This is the third of a three-part series by Dr. Jingduan Yang. You can start the series HERE.
Sleep is the best medicine. It restores, repairs, and rejuvenates the body. Therefore, a good night’s sleep is key to one’s level of function, health, and longevity. Healthy sleep habits involve regular sleep and wake cycles providing quality sleep at night and alertness during the day.
To ensure a good night’s sleep, modern science has some excellent suggestions based on researchers of sleep medicine. These suggestions are referred to as sleep hygiene. These are key components of sleep hygiene:
• Maintain a regular bedtime and rising time. Even on the occasions when you get to bed late, try to wake up at the same time the next day in order to keep your set rhythm.
• Plan enough time to get seven to eight hours of sleep per day. Avoid spending too many hours in bed when you are not sleeping.
• Use your bed for sleep only. Avoid watching television, calling friends, or reading books in bed. The body needs to associate bed with sleep, nothing else.
• Avoid eating big meals, using stimulants like tea, coffee, or chocolate, doing vigorous exercise, or having emotional conversations close to bedtime.
• Make the bedroom a relaxing and quiet place. Keep the room temperature consistently comfortable. It should not be too hot or too cold.
• Get enough exposure to sunlight during the day, and keep the evening light dim.
Right Time for Sleep
In classical Chinese medicine, a good night’s sleep is also considered critical to health. In addition to the suggestions modern medicine offers, classical Chinese medicine emphasizes the importance of the time of night we should sleep.
The ideal time for sleep is 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. It is the time when the body’s energy (qi) circulates to the triple-burner (“san jiao”) meridians, a unique concept from Chinese medicine. The triple burner involves the organ functions in the chest, abdomen, and pelvis.
The upper burner spreads oxygen and blood to the rest of the body. The middle burner absorbs, metabolizes, and transforms the food into nutrients for the body. The lower burner reabsorbs water and gets rid of waste from the system. Therefore, the triple-burner function determines normal body functions. It is extremely important that we take good care of the triple burner.
Energy circulates through a different organ system every two hours.
Since there are 24 hours in a day, there are 12 stages of energy cycles. During the last phase of the 12 stages, the body enters the phase of restoration. People should keep their minds quiet, emotions calm, and activities minimum. Some experts of Chinese medicine suggest that people should be asleep by 10:30 p.m.
From 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., energy circulates through the gallbladder and liver, as discussed in Part 2 (http://tinyurl.com/TCMsleep). In Chinese medicine, the gallbladder and liver organ systems regulate digestion, nurture the connective tissues (such as sinews and ligaments of joints), regulate mood and sleep, support bone health, and regulate menstruation and reproductivity.
They are in charge of vision and help strategic planning skills and execution. Having a good sleep during this time will prevent a number of health problems from happening, particularly for people who suffer from migraines, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, infertility, fibroids in the breasts and uterus, and esophageal reflux.
From 3 a.m. to 5 a.m., energy circulates through the lung meridians. Therefore, having a deep sleep during this time is also very important. The lungs, in Chinese medicine, are responsible for breathing, spreading qi and oxygen to the rest of the body. They also help regulate water metabolism and are connected with the function of the large intestines.
Lung energy makes people physically strong and very sensitive to sadness and grief. For people who have frequent upper respiratory infection, allergy, loss and grief, skin issues, and frequent urination or abnormal bowel movements, it is important to have a good sleep at this time.
Sleep well. Sleep on time. Live long. Live healthy.
Dr. Jingduan Yang is a board-certified psychiatrist and a fourth-generation teacher and practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine. He practices integrative medicine in New York City, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. His website is taoinstitute.com.
This is the last article of this series. You can reach the beginning of the series HERE.