When I met Lauren last year, she told me she couldn’t sleep more than 3 hours a night for the last 7 years! I prescribed her a Medical Qi Gong practice and after the fourth day of practice she finally could sleep over 6 hours a night! It was amazing to witness her energy shift. Our work together over the next few months slowly healed her other health conditions — literally every time I met her she looked and felt better.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) we have two types of energy — Yang and Yin. We Westerners usually think about having “energy,” as being active and visibly excited (Yang in TCM). Yang Energy is active and externally manifested — like fire. Yin Energy is passive, internally manifested — like water. Some examples of Yin Energy are listening, contemplating, or walking peacefully in nature. Yang is like jogging, talking and being more active. Yin is more internal, quiet, and deeper than externally-manifested Yang.
Lack of sleep is a global issue in our society, which is very Yang. Our obsession with go-go-go, hard work, travel, and doing things means we fill our days with action. We have so many things on our to-do list that we’re left burnt out at the end of the day. Feeling ‘burnt out’ literally means too much fire — too much Yang (Fire Energy) and not enough Yin (Water Energy).
Many reputable Western Science studies [1,2] show that when you get adequate rest, you lose fat. When you don’t, you not only lose the ability to burn fat, but your body’s hormonal balance skews. Sleep deprivation also decreases protein synthesis in the body and decreases the production of Human Growth Hormone, making it very difficult to maintain muscle mass, let alone gain. You exhibit signs of pre-diabetes very quickly and are at higher risk of chronic health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
Although the inability to have a good night’s sleep has many different origins for different people, it is always related to not having enough Yin energy in your system. From my experience working with many clients over the years, restoring the Yin/Yang balance will restore your sleep patterns almost immediately. It is important to mention that extensive, repeated research shows 6-8 hours of sleep is best for humans, which should be your goal. This enables a good amount of what scientists call slow-wave sleep, which is when the body heals and regenerates. Slow-wave sleep is optimal when cortisol levels (stress hormones) are low, which shows how impactful your emotional state is on your sleep.
In TCM, a lack of sleep depletes the Yin energy of your kidneys — the organ that governs your endocrine system and your hormones. Similar to the Western Science study from above, hormonal imbalance is what causes weight gain, cravings for high carb foods, muscle mass loss and inability to lose weight. Depleting your Kidney Yin Energy also affects the heart (Fire Element). Research published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found also found that lack of sleep affects the health of your heart and is one of the reasons for heart failure.
Below are some simple tips to help you prepare for sleep, however to really restore Yin/Yang balance and to restore a healthy sleep pattern for good:
Tip 1 – Don’t do things that are emotionally agitating before bed — like having an argument or watching a horror or violent film. In TCM Emotional stress is Yang, increasing inflammation in the body. Having a positive light and open hearted conversation with a good friend is a great way to end the day.
Tip 2 – Eat the last meal of the day 90 minutes before you go to bed, which is important to ensure your body isn’t spending all of its energy digesting food during the critical first few slow-wave sleep hours.
Tip 3 – Turn down the lights and avoiding exposure to bright light a few hours before bed will allow your sleep hormones to kick in, preparing you for Good Zzzz’s.