My insomnia started when my “yin and yang” became imbalanced. “Yin-time” is night-time and “yang-time” is during the day. When we stay up late at night (all-nighters to finish school papers, partying, or working the graveyard shift at work, etc.), we run the risk of imbalancing the yin and yang – otherwise known as the natural order of things.
When we use our yang energy in the yin time, we deplete our bodies of precious – and hard to replace – yin energy. Our bodies restore yin energy (known bio-medically as blood and other body fluids) when we sleep at night. Ideally we sleep at night because that is the yin time. It only makes sense that a yin activity happens at the yin time. If your yin is in proper amounts and you are peaceful at night, your Heart “holds” the reserves of yin and you sleep very well.
Things that can upset your yin and yang balance:
1. Improper diet: too spicy or greasy foods cause excessive heat that will eventually deplete your yin. Too much sweet foods will imbalance your Spleen which will impair the production of blood / yin. Bio-medically what is happening is that too many sweets (including refined grains) will cause your blood sugar to drop, which makes sleeping more difficult.
2. Over-thinking: worriers and students are at risk of this; over-thinking in Chinese medicine is an emotional state that depletes your qi. When your qi is depleted, your digestive system will suffer and not make enough blood to nourish your heart at night.
3. Hormone fluctuations: as we age, our yin and yang wane which may cause sleeping disruptions. The moon can also “pull” on our energies; you may notice that you get occasional insomnia on the new or full moon!
4. Vitamin deficiencies: trace minerals such as magnesium and potassium help you get to sleep and stay asleep by making sure your muscles can relax.
Other factors to help with your sleep…I’m sure you’ve already heard all of these, but I will reiterate the ones that have been helpful to me in the past.
*Exercise at some point in the day. In other words, make yourself ready and looking forward to a long rest. “Earn it.”
*Use aromatherapy. Put lavender oil in your bath water; put a drop of lavender oil on your third eye before bed.
*Write down what you need to do tomorrow. The only way to get it off your mind is to write it down. …or type it into your iphone, whatever.
*Avoid high carbohydrate foods and drinks before bed. That margarita may help you get to bed quicker, but then you’re popping up at 3 am because your blood sugar is crashing in the middle of the night. Instead, try some plain yogurt or turkey. A high protein snack, especially one with naturally-occurring tryptophan (the hormone in turkey that makes you sleepy on Thanksgiving), will help keep your blood sugar levels more constant in the night.
*Sex. Seriously, just try it.
*Supplements and Chinese herbs. Every night I take a large dose of Calcium Lactate with magnesium and a large dose of kelp as well as Chinese herbs for sleeping. I take all of this just in case because I do not want to suffer with insomnia ever again! It’s the worst!
What about you? If you’ve had insomnia before, what has helped you get over it?