One of the biggest reasons for exacerbated symptoms from illness or injury is lack of sleep or inconsistent sleep. I see it every day in my office, and although I offer these suggestions, it’s still difficult to set a routine.
Good sleep hygiene is as important as body hygiene (although maybe not as noticeable to others). A lack of sleep over months or years can cause serious health conditions like high blood pressure, depression, diabetes & weakened immune system.
Here are some suggestions I offer my patients for rebalancing their sleep habits:
Set a consistent bedtime
Yes, I know you’re not a child anymore and no one can tell you when to go to bed, but it’s important for your system to be on a consistent schedule. Very naturally, once this schedule is set your body will ease into a parasympathetic state at your normal bedtime. From a Chinese perspective, getting to bed before 10PM helps to ground the Hun, or the ethereal soul so it doesn’t wander at night.
Avoid caffeine & refined sugars at least 6 hours before bedtime
Be wary of any teas, sodas or other drinks that may have caffeine. Read the nutrition labels carefully. For me, this means no caffeine after 4pm. If you’re worried about a late day slump, go for a 10-minute walk outside, drink some water with ginger or lemon, or try some Shaking as medicine (Find out what that means here).
Have a Bedtime Routine
What are you doing right before bed? Checking Facebook on your phone? Still working? An hour before bed, take the time to turn off the electronics, drink some tea, find a good book and settle into bed. Find something that works for you; maybe some yoga (bedtime routine here), alternate nostril breath or meditation. Use this time to settle into your space before settling in for the night.
Wake up at the same time every day
Yes, even on weekends! Trying to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night is important. If you’re going to sleep by 10pm aim to wake up around 6am each day. Obviously there are exceptions to the rule, but being consistent with your sleep timing and amount of sleep is a great way to start healthy sleep habits.
Drink plenty of water (but not before bed!)
A good rule of thumb is to stop drinking water a couple hours before bed (around 8pm), If you have frequent urination during the night, you may want to stop earlier than that. If you are concerned with your frequent urination, please see your healthcare professional or talk to me in-office about red flag symptoms.
If you know you aren’t drinking enough water during the day, I always recommend buying a Nalgene (1 Liter/32 oz). Start the first week drinking one bottle per day, then slowly over three weeks make your way up to three, or about 90 oz. per day. This varies depending on size and activity level of person.
Avoid late night snacking
Easier said than done! The best way to avoid snacks is to stop buying them in the first place. Not having unhealthy snacks at your fingertips goes a long way. Try to eat a large dinner before 6pm, allowing yourself a small snack before 8:30pm, nothing larger than your fist, and no ice-cream if you can help it.
Shut off the electronics
I’ll say it again, put the phone down and turn the computer off. The back-lit screen and blue light have a huge affect on sleep quality.
Set your bedroom as your sleep oasis
Obviously, there are other activities that happen in the bedroom, but stick with me here! Buy nice sheets (500 thread count or more), a pillow for your sleep style, and take the TV out. Get rid of the clutter, clean out under the bed, get rid of material things that no longer serve you. Using your bedroom for sleep-only will allow your body to naturally relax and fall/stay asleep.
It’s important to get 30 minutes of cardio 3-4x/week. This will help regulate metabolism and your sleep cycle. Just remember not to exercise too close to bedtime, as this may be disruptive.
Hide the clock
You wake in the middle of the night and that clock is shining bright to remind you of exactly how long you haven’t slept. Take it out of your room and try not to look at your cell-phone clock. If you use a clock for an alarm, try an old fashioned one without the LED lighting. If you are lying in bed for an extended period without sleeping, remove yourself from your bedroom, lie down on the couch with a book or some warm honey water.
Keep a to-do list
Keeping a notebook and pen on your nightstand is a great way to settle a busy mind. Before I go to bed, I make a to-do list of all the things I need to do the next day, along with any thoughts/ideas I’d like to revisit. This is a great way to avoid ruminating before bed.
Even as you start to notice longer-lasting change with your acupuncture visits, remember that for many, regular maintenance visits are important. I recommend after complete resolve of issues scheduling an appointment monthly to every six weeks. Life has its ebbs and flows, it’s stressors and injuries, remember to keep Acupuncture as a regular part of your health routine.
If you have any questions about what Acupuncture can do for you, always reach out and ask! My door (and email inbox) is always open!
Lexy Lynch, Lic.Ac.