Acupuncture

How to Get a Good Sleep in Acupuncture and TCM

How to Sleep Better with Acupuncture and TCM

By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

Do you suffer from insomnia or do you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers many solutions on how to sleep better without sleeping aids. TCM stresses the importance of getting a good night sleep. Chinese medicine has tools such as; exercise, chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, and meditation all which can help you get a good sleep so you can function at the highest potential throughout the day. Read about TCM and the history it provides in regard to sleep and the many tips that can help you get the best sleep tonight.

 

History of Sleep with TCM

Sleep is a part of the interplay of yin and yang: yang energy is dominant when we are awake and active, and yin energy rules sleep. Night is yin; daylight is yang. This is all in keeping with the holistic, universal nature of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) theory. Our bodies are designed to work with the movements of the earth, sun, and moon. When a person experiences insomnia, either hard to fall asleep or wake up often then difficult to fall back to sleep, there is a lack of balance. The body is out of sync with its environment. The yang energy is taking over, or not interplaying with yin appropriately.

Sleeping and Chinese Medicine
Sleeping and Chinese Medicine

In TCM terminology, “Shen” is the spirit, the energy which controls our mental activities and thought. During sleep, Shen “hides” in the organs – predominantly the Heart and the Liver – resting, so that it can function with sharpness during our waking hours. Insomnia, in TCM, is often viewed, then, as a problem of the Heart system, or the Liver system. If one of these major organs is unable to “house” the Shen, then the Shen will wander restlessly, causing sleeplessness.

Protective Qi cycles through the body continuously, but it follows different paths along the meridians at different times of the day and night.  During the day, protective Qi, which fights off pathogens, moves through the yang meridians, and during the night, it flows through the yin meridians. If you find yourself waking up at a particular hour in the middle of the night every night – or feeling sluggish at one particular time every day – it is probably related to some deficiency of Qi in that area.

Between the hours between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m. the liver meridian is actively supplying Qi to the liver system so that it can clean toxins from the blood. Then, between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m., the freshly cleaned blood and energy is being delivered to the organ systems. It is especially important to be sleeping soundly during that time.  The liver does all the heavy lifting of cleaning and detoxifying the blood and therefore, the whole body. If the liver is stinted of its full rest and rejuvenation, night after night, we can be left feeling truly sick and tired.

Sleeplessness may be the central problem for some people; for others, it’s just a part of the big picture. Many people have gone so long without restful sleep that they have become used to it and just consider it their new “normal.” When you come in to Art of Wellness for a visit, our doctors will ask many questions to get a sense of what kind of sleep problems you’re having, including other symptoms that may be related to the same root issue.

  •      Having trouble falling asleep may be related to an excess condition of the liver and/or gall bladder.
  •      Waking easily and then having trouble falling back to sleep may point to a deficiency of the Heart Yin or too much internal heat.
  •      Nightmares may indicate a gall bladder meridian problem, while repetitive, literal dreams (about work, for example) might indicate a heart/spleen problem.

 

Sleep problems can be related to other conditions, such as depression, menopause in women, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.

How to Make Winter A Time of Rest and Renewal

Getting a good night  sleep is always important, but in the Wintertime. Nature and our bodies are really asking us to rest more, and more deeply, than we do during other times of the year.  This is a time for the body to store energy. If we go at a frantic pace, and behave the same way we do in the middle of summer, we will become depleted.

Unfortunately, our current culture does not necessarily support this idea. It seems we are asked to do more and be more than ever during the rush of the winter holiday season. It really is vital to prioritize “doing less” in order to preserve good health.

 

Handful of nuts and a small glass of milk before bed
Handful of nuts and a small glass of milk before bed

Top Tips For Creating Calm so That You Can Get A Good Sleep

  1. Choose carefully how many social commitments you make. You don’t have to attend every gathering – only the ones that are meaningful to you. If it feels more like an obligation than fun, make a plan to stop in, extend your greetings, and then leave early. This way, you won’t overeat, drink too much, and you can still get to bed a reasonable hour
  2. Don’t exercise too vigorously close to bedtime. An evening walk, or gentle program of Tai Qi or yoga will help you work out excess energy with stimulating you further
  3. Deep breaking techniques: using you lower abdomen, inhale deeply. Hold it for about 5 seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat ten times. Deep breathing exercises not only relax your mind, but they help to dispel negative Qi from the body before bed
  4. Create an oasis of calm in your bedroom, with good ventilation, restful colors and no devices. Set a time, half an hour to hour before going to bed, when you will discontinue watching TV or looking at your computer and phone. The light stimulus from the screen is not helpful for falling asleep. Reading a book, writing in a journal, coloring in a coloring book, are all activities that help you wind down for the night.
  5. Change your eating habits: many people wake up around 3 AM and find it difficult to fall back asleep. This may be cause by low blood sugar level due to the over activity for the adrenal gland. For a better sleep, try to balance your blood sugar level daily by eating small portions of food about every 3 hours and drinking a glass of warm, low fat milk or eating a handful of nuts—such as raw walnuts or almonds, before bedtime. It helps to balance your blood sugar. Waking up in the middle of the night can be caused by fluctuating insulin levels – the result of too much sugar or alcohol in the evening.
  6. Keep your feet warm by soaking them in hot water for 15-20 minutes before bedtime. Also, massaging the bottom of the feet can help to stimulate key kidney points. Give a good, fast rub to the center of your soles for a few minutes to warm them while getting into bed.
  7. Stimulating acupressure points just before bedtime can be helpful. Use your thumb or fingertip to apply moderate pressure and rotate clockwise for 2-3 minutes.

    Tai Chong Point
    Tai Chong Point
  8. Shen Men, called the “Spiritual gate” point, releases heart fire, excitement, anger, irritation and anxiety.
  9. Tai Chong, a liver point can help alleviate insomnia due to excessive heat or stagnation in the liver, which can cause feelings of depression, stress, sadness.
  10. Take off any constricting clothing (underwear), and wear loose, comfortable pajamas for bedtime.
  11. There is an old saying: “sleep like the crescent moon.” Sleeping in a fetal position on your right side puts your heart above your liver, which helps drain blood, giving the heart some relief and extra nourishment to the liver. It also helps food move through your digestive system properly.
  12. Keep away from interruptions: Turn off your phone after dinner or keep a note book by your bed. If you keep thinking about sometime important to do, write it down.
  13. Listen to calm and relaxing music
  14. Sleep and wake at the same time every day, yes that includes weekends. Do not stay in bed for too long even when you do not have to go to work. Your body needs to have a regular sleep-wake cycle in order to function at its maximum

    Shen Men Point
    Shen Men Point
  15. Reduce the water temperature for baths and showers: when the water temperature is well about body temperature, your body heat increases. Then when you get out of the water, your body heat decreases. Try to avoid such fluctuation of the body temperature.
  16. Keep your bedroom simple and clean: limit the number of electronic devices such as TV’s, computers from your bed room
  17. Do not play video games at night
  18. Obey the 20-minute rule: if you do not successfully fall asleep in twenty minutes, get up and do something else until you feel tired and ready to sleep again.
  19. Waterfall Meditation. In this exercise, imagine yourself at the base of a waterfall. As you breathe in and out, picture the water gently raining down on you, trickling down each route until the tension inside you releases, allowing your entire body to enter a peaceful and relaxed state.
  20. Oneness Meditation. Just as in the Waterfall exercise, picture yourself standing beneath a waterfall. This time, however, instead of relaxing parts of your body one section at a time, allow your entire body to relax simultaneously. Let the image of the water wash away any stress or anxiety that burdens you.

 

If you have tried all of these things are still not sleeping well, please come see us to find the underlying problem. Acupuncture and herbs can help address and correct deeper issues that are affecting your ability to find rest and peace. If you find you are experiencing insomnia or any other sleep disturbance, seek out solutions. Left unaddressed, a sleep problem can become chronic and debilitating. Talk to us, so we can help you pinpoint and fix the problem with lifestyle adjustments, acupuncture treatments, and herbal formulae.

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How to Reduce and Prevent Inflammation

How to Reduce and Prevent Inflammation

We usually think of inflammation as something that affects our muscles and joints, causing them to swell and ache. We observe these manifestations when people are injured causing knee pain or elbow pain from injuries like an ankle sprain. This suffering from pain and tenderness is actually our body’s normal protective response to restrict our body from further activity to cause more injury. For those acute inflammation incidences, we need to temporally put pressure near the heart end and apply ice to the injured area to discontinue bleeding and swelling. With time, we expect our body to reduce the inflammation and resume as normal. However, there are some conditions when the body is in a constant low grade heat or chronic inflammation, like rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, or celiac disease  this is even observed with kidney stone, gall bladder stones, and high cholesterol.

Cancer is another disease linked with chronic inflammation/toxins. Over time, chronic inflammation can cause DNA damage and lead to some forms of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. More recently, science has made it clear that inflammation is also part of what causes poor blood flow through the arteries, causing problems in the body’s circulator system and the heart. Obesity and unhealthy eating habits can increases inflammation in the body. Autoimmune disorders like Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis can cause chronic inflammation in healthy and unhealthy people. But really, the root cause of inflammation is a dysfunction of the metabolism, or digestive process. It is the body’s normal defensive response to excess internal heat.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are two energy measurements: Yin and Yang; which is present in everything.  Yin represents cold, water, dark….and Yang represents hot, fire, light…..both energies need to be balanced in order to keep everything in shape. In our body, our organs need fire/heat to keep our body temperate normal and operate every part of the body well. However, if the fire is too strong, that will cause fever or infection or inflammation. In Chinese, fire is 火 (pronounced huo), inflammation is 炎(pronounced yan). As you can see, 炎 has two 火, means too much fire or excess heat.

Excess heat can be caused by stress, too heavy of a diet, and eating the wrong kinds of foods, and extreme environmental heat.

How to reduce and prevent inflammation?

Stress management is an important part of our daily task especially at the end of the day, we are able to unwind ourselves, release tension, and allow energy to flow. When there is ongoing or long term stagnation that is unaddressed, excess heat/toxins will be generated. Having acupuncture treatment regularly always helps people de-stress, calm the mind and body and achieve anti-anxiety. Once the whole body’s Qi/blood is flowing freely, the stagnation opens up, heat is reduced, and the inflammation will disappear. On top of acupuncture treatment, cupping is very helpful to clear excess heat and detoxify the body.

An anti-inflammatory diet is essential along with a low calorie diet. The meaning of “calorie” is, after all, a unit measurement of heat or energy. Simply put, ingesting more calories creates more heat in the body. If the calories aren’t being burned through physical activity, then they are stored in the body as excess fat. Fat not only weighs you down, but triggers the immune system, which tries to attack the fat as if it was a foreign substance. Carrying excess fat acts on several levels to create detrimental inflammation within the body, causing more Qi/Fluid blockage and that blockage creates more inflammation.

 

Second, anti-inflammation diet is cool or cold food. If you are an Art of Wellness member, you know what group of food you should stay on, either cooling food, like majority of vegetable, and fruit or add more warm/hot food kale, mustard green, turkey, walnut, black bean, ginger pecan, lamb to tonify your Yang. Besides of working on appropriate diet, having herbal supplements is very especial assisting reduce inflammation. Cause herbs are from plants, carry stronger energy than our food. Due to the poor taste, we do not consider eat them like other vegetable. It is important to pay attention not only to what you eat, and how much, but also how you eat, and when. Many people’s eating habits lead to poor digestion.

Eat sitting down. The body draws both blood and Qi into its center – the stomach and spleen – in order to digest food. Eating while standing or walking, or trying to concentrate on some other problem, draws much-needed energy to the extremities or the brain, away from the digestive process. And also , should eat in a relaxed environment avoid arguing.

Chew food thoroughly. Failure to chew adequately means that the rest of your digestive system has to work harder to break down your food into usable nutrition.

In general, choose more fresh, raw, and lightly cooked foods, and avoid baked, fried and heavily processed foods. These foods retain the heat energy that was used in their preparation, and that creates more heat inside you.

Increase your use of bay leaf, cilantro, dill and other herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano, all of which have anti-internal heat properties. Choose high Omega-fatty-acid fish such as salmon, and good quality fish oils. Eat lots of leafy greens. Avoid coffee, and drink green tea instead. Fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut/kimchee, miso and tempeh help to heal and promote good balance in the intestines. Shitake mushrooms are a source of copper, a rare nutrient, important in the prevention of arterial inflammation.

It probably comes as no surprise that we recommend cutting back on unhealthy fats (trans fats, processed cooking oils, and fatty red meat). And avoid sugar as strictly as possible, as sugar consumption leads to insulin resistance and is a major cause of inflammation.

Avoid the nightshade vegetables: peppers, eggplants, potatoes and tomatoes. This includes spices and seasonings made from peppers, such as paprika and red pepper flakes. These foods can irritate the intestines, affecting their permeability and setting off unwanted immune responses. These in turn lead to inflammation, muscle spasms and stiffness.

What to Eat to Beat the Heat/inflammation

In Chinese culture, we drink mung bean soup during the hot days of summer. Cooked mug beans cool down our internal body heat and detoxify the body. We even feed this soup to people who are suffering from heat strike. Mung Beans are very nutrition, offering easily digested proteins, and do not create gas like other beans can. Their natural sweet flavor and bright green color are pleasing, as well.

Try this simple recipe:

  1. Add one cup of mung beans to six cups of water
  2. Bring to a boil, simmer for 5-10 minutes
  3. Sweeten by adding Asian pear or add a pinch of salt and eat as a soup or tea.
  4. Or simply one table spoon of mung bean with two cups of boiling water, cover with lid, drink this tea when it is in room temperature. Refill two cups of water boiling water again in remained mung bean container, repeat 2-3 time, eat the mung bean at the end.
    To ice or not to ice?

In the early hours of the morning, it is always best to drink liquids that are body or room temperature, in order to protect the fire of the digestive system. In the afternoon on a very hot day, it is generally OK to have a cold or iced drink to refresh yourself. However, women who are about to have or who have their menstrual period should never drink ice-cold beverages. The stomach sits right above the uterus, and the action of cooling down the female organs too much can cause cramping. And of course, we would always advise against drinking sugary iced coffee drinks, which can actually cause dehydration.

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