Here is a good reminder of how sleep affects our health. Sleep is restorative; the time where the body and mind heal and regenerate. Getting sufficient sleep is associated with lowering stress and hunger hormones in the day. Getting poor sleep can increase the risk of weight gain and type 2 diabetes by increasing the body’s ability to store carbohydrates and fat. It can also affect behavior and brain function. We see this in children in the form of tantrums or high energy. In adults in can manifest as agitation, fogginess, headaches and spiked hunger levels.
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If you are getting less than 6 hours of sleep or have interrupted sleep, consider:
- Limiting heavy or late night meals/ snacking (these can cause acid reflux).
- Incorporate a diet high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, and vitamins B and E. These minerals and vitamins are easily depleted by stress.
- Eat fruits and vegetables such as apricots, watermelon, asparagus, avocados, bananas, and broccoli. Also eat plenty of brown rice, salmon, dried fruits, figs, garlic, green leafy vegetables, soy products, and yogurt.
- Avoid stimulants such as caffeine after the early afternoon (i.e., coffee, tea, chocolate). Also, avoid alcohol and tobacco.
- Avoid food that has tyramine near bedtime, as it increases the release of the brain stimulant norepinephrine. Examples of these foods are bacon, cheese, chocolate, eggplant, ham, potatoes, sugar, sausage, spinach, and tomatoes.
- Avoid blue light emission 1 hour prior to bedtime (i.e., computers/tablets, cell phones, and TV) as they stimulate the brain. Try reading a good book instead.
- Remove the above electronic devices from your bedroom as they emit EMF’s (electromagnetic frequencies).
- Remove anything to do with work from the bedroom.
- Adhere to a routine that helps you prepare for sleep (ex: wash your face, brush your teeth, dim the lights, read a good book).
- Get plenty of exercises.
- Practice a meditation routine.
- Get away from the routine and do something enjoyable and relaxing.
- Shift your outlook to one of gratitude. In Chinese Medicine paradigm, night time is yin time where the liver blood is stored as opposed to being allocated to other parts of the body during exertion in the day time. The Inner Canon, of the Tang Dynasty annotated by Wang Bing states: “The blood is stored by the liver and is moved by the heart.” If the yin blood of the whole body is abundant, the liver has blood to store and the heart has blood to govern. Thus, providing nourishment for the whole body and prevents the heart and liver yang from being hyperactive causing disease.
If sleep is an issue, consult with your acupuncturist.