It is January and I know many of you will be at the gym or attending a new exercise classes to counter the excess of the festive season, but actually Chinese Medicine would ask you to think about your yin (not your yang)! By this I mean we should take advantage of the dark nights and sleep more. Sneak an extra 30 minutes in bed in the morning or go to bed earlier, or do both; as I have been doing post-Christmas. We should be aiming for between 7-9 hours each night. In Chinese Medicine we are ‘nourishing our yin’ by prioritising our sleep. Yin is a term that embraces physiological processes in the body as well as emotional. In Western medical terms we see this as the brain doing ‘housekeeping’ while we sleep; repairing damaged cells, storing memories and much more. If we routinely lack sufficient sleep we are storing up problems for the future. Matt Walker, a sleep neuroscientist, has found poor sleep is associated with many diseases: cancer, diabetes, infertility and depression to mention a few. As we age our sleep quality declines and is associated with dementia. He is conducting research which is looking at how electrical stimulation of the brain (through the scalp) can induce sleep and so help prevent dementia. I find this particularly fascinating; as for a long time electrical stimulation has been used with acupuncture over the scalp for a range of conditions, including insomnia, depression, anxiety and for some neurological diseases.
I’d recommend reading more from Matt Walker – here are a few links:
Ageing and Sleep
An article which talks about the importance of sleep, the negative influence of ageing on our sleep quality and electrical stimulation:
Sleep top tips
Here is a quick interview with Matt Walker – he explains that if you are not getting enough sleep, your dieting might be more ineffective (essentially the body holds onto its precious fat energy stores and breaks down muscles instead!). He explores this more and other issues and offers his top 5 tips for getting a good sleep:
If you are taking sleeping tablets, this will be of interest:
The problem with sleeping pills Matt Walker explains is that they don’t give you a natural sleep and there are negative consequences to this. Research has shown, he explains, that sleeping pills are associated with an increase in death rates. At this stage there is no causal link. Matt wonders if actually the increase in death is due to the lack of sleep beforehand rather than the sleeping pills, as poor sleep correlates with an increase in the incidence of cancer and other causes of death as mentioned before.