Sleep and Acupuncture
I have a question: Why is it so easy for people (myself included) to dedicate extra time to absolutely anything except sleep?
Everyone tells you to get more sleep. Doesn’t curling up in bed with your favourite jammies and a cozy pillow with the lights low sound amazing? So why is it so hard for us to commit to this? Especially when so many studies have confirmed a link between sleep deprivation and an increase in inflammatory markers. In fact, sleep deprivation increases risk of cardiovascular morbidity for this very reason.
When I tell my patients to drink more water, it’s very easy for them. They really make the effort to keep a water bottle by their desk every day. They will drink and refill it twice a day, as instructed, become more hydrated, and feel better. If I suggest they cut out sugar, they will do it. They’ll take it one step at a time, because it’s really hard to do, but they will do it. If I suggest they add 30 mins a day of walking exercise, they will get off the bus early and walk to work to get in those extra steps. However, if i say “get into bed precisely 8 hours before you need to get up”, which, to my mind, is the easiest of the above tasks, they say “...oh. Well. Okay. I’ll try. I guess.” and then they don’t. I am so curious: Why is this particular piece of advice so difficult to incorporate into daily life?
I’ve come up with a theory. As a culture we are inured to the idea of productivity. If we are striving toward something attainable, like hydration, fitness or weight loss, we get that sense of achievement that drives the engine of our self-worth in a culture that is motivated by the idea of accomplishment. Lying in bed with the lights dimmed and enjoying the silence (or some very soft music), curling up and drifting off to sleep at 10 o’clock feels for many people like a total waste of time. You’re not getting anything done, after all. We’re taught to make use of time, not waste it with things like sleep.
In the name of science, I decided to make myself into a test subject. Okay, this is very unscientific, but I decided a few years ago to run myself through a cycle of tests to see if this idea was accurate. WIll I lose anything by increasing the number of hours I spend doing “nothing”? And I must admit, speaking from the perspective of a doer, it was really hard to drop everything at 9:15 and start my bedtime ritual. However, the difference in how I was able to manage my awake hours was profound. I had been functioning on what I came to realize was about 80% of the sleep I actually needed to be as “productive” as possible. When I’m well rested, I get a lot more done in my waking hours, and I can do it without all the hurried urgency. I also find that going to bed at around the same time every night has made it a lot easier to fall asleep and stay asleep. This is clear in the research as well (like actual scientific research) that squaring up with the circadian rhythm of your body with regard to sleep and wake cycles improves chronic inflammation and immune response.
And let’s face it, folks: it feels really good.
I find myself constantly recommending all the many things that people can “do” for greater health and wellness. But today I’d like to recommend doing less. Set a gentle reminder for yourself about a half hour before your lights-out bedtime (which should be approximately 7 to 8 hours before your wake time the next day). Then, spend that time moving toward sleep. Turn off your devices/screens; change into jammies; whatever works best for you. Then at bedtime, and here’s the hard part, get into bed, turn out your light and go to sleep.
Your body will reward you.
If sleep is a challenge for you, acupuncture is the best first intervention. It unplugs the sympathetic nervous system, reduces anxiety and promotes a calm sense of well being and relaxation. My patients usually fall straight to sleep on the table, and enjoy deeper more restful sleep throughout the week after their acupuncture session.
If you have any questions about your own specific health concerns, feel free to book a 15 minute phone consultation. I’m always available for a chat.