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Jun 1

How to Sleep Clean with this Sleep Hygiene Guide

Who doesn’t love that feeling of waking up in the morning, body rested, mind alert and all of your being ready to launch yourself into the day ahead? I sure do love good sleep! A good sleep is something that allows your mind and body to rest and it is essential to maintaining balance in your health – mental, emotional and physical.

I do have times when I have poor sleep – I might have difficulty falling asleep or I toss and turn restlessly through the night. If this continues, I find myself more reactive and irritable, less able to think clearly or be creative, and my body just feels heavy and sluggish. In these times, my first port of call is reviewing my sleep hygiene.

Sleep hygiene are habits that you develop and maintain to help you to have a good night’s sleep. Common sleeping problems are often caused by bad habits reinforced over years or even decades.

Sleep Environment
  • Maintain a dark room. Use black out curtains or blinds and turning off any devices which emit light.
  • Have a quiet room, or if quiet is not possible, try using some ear plugs.
  • Ensure that the temperature is comfortable. Is the blanket warm enough or is it too warm? Having warm hands and feet when sleeping is important.
  • Is your mattress comfortable? Consider seeing a mattress specialist.
  • Use the bedroom only for sleeping or intimacy. Don’t use it for watching TV, surfing the internet or for talking to friends on the phone.
  • De-clutter your sleep space. A messy sleep space can translate to inner stagnation and contribute to imbalances in Chinese Medicine.

Sleep Routine
  • Sleep and wake at the same time every day, even on weekends. This helps to set your body clock. Avoid trying to make up for poor sleep or lack of sleep by sleeping in, though don’t be obsessive about this – occasional staying up late or sleeping in is okay.
  • Get enough early morning sunshine. This also helps to set your body clock.
  • Be asleep by 10:30pm as 11pm – 1am is the time when the Chinese Medicine Liver organ needs to be resting, allowing the circulating Blood to return and be processed.
  • Don’t ignore tiredness. Go to bed when your body tells you to.
  • Exercise daily but no vigorous exercise close to bed time.
  • Relaxing exercise such as yoga or tai chi, or some gentle stretching, before bed can help to relax you.
  • Try not to engage in mentally overly stimulating activities close to bed time.

Sleep No-No’s
  • No screens for one hour before sleep. The blue light affects melatonin levels, which helps us to regulate our sleep cycle.
  • No caffeinated substances e.g. coffee, caffeinated tea, coke, chocolate close to bedtime
  • No sugar close to bedtime
  • Avoid drugs. Nicotine is a stimulant and a sedative, and the initial “kick” causes an increase in blood pressure, heart rate and respiration rate. Alcohol is a depressant but it affects your sleep rhythm and the quality of sleep with alcohol in your system is usually poor.
  • Avoid sleeping pills. They can cause daytime sleepiness and doesn’t actually solve the sleep problem. They can also cause a “rebound” effect where your sleep quality is worse when you stop taking them.
  • Avoid napping during the day. This can affect your sleep rhythm.
  • Stay away from large meals close to bed time.
  • Minimise fluid intake close to bedtime if you have a tendency towards night-time urination.

If you can’t fall asleep
  • try a mindfulness app such as Headspace or Smiling Mind.
  • don’t worry about not falling asleep.
  • don’t look at the clock as it increases worry, creating tension.
  • write down any worries that you have or things that you have to do if your mind won’t stop thinking.
  • get up and do something else in another room (with dim lighting) such as reading a book.

If by following these guidelines, you find that your sleep is still not refreshing, there could be other factors such as obstructed breathing (sleep apnoea), pain, digestive issues, stress, anxiety or depression which are contributing to your poor sleep quality. Chinese Medicine, using acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine, treats all of these conditions and can bring peaceful sleep back into your life.

Jun 13

Winter and the Element of Water

Winter is a time when the essence in nature is revealed to us. The trees have lost their flowers and leaves, and only the bareness of the trunk and branches are left. There is stillness, an inwardness, as nature seeks to conserve its energy to be ready for the next season of growth.

Winter Tree

For us, it is a time for inward reflection, to get back to the essence of ourselves. It is a time of nurturing the self by meditating, reducing the amount of activity you do, and going to sleep early and waking later. Without enough energy saved, the growth of Spring will be stunted and full potential unreached.

With plenty of reserves, we find that we are more courageous and have strength of will. Without enough energy stored, however, the emotion of “fear” can excessively predominate. We do all need a certain amount of fear to make sure that we stay alive – for instance, being fearful of moving cars in case we get run over or pausing to consider whether to eat that sandwich you made a week ago! Where the Water energy is unbalanced, the type of fear felt would be that of not having enough and of not being prepared for the future.

There are some amazing acupuncture points (well, even more so than the other amazing acupuncture points) on the Water meridians, the Kidney and Bladder meridians, that can lift and regenerate your spirit, just when you have been completely exhausted by life and the will to hold onto it is weak. They can bring you back to a place where you feel safe and you can find the peace and strength to allow yourself to begin your healing.

Some signs of Water being out of balance could be:

  • lower back pain
  • knee pain or weakness
  • sexual problems
  • fatigue or shortness of breath
  • anxiety or excessive fear
  • inflexibility or resistance to change

A few things that you can do to work with the energy of Winter are:

  • sleeping early and rising late, at least no earlier than the sunrise
  • spend more time on your inner self such as meditation, reading literature that nourishes the soul, being still and more aware of yourself and your surroundings
  • include more “warming” foods in your diet such as whole grains, squashes, beans, peas, root vegetables and garlic
  • spend time with people who are close to you, deepening relationships in a quiet and relaxed manner

Gumenick, N. (1997). The Five Elements: Retrieved 12 June 2015, from

Franglen, N. (2006). Keepers of the soul: the five guardian elements of acupuncture, London, Jessica Kingsley Publishers.