Sleeping and dating have something in common: the harder we try, the less likely we are to succeed!
We are a nation in sleep deprivation. Insomnia, defined as the chronic inability to sleep or to remain asleep throughout the night, affects an estimated 3.3 million Canadians aged 15 or older. Insomnia is not measured by the number of hours of sleep a person gets, but by the quality of sleep achieved. Typical symptoms include difficulty falling asleep, waking frequently throughout the night and early morning and not feeling refreshed from sleep. There are many things we can do to improve the probability of sleep, however, we cannot necessarily control falling asleep. As frustrating as this may be, sleep reminds us how unpredictable nature may be and how we ultimately have no control over sleep.
Why do we need sleep?
Sleep is something of an enigma. Our most general understanding of the purpose of sleep is that it helps to restore and rejuvenate our bodies. A basic human need like diet and exercise, sleep is required so that our minds and bodies function normally. Waking up feeling well rested is one of life’s simple pleasures, as well; it has immeasurable effects on our development.
Memory, Learning & Social Processes
Sleep enables the brain to encode new information and store it properly. REM sleep activates the area of the brain which controls learning.
Neurons which are used during the day repair themselves during sleep. Without sleep, neurons are unable to perform effectively.
Without proper sleep, the immune system becomes weak therefore making the body more vulnerable to infection and disease.
Growth & Development
Sleep is vital to proper physical and mental development. Growth hormones, which are proteins released during sleep, are essential for the adolescent growth spurt as well as regulating proportions of fat to muscle in adults.
Am I getting enough sleep?
For sleep to be rejuvenating, it must occur in one continuous block. Six hours of solid, good quality sleep is much more restorative than eight hours of disrupted, poor quality sleep. Inadequate sleep may cause difficulty waking in the morning, inability to concentrate, consistent drowsiness throughout the day and feelings of moodiness, irritability, depression and/or anxiety.
The majority of individuals don’t assess how much sleep they need to function at their best; they just know they don’t get enough. At minimum, people need to obtain sixty to ninety minutes more sleep than they presently acquire. While sleep requirements may vary between individuals, the following are some guidelines to help you consider how much sleep you or your loved ones might need. Infants and children (6 months to 3 years) require approximately 14-16 hours a day from a combination of daytime naps and nighttime sleep. Throughout the teenage years, approximately 9 hours of sleep a night is crucial since growth hormones are being released during sleep for the necessary growth spurt. The average adult functions best with 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
How can I sleep better?
If you are a person who suffers with insomnia, a consistent sleep routine is one of most effective ways to ensure a good night’s sleep.
Follow these habits to get a good nights rest.
- Stay away from caffeine, nicotine and alcohol at least 4-6 hours before bed. These stimulants often interfere with your ability to fall asleep.
- Sleep only when you are sleepy and only use your bed for sleeping.
- Don’t take naps, this will ensure that you are tired at bedtime.
- Get up and go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends!
- Refrain from exercise at least 4 hours prior to bedtime.
- Develop a sleep ritual such as listening to relaxing music or having a cup of soothing herbal tea or warm milk (the tryptophan found in milk acts as a natural sleep inducer).
- Have a light snack before bed. Larger meals should be consumed at least 2 hours prior to bedtime.
- Use a journal to jot down all your worries and concerns before bed. This will help to clear your mind so that you don’t need to ponder in the middle of the night.
- Make sure your bed and bedroom are quiet and comfortable.
There are numerous non-medical sleep aids available, from Chinese herbal remedies and acupuncture to relaxation tapes and meditation exercise, many of which are worth investigating as a longer-lasting alternative to medications.
Suan Zao Ren – “ Spinosae Seed
While its sedative effect is no where near as strong as a cold tablet, Suan Zao Ren is famous for promoting deep and restful sleep. By nourishing the blood and calms the heart, consumption of this herb addresses insomnia, restlessness and heart palpitations. Suan Zao Ren also has an interesting secondary function – “ reducing sweating.
Wu Cha Seng – “ Eletherococcus Senticosus
Commonly recommended to those in high stress situations, this herbal supplement is effective in reducing levels of the “stress hormone” – “ Cortisol. Less stress = better sleep! Studies have also shown increased stamina, work efficiency and rapid recovery time after exertion with regular consumption of Wu Cha Seng.
From a traditional Chinese medicine perspective, insomnia and other sleep disorders are strongly related to the individual’s heart energy, better known as “qi”, and the spirit. A disruption in the hearts ability to hold the spirit can lead to symptoms such as insomnia, over thinking, restlessness and anxiety. The usage of acupuncture combined with traditional Chinese medicine has an excellent effect on insomnia and other sleep disorders. By selecting points which are specific to each individual patient, acupuncture helps to harmonize and balance to effectively treat the root of insomnia.
Over 90 percent of people experience short-term insomnia at some point throughout their lives. If your sleeplessness is overcome after a few nights, the effects of sleep loss will by minor. However, chronic insomnia is considerably more concerning as it will eventually take a significant toll on your body and overall well-being. It is important that you attempt to identify the cause of your insomnia and effectively treat it.
Dr. Mable Cheung is amongst a handful of licensed & practicing Acupuncturists and one of the firsts to introduce both Cosmetic & Cellulite Acupuncture. She is also a 3rd generation Chinese Medical Doctor at Cheung’s Trading Company Limited. For more information, feel free to contact her at 519-252-9228 or at http://www.cheungstrading.com