Sheng or preventative branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Among the most common of excess emotion is the tendency of overthinking, worry and rumination; this will tend to result in digestive issues and/or metabolism concerns, as well as muscular tension and pain. In order to maintain optimal health one must learn to transform overthinking and worry into the virtue of creativity and dynamic insight.
Developing a regular meditation practice, even five to ten minutes once a day, can make a difference! You will develop the discipline to redirect worry and overthinking into resting in the present moment more often. A quote from “The Dhammapada” (The Buddha’s Path of Wisdom) expresses this, “As the bee collects nectar and departs without injuring the flower, or its color or scent, so let a sage dwell in his village.” When you find yourself worrying, compare your thoughts to a bee. Allow yourself to collect the ‘pollen’ of your thought while also germinating future ideas. This will transform your thoughts into nectar. A bee does not cling to only one flower.
Acupuncture can help you let go and move forward.
Try using acupressure at ST-36 and SP-3 to transform worry into creative action.
ST-36 is the great harmonizer point: this point does it all! ST-36 can help motivate you, improve your energy, digestion, and boosting your immune system! Locate this point by placing one hand just below the outer knee cap (index finger by the knee cap), use your other hand to find ST-36 (just below your pinky finger) just off the outer shin.
Pair ST-36 with acupressure at SP-3 to clarify your mind and regulate your digestion. Locate SP-3 along the inside of the foot, run your finger along the edge of the big toe until your finger ‘falls’ into a divot, about a three-finger width from the base of the big toe.
Look for future articles for tips on transforming other excessive emotions and nourish your vitality and wellbeing with the wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Give us a call today to schedule your acupuncture tune-up.