Good, sound sleep is essential for health and vitality. For example, cellular self-repair takes place during REM sleep. A good night sleep is also important for normal cognitive functioning and energy during the day. While losing sleep here and there is not abnormal, lack of sleep as a disorder is becoming a significant health problem in our society. This has been made worse by the advent of over connectivity to digital electronic devices. The electro magnetic fields emitted while we are looking at these devices cause a melatonin decrease, and melatonin is one of the major neurotransmitters related to sleep. Nevertheless, the cause of most sleeping disorders is an underlying anxiety and existential angst. A relaxed mind never fails to sleep well. Also the sleep deprivation can become a vicious cycle as not being able to fall and/or stay asleep adds to the anxiety.
In Chinese medicine, the heart channel is the most influential channel for sound sleep. And as we all know, anxiety and existential angst directly affect the “heart of the matter” in the human condition. An over active mind during times when we should be sound asleep clings to all kinds of perceptions and ruminations of thought and we are unable to let go of that which is not present at this very moment. While there are traumatic causes that can definitely influence whether or not we fall asleep, most sleep disorders are caused by the above mentioned factors unlerlying the anxiety and existential angst.
Definition of good sleep: you lay in bed comfortably, and within half an hour or less you fall into deep sleep for at least six hours.
What can I do to sleep better?
- Lifestyle adjustments, such as consistent exercise, stress reduction practices.
- Establishment of boundaries. For example, an appropriate sleep time that is completely disconnected from actions not related to sleep, particularly looking at electronic devices. Reading an actual book might help induce sleep, but it cannot be an e-book. Stay away form electronic devices.
- Learn a meditation routine to be practiced right on your bed when you are ready to go to sleep.
- Similar to number 2 above: what’s happened during the day already happened and through the meditation you will be able to keep such attachments and emotional clinginess from penetrating your consciousness. In other words, detachment: you must let go.
- Elimination of all stimulants, particularly caffeine or other drugs.
- For many, however, a glass of red wine with dinner helps them be more relax.
- Journaling: write down the reasons/causes/people/circumstances in your life that you perceive as to be affecting your ability to sleep. Write about them and why you feel this way.
Conservative clinical approaches to sleep better:
If you are doing all of the above regularly and still you’re having trouble maintaining good sleep as defined above, then you may benefit from:
- Supplementation with Melatonin, or L-Tryptophan, or an herbal supplement like CAVA, or a Chinese medicinal like Zizyphus seed (Suan Zao Ren). You may also try Magnesium Glycinate, or Taurine.
- Most people fall asleep during an Acupuncture treatment including those who have sleep deprivation. So acupuncture is a very important component when the things that you are doing by yourself are not sufficient. However, the longer you have had this problem the more serious you have to take coming to treatment because it is going to require an appropriate approach that helps relax the mind and mitigate the underlying anxiety that you are experiencing.
- Cognitive Therapy and/or Hypnotherapy.
- Hypnotic agents are the type of drugs to induce an artificial sleep. This can be helpful, but they’re not an appropriate long term option. No agent can resolve the existential angst that is most likely driving your underlying anxiety which is resulting in sleep deprivation.
- Consulting with a Psychiatrist may help you treat the underlying anxiety/depression either with psychotherapy, medications or both.
- You may also need a full workup, your doctor may suggest this to detect any physiological factors like hormonal imbalances or conditions such as Sleep Apnea or allergies that are blocking your air waves, etc.
Acupuncture is an important tool to calm the mind, reduce physiological symptoms of anxiety and stress. If you have not done it or stopped doing acupuncture after 3 or 4 sessions, you should reconsider. Bottom line: a combination approach that includes acupuncture, lifestyles changes and other practices is most likely to succeed.
I hope this helps you. Do not hesitate to contact me if you need to discuss your situation.