Are you falling asleep with ease, staying asleep all night, and waking up rested? If not, then keep reading. But don't be too hard on yourself if you struggle with sleep. Between 50-70 million Americans chronically suffer from poor sleep quality. As the name implies, practicing good sleep hygiene is a lot like other routines you establish to maintain good health. The National Sleep Foundation spearheaded a two year worldwide study to examine sleep health across all ages. This chart shows you the up to date recommendations from the study.
SLEEP TIMES RECOMMENDED BY THE NATIONAL SLEEP FOUNDATION
Now that you know how many hours your body needs to sleep per night, how do you know when you are practicing improper sleep hygiene? If you are sleepy during the daytime, are taking more than 20 minutes to fall asleep, or are sleeping only intermittently during the night, consider changing your pre-bedtime routines. Here are few tips to get you started.
Make restful sleep a priority.
Stick to a regular sleep schedule. For example, if you regularly go to sleep around 11 on the weekdays, try to maintain that same time frame on the weekends. The same goes for when you wake up.
Cultivate a before bed sleep ritual.
In Chinese medicine, sleep depends on the state of blood and yin. What this means is in order to prepare for sleep you need to start gathering yin energy and reduce yang energy. Yang energy is active and bright. From a Chinese medicine standpoint, this is why computers, tablets, smartphones, and your TV should stay out of the bedroom. Each of these things keep your mind and body stimulated when you should be doing the opposite as you ready yourself for sleep.
Wean yourself from the e-stimulation at least 90 minutes before bed.
The blue wavelengths of light from LED screens like those in our phones, laptops and tablets mess with our circadian rhythm by suppressing the body's release of melatonin, the hormone our body secretes as it gets dark in order to calm us and prepare us for sleep. Neurologists at the University of Basel in Switzerland conducted a sleep study where one group was exposed to blue heavy lights before bedtime and the other warmer light or light more evening distributed across the color spectrum. The blue light group took far longer to fall asleep. Why? Because the exposure to the blue light greatly inhibits the release of melatonin and instead increases the amount of cortisol released into the body, keeping you awake.
If you like to read before bed, be old fashioned: read a paper book. If you must bring your device to bed, at the very least download one of these apps to turn off the blue light in your phone or tablet: F.Lux or use the Oyster e-reader. If you want to go all-in, put the TV in another room, and remove all devices from the bedroom before you sleep.
Temperature & Light Matter
Cooler temps are more yin, which are better for sleep. A room temperature around 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for good sleep. Reducing the amount of light in the room is also ideal for a good night's sleep. For your body to properly gather the yin, you want to cover anything that emits light in the room in the room or use an eye mask.
Exercising too close to your normal bedtime can prevent you from getting a proper night's rest. Energetic exercising (a yang activity) like running, biking, or lifting weights should be reserved for morning or early afternoon. If you like to exercise in the evening, consider a gentle (yin) approach like a restorative yoga practice or an after dinner stroll.
Empty your mind.
I know. This is part where you roll your eyes. Easier said than done, right? I might as well be asking you to develop a super human power.
Chinese medicine is all about moderation. Too much of anything causes an imbalance in the relationship between yin and yang. As you get closer to bed, you want your mind to shift from an active (yang) pace to a slower (yin) one. If you tend to think about the next day when you lay down to sleep, try making a list before bed. Empty your to-do list our of your head and onto paper. If you are addicted to multi-tasking, practice doing one thing at a time during your day. For instance, if you are doing the dishes, just do the dishes. Don't stop part way and wipe down the counter, water the plants, or check your email. Cultivating the practice of doing one thing at a time through out the day is a great first step towards quieting the mind.
Not all sleep problems are related to poor sleep hygiene.
Sometimes, insomnia is a symptom of a more serious underlying medical condition or a reaction to medication. Maybe you are living with a physical pain and it is interrupting your sleep. Or are navigating a stressful set of circumstances and cannot quiet your mind. Hot flashes can also interrupt sleep, but they don't have too. If sleeplessness has affected you more than a few weeks, consider making an appointment this month. Chinese medicine has a lot to offer when it comes to achieving good sleep, whether you are struggling to fall asleep, stay asleep, or feel rested when you wake up. Schedule to come into the clinic for a private appointment or herb consultation before September 15 and your first formula prescription is complementary. This offer cannot be combined with any other offer. You can go to this link to make your appointment.
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