Traditional Chinese Medicine’s (TCM) Yin / Yang theory follows that sleep occurs when the yang energies of the day gently fold into the Yin energies of nighttime. The “Yin” energy of the body is cooling, calming and restorative. It correlates to sunset and nighttime, when our bodies turn inward, slow down and take time to regenerate.
Conversely, daytime correlates with the concept of “Yang”, which is expansive, stimulating and warming. Throughout the day there is a waxing and waning of highly active "Yang" energy and slower, quiet, calm "Yin" energy. Ideally, a person's Yang is higher during the day while Yin is more prevalent at night. When an imbalance of Yin and Yang occurs, insomnia can result.
Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine therapies have a calming effect on the nervous system - clearing obstructions in our energetic channels and assisting the flow of oxygen-enriched nutrients throughout our bodies. Benefits include deeper breathing, improved digestive abilities, better sleeping patterns, and a general sense of well-being. These are all invaluable tools to help your brain unwind and encourage deep, healthy sleep.
To restore a balance of these energies a Chinese Medicine practitioner might use acupuncture, herbs, massage, or a combination of these to improve this transition.
What can you do to keep Yin and Yang in balance?
1. Start to slowly wind down activity at least three hours before bed; Stop checking your email, watching TV and doing work on your computer.
2. Dim the lights, read, mediate… pray, look inside, breathe easily. This will signal to your body to relax and let go of the day. Your pulse will slow, your heart rate will even out, and your body’s functions will move to the rest position, or the Yin phase.
3. Take a warm to hot shower right before getting into bed – This will heat up your body and in 10 minutes or so after the shower, when you cool down, your body will understand that it’s “Yin” time and that you should stop and rest.
4. Lower the thermostat – Creating a cool environment will accommodate the transition to Yin as Yang is receding, as the sun goes down and the body slowly adjusts to night’s cool.
What sort of habits interrupt this Yin / Yang transition?
1. Eating late! If your body is digesting food while it’s trying to recharge, it will struggle between processing that food and trying to rest and recharge. Also, don’t drink or eat anything that will stimulate you. Sugar, caffeine, even fruit is not a good idea late in the evening. Remember, fruit turns to sugar! Count on it waking you when the sugar spike wears off.
2.Exercising aggressively! Your muscles break down when you do resistance training and they start to rebuild and repair right away. You don’t want this process happening when you’re trying to sleep. Stretch instead and help your body to wind down.
3. Arguing around bedtime or going to bed mad. Your body has stress hormones that will kick in and spike if you get upset. Make a promise to whomever you have a disagreement with to pick it up in the morning.
4. Bringing work to bed. Thinking about what you need to do tomorrow with a project you’re engaged in is going to stop you from really letting go of today. Instead, leave a pad by your bed, and write down what you need to remember, and then just let it go.
Finally, try being a bear. Go and hibernate when you go to bed. Bears and other animals can sleep for six months at a time. They slow their heart rate and metabolism down during times when food isn’t plentiful and just chill.
Surely you could give yourself 6-8 hours of the same!