advice from traditional chinese medicine
In today’s stressful world, many people are prone to sleeping problems. According to some studies, almost 30% of people have trouble sleeping. And that number may have increased after the pandemic. COVID-19 is just one of many health conditions that can lead to insomnia and sleep problems.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine defines insomnia as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, accompanied by daytime disturbances related to these sleep disorders. Long-term insomnia can lead to depression, addiction, and poor cognitive function. In addition, it has an impact on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular health.
dr. Guobin Wu, director of Xin Yi Tang Chinese Medicine Clinic in Taipei, told The Epoch Times about insomnia and how to get a good night’s sleep without resorting to medication.
1. Get some sun
The biological rhythm of the human body is strongly influenced by sunlight. To strengthen and normalize the biological rhythm, exposure to the sun in the morning after waking up is most effective. It could even mean sunlight streaming through a window while you’re having lunch. Thirty minutes of sun exposure in the morning and another hour or more in the afternoon can promote the production of melatonin, which promotes sleep. Maintaining this routine at least three days a week can strengthen your biological rhythm and improve your overall sleep.
2. Pamper your feet
Using a foot spa can quickly improve blood circulation in the feet and promote body thermoregulation.
3. Watch your diet
Consuming foods rich in tryptophan and vitamin B6 can improve sleep quality by encouraging the body’s production of melatonin and serotonin. Soybeans, bananas, carrots, spinach and potatoes are good sources of B6. Tryptophan can be found in cheese, fish, milk, sunflower seeds and turkey.
In addition, it is also important to have fixed meal times. According to traditional Chinese medicine, eating at regular times throughout the day can adjust the functions of the liver and small intestine to control the body’s circadian rhythm. Strengthening circadian rhythms can promote metabolic heat production, which generates body temperature rhythms. The result is deeper and better sleep.
Ideally, eat dinner at least 3 hours before going to bed and avoid high fat foods, high fat foods, and foods that are difficult to digest.
4. Reduce screen time
Turn off your computer or phone at least an hour before bedtime. Blue light from digital screens inhibits melatonin secretion, negatively affecting sleep.
5. Reduce Sympathetic Nervous System Activity
Staying focused on anything, whether it’s a computer screen, driving, or exercising, increases sympathetic nervous system activity. This in turn prompts the brain to reduce melatonin secretion, which makes it harder to fall asleep.
6. Switch interior lighting to warm colors
Research has shown that warm highlights actually increase melatonin production. However, bright lights of any color can decrease drowsiness, so change indoor lighting to warmer colors, but keep the lights dim. Make the change at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
Research shows that aromatherapy can significantly improve sleep quality. However, even if a scent has a calming effect, it can still interfere with sleep if you don’t like its aroma. So pick a scent you’re comfortable with.
8. Take a hot bath
About 30 minutes before bedtime, soaking your body in a hot bath (about 105ºF) can slow sympathetic nervous system activity. According to traditional Chinese medicine, calming the sympathetic nervous system can regulate excess heat in the body and speed up sleep. The hot water will actually help lower your body’s core temperature, signaling the body that it’s time to sleep.
Keep the water temperate: a bath that is too hot (above 110ºF) will raise body temperature and you will have to wait for body temperature to drop below a certain level before you can fall asleep.
9. Use the bathroom before bed
It may seem obvious, but it’s worth saying: going to the bathroom within 20 minutes of bedtime can reduce the need to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
10. Go to bed as soon as you feel sleepy
If you feel sleepy before your scheduled bedtime, try going to bed right away. Otherwise, you may find that sleepiness decreases and you may have difficulty falling asleep.
11. Avoid drinking and smoking before bed
Small amounts of alcohol have a stimulating effect; nicotine can also keep you awake. And, while a drink at bedtime may make you fall asleep faster, alcohol may actually reduce deep sleep later on by reducing REM sleep. Alcohol and nicotine can increase your heart rate during sleep, which further weighs down your body and reduces the quality of sleep. Additionally, nicotine can raise blood pressure and even contribute to irregular heartbeats at night.
12. Practice stretching exercises
By relieving muscle tension and encouraging slow breathing from the abdomen, stretching exercises can relieve nervous tension and achieve a state of physical and mental relaxation that will help induce sleep.
13. Adjust your mood
If you can’t sleep, trying to force yourself to sleep will only make you more stressed, which will make it harder for you to sleep. If you can’t sleep, consider getting up, taking a walk, or relaxing. Try to clear and calm your mind.
14. Adjust room temperature and humidity
It is important to maintain a sleep environment with appropriate temperature and humidity. Typically, the most comfortable temperature for sleeping is between 68-73°F, with 50-60% humidity. However, the best temperature for sleeping changes with the seasons. In winter, the appropriate temperature is lower, 61-68°F, with humidity above 50%. In the summer, the best temperature is 77-82°F, with humidity below 70%.
15. Pay attention to sleep hygiene: the right bedding and the right pajamas
In winter, it is recommended to use lightweight bedding, with good thermal insulation and good moisture permeability. Mattresses that are too soft should be avoided as they do not support the back. Low-rebound mattresses can better support the body. In summer, choose sheets and mattresses made from more breathable materials, such as linen. Choose loose-fitting pajamas that retain heat well and absorb moisture. Poor moisture absorption will make the body clammy and too hot, which is not conducive to good sleep.
16. Choose the right pillow
Choose a slightly lower pillow and add layers of sheets under the pillow to slowly raise it to the most appropriate height. Side sleepers will need the support of slightly higher pillows on both sides to relieve pressure on the shoulders. The height of the pillow should allow the head and neck to straighten naturally. Memory foam pillows are not recommended as they collapse after a long night’s sleep. The pillow should have a moderate degree of elasticity in order to properly support the head and neck during sleep.
17. Cultivate better breathing habits
If someone is snoring, whether it’s you or your bed partner, you can say goodbye to sleep. Abdominal breathing, also called deep breathing or abdominal breathing, can help reduce snoring. Abdominal breathing exercises involve inhaling and exhaling through the nose, while fully engaging the diaphragm. Better breathing habits can relieve insomnia caused by open-mouthed breathing, reducing or eliminating snoring.
Practicing deep breathing before bed can also reduce heart rate and blood pressure, calm nerves and promote relaxation, all factors for good sleep.