The Importance of Sleep

Most people understand the importance of diet and exercise for overall health, but just as  important is getting enough good quality sleep. Even if you have a good diet and you exercise regularly, poor or insufficient sleep can bring about short and long term health consequences.  A minimum of seven hours of sleep for most people is recommended. If you are getting less then that, your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, obesity, depression and premature aging increases.

We often put sleep on the back burner because of all the other things that take up our time, but how often are those things actually more important than sleep? Have any of you ever found yourself up on the computer or your phone when you should be sleeping? When our bodies natural rhythms are out of whack we find ourselves tired during the day, and awake at night. We have to make an effort to break this cycle if we want to feel and function at our best.

One of the many benefits of acupuncture is its ability to regulate our sleep cycles. A preliminary report in 2004 found that in patients with anxiety, acupuncture increased nighttime melatonin production and increased overall sleep time. Acupuncture also reduces chronic pain, which is another common cause of insomnia. Without proper sleep it is more difficult to heal from chronic pain, and the cycle continues. Acupuncture has even been shown to improve sleep quality in people with no underlying health conditions. Furthermore, the side effects of acupuncture will be improved mood, digestion, reduced pain, and better overall energy levels.

Just like with any form of treatment, the key is to make sure you’re getting the minimum effective dose before you decide whether or not its working for you. I recommend at least 10 acupuncture treatments for most people. This will vary depending on the individual and how long the condition has been going on. In my experience, sleep is usually one of the first things to noticeably improve with a course of acupuncture treatment. In fact many people fall asleep during the treatment.

Besides acupuncture, I have found it extremely effective to prepare the body and mind for sleep ahead of time. One simple way to do this is to turn off your lights when the sun goes down. This is a good time to use a salt lamp. The blue light found in electronics will inhibit melatonin production and throw off your sleep cycle. So avoid or minimize using devices after sundown. Also make sure to expose yourself to sunlight when you first wake up in the morning. Open the shades and let the light in. When the light enters our eyes it triggers an endocrine response and gives us energy.

Focus on movement in the morning, and calmness in the evening, try to get your work done early on, so you won’t have to over stimulate yourself too much in the evening. Do these few things regularly and pretty soon you may find yourself actually being tired when its time
for bed, and getting up easily when its time to rise. More importantly you can expect to feel better physically and mentally.

–Jesse Andreas. L.Ac.

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