By Margery Keasler
We often forget the benefits of sleep. Most of us are sleep-deprived on a regular basis either because we cram too much into our lives or because of sleep problems. Sleep deprivation can be detrimental to our health. It makes us cranky, hurts our concentration, and even predisposes us to a number of chronic health conditions such as diabetes and heart problems. In addition, it takes a toll on our appearance as well. Bags or circles under the eyes, sallow, dull or blotchy complexion, lack of sparkle to the eyes, all are a result of lack of sleep.
During the night, deep sleep helps to repair the damage that is done to our bodies during the daytime. Our skin also uses this time to regenerate, repair, and regain its elasticity. A standard eight hours of sleep may not be the magic number for everyone. Some people require more and some less. The right number of hours of sleep for you is when you can fall asleep easily, stay asleep, and wake refreshed.
Regularity of sleep is also important. It is best to try to retire for bed and awaken at the same time every day, including weekends. According to the philosophy of Traditional Chinese Medicine, around ten o’clock is the ideal time to retire. Night represents the Yin time, which means a time of stillness, darkness, coldness, and being passive. In comparison, the daytime represents the Yang time of day which is a time of action, movement, brightness and warmth.
Unfortunately, a good number of us suffer from anything as simple as occasional sleeping problems to serious, full blown insomnia. If this sounds familiar, don’t worry, there are ways to treat these problems. Acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine, and lifestyle adjustments are effective ways of treating sleep issues.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the organ systems that most heavily influence sleeping patterns are the Heart and Liver. The amount and quality of sleep depend on the state of the Mind (Shen). And in turn, the Mind is controlled by the state of the Heart. If the Heart system is disturbed by too much heat, or it is undernourished, then the Mind will not be properly rooted and sleep will be restless or there will be difficulty falling asleep. Likewise, if the Liver is stagnant due to stress, irritated by too much heat, or undernourished for the same reasons as the heart, sleep will not be sound and replenishing.
What causes the Heart and Liver systems to be disturbed by too much heat? Stimulants, too many spicy foods, alcohol, smoking, too much television, (especially shows that cause a lot of excitability), and anything that causes our emotions to get ‘worked up’ or ‘excited’. Things that cause the heart system to be undernourished include poor diet, worry, extreme mental stress, and ‘student syndrome’, or studying a lot at night. Acupuncture, herbs, dietary modifications, and lifestyle adjustments can greatly improve sleep quality, and your outward appearance. An acupuncturist will assess and diagnose the imbalance that is contributing to poor sleep quality. Points will be chosen that either release heat from the Heart or Liver, or nourish those organs and calm the mind. Many people that come to see me for other health issues report that their sleep quality has also improved from the acupuncture sessions.
An herbal formula can be designed for each individual to help increase the effect of the acupuncture treatments and help to see results more quickly. Nothing feels better than waking up from a sound, restful sleep. The mind feels clear, the body feels rejuvenated, the face has a healthy glow, eyes sparkle, and your energy appears light and happy. Commit to a good sleeping regimen and notice the difference it makes in your appearance! A good night’s sleep truly is nature’s most effective beauty treatment.