Why is sleep so important?
The world is only just waking up to the importance of sleep and realising that it is an essential part of life and something that cannot be “banked” – meaning we can’t make up for a lousy night’s sleep by sleeping more the next night. Sleep expert Doctor Matthew Walker describes the importance of sleep by saying that sleep is the single most effective thing we do each day to reset the health of our brain and body.
The body benefits from sleep by producing certain hormones that stimulate the regeneration of damaged and dying cells, such as growth hormones. During sleep, our bodies can restore, retune and balance specific physiological processes within our bodies. Sleep is also essential for boosting our immune system.
The benefits sleep contributes to our bodies is amazing, but perhaps even more impressive is the benefits sleep has on our brain. Sleep allows the brain to mentally refresh and sort and file all the information it has taken in each day; each night, when sleeping is like hitting a reset button, all the chemical reactions and cellular processes are cleansed. So, each morning a new day and a new you. There is more room for further information or the consolidation of what you have already learnt. Quality sleep also helps with emotional regulation. A lack of sleep is highly correlated to an increased risk of anxiety, depression and psychological issues.
What is Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)?
Traditional Chinese Medicine is over 2,300 years old and focuses on restoring your Yin and Yang balance. Back then, there was no concept of hormones and neurotransmitters, cells and enzymes, etc., so they used the concepts well understood in those times. They looked to their environment and saw how the seasons, the wind, rain and heat had on people and their health. Their terms to describe illness were wind, cold, damp, heat, dryness, and summer heat. TCM continued to evolve over the centuries to find ways to treat the latest “epidemic” diseases and treat mild, common diseases and chronic illnesses. But the language used to describe the body in health and illness has stayed the same throughout.
Modern treatments include acupuncture, cupping, food therapy, gua sha, herbal medicine and moxibustion. Qi Gong and Tai Chi are also considered treatment modalities within Traditional Chinese Medicine’s scope.
Studies have shown that TCM treatments such as acupuncture, moxibustion and Chinese herbal remedies have helped patients with primary insomnia sleep and stay asleep. Sleep is an overlooked essential in modern-day times, and many people struggle with getting to sleep, staying asleep and waking up refreshed. Specific TCM treatments will help with sleep issues and insomnia.
How can TCM benefit my sleep and quality sleep?
1. TCM philosophy deems sleep essential for maintaining health
Chinese sages once wrote: “…replenishing health with medicine is not as good as replenishing health with diet, but…replenishing health with sleep is the best treatment of all.”
This philosophy is a crucial part of TCM, and therefore TCM practitioners pay a lot of attention to sleep cycles and sleep issues. If you receive a TCM treatment, the practitioner will look at the balance between day (Yin) and night (Yang) to ensure you are sleeping well.
2. TCM treatments can decrease depression and anxiety
Treatments such as acupuncture can effectively reduce emotional conditions like depression and anxiety, which can cause restless sleep or insomnia in some cases. Acupuncture can stimulate the body’s natural pain relief and pleasure generating mechanisms which contribute to a restful sleep.
3. TCM reduces stress
High levels of stress and good sleep do not go hand in hand. Mismanaged stress will likely result in trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep. TCM treatments help manage stress by putting patients into a rest and digest (parasympathetic) state. This is an opposite state from the usual sympathetic (fight or flight) state and is essential for improving overall health, well-being and sleep.
4. Herbal medicines are natural with little to no side effects
Unlike Western medicines such as sleeping pills, Chinese herbal medicines are produced and distributed in their natural form. This means that there is little to no chance of the adverse side effects and addictive mechanisms often experienced with other manufactured medicines.
5. Improves digestion and promotes homeostasis
TCM treatments help improve digestion which is essential to good sleep as sleep is a time for resting and digesting. Homeostasis is about achieving balance in the body. The balance between Yin and Yang is fundamental to Chinese Medicine, and without this balance, restful sleep can not be achieved.
So, if you or someone you know is struggling to sleep well consistently, please consider visiting a Traditional Chinese Medicine practice to see how TCM can benefit your sleep.