Sleep: Your Superpower

I have often bragged over the years that sleeping was my superpower. As I have gotten a little older, I have a little less swagger in my step when it comes to my sleeping prowess. With hormonal fluctuations, stress surges and a noisier neighborhood, I have had to work at it to make sure I am getting the solid 8 hours that give me the energy and joie de vivre I depend on. With a few tweaks I have gotten my sleep groove back. The National Sleep Foundation says that 30-40% of American adults have reported trouble sleeping in the past 12 months, while 15% report chronic insomnia. Insomnia tends to affect more women than men overall. Its effects are insidious and profound: causing weight gain, brain fog, anxiety and depression, disrupting hormonal balance and impairing our body’s ability to fend off pathogens and to detoxify.

Common treatment for insomnia in the US consists of pharmaceutical drugs that often have side effects, are addictive and worse yet, can stop working when used long term. Fortunately, in a 2009 systematic review of RCT’s, acupuncture was shown to provide safe, effective treatment for insomnia. At DHH we don’t use a one size-fits-all approach to treating insomnia. We will get to the source of the problem and provide a tailored solution that restores balance naturally.  That means when acupuncture alone isn’t enough, we also utilize nutritional strategies and high quality herbal medicine or supplements to help get you snoozing like a champ.

Insomnia is described by traditional Chinese medicine in four categories: difficulty falling asleep, light or restless sleep, early waking and dream disturbed sleep. Yin deficient fire often accounts for the “light sleep” and “early waking” types of insomnia. Qi stagnation from prolonged stress transforms into fire, which flares up and disturbs the mind. This pattern relates to trouble falling asleep easily and may be marked by vivid and distressing dreams. Other patterns exist as well and an experienced DHH acupuncturist can help with a correct diagnosis and customized treatment plan.

 

Causes of insomnia:

  • Poor sleep environment- inadequate darkness, too much sound or stimulation.
  • Medications that contain stimulants such as: corticosteroids, some antidepressants and heart medications, among others.
  • Medical conditions that are not properly managed for example GERD, chronic pain, and hyperthyroidism.
  • Schedule changes in work or sleep.
  • Excess eating, caffeine or alcohol use.
  • Stress, depression and anxiety.
  • Hormonal: PMS, perimenopause and menopause.

Tips on improving your sleep:

  • Get to bed before 11pm- like diving under a wave, you will get to sleep before liver energy surges and gives you a ”second wind”.  Your nervous system will thank you.
  • Keeping a regular sleep schedule- allows your body to set an optimal circadian rhythm, which is critical for the symphony of physiological processes; tissue repair, hormonal balance, metabolism, immunity.
  • Black out- not you, your bedroom windows! And power off those devices at least 30 minutes before bed. The blue light emitted from devices disrupts your body’s production of the hormone melatonin, important for sleep.
  • Eliminate- the issue of excess alcohol or caffeine. If you aren’t sure try, reducing or eliminating those elements. If it’s keeping you awake, it’s not worth it.
  • Stress busting- be sure you are getting enough exercise. 30 minutes of breaking a sweat most days should help a lot. Try to make it fun when you can, such as an urban hike or a personal dance party.
  • Acupuncture- let us give you some care and create a plan to get you bragging that sleep is your superpower!