The party season is finally over, overindulging has run its course, and kidneys and adrenals are demanding a well deserved rest. Time to get back to your normal sleeping routine – you hope. Statistically, sleeping problems affect one third to a half of the US population. If your body and mind don’t get enough sleep, healing and the immune system are compromised, especially in the winter season when nature wants most living things to become dormant. Unfortunately humans don’t hibernate like bears, but here are a few pointers on how to ensure a good night’s rest and keep your kidneys happy.
Resting the mind
An alarm clock can be used not only to wake you up but also to remind you to go to sleep! Try setting it to go off fifteen minutes before you begin your regular ”before bed” routine. This will give your mind a chance to wind down and unload all the baggage it has accumulated in the last 24 hours. If necessary, take a pen and notepad and write down everything you are worrying or stressing over and all appointments and tasks you need to do the next day.
Night is the time for sleep but many of us may benefit from a short daytime nap. In general though, if you have slept well the whole night long, then taking a catnap of longer than 10 or 15 minutes in the afternoon will produce ama (toxins), according to Ayurveda. Chronic sleep loss cannot be made up, so it is better to go to bed an hour earlier at night than it is to try and sleep during the day.
Preparing the bedroom
Feng shui and the art of geomancy teach that the location and movement of unseen earth energy can negatively affect our well-being. We now live in a world polluted with EMFs (electromagnetic forces) from cell and cordless phones, computers, radios, TVs, microwaves, etc. While we cannot always reduce our exposure to EMFs during the day, it is easier to do at night when we sleep. Keep your cell phone out of the bedroom and use a battery alarm clock instead of an electric one. Don’t use any outlet on either side of the wall adjacent to the head of the bed, and, if possible, unplug all outlets in the bedroom when you sleep.
According to Ayurveda, sleeping on the right side is the most relaxing position. This exposes the left nostril (yin) for breathing which cools and calms the body. Sleeping on the left side is the most digestive position. Breathing through the right nostril (yang) is then promoted which heats and activates the body and is believed to increase desire for food, sleep and sex. Sleeping on the back allows both nostrils to function together but indirectly promotes disease by encouraging energy to leave the body instead of integrating body, mind and spirit. Sleeping on the stomach obstructs healthy breathing. Yogis prefer to sit up to sleep as this provides the most alert sleep.
Research in India has shown that a more meditative sleep is to be had by sleeping with the crown of the head in the east, whereas sleep will be disturbed if the head is in the north. Health is said to be improved and energy drawn into the body when the head is in the south. If your head is in the west you may have restless dreams.
Although an alcoholic drink before bedtime may relax you and help you fall asleep more easily, it will not allow you to enter deeper stages of sleep where healing is done. If you do want a calming drink, try warm milk with a pinch of saffron, or a hot herbal tea, such as chamomile, lemon balm, chrysanthemum (for liver imbalance), schizandra (for night sweats), reishi mushroom (for calming, and pain relief). Check here for more TCM teas.
A sound sleep each night is as necessary for us as our daily exercise and food. In Ayurveda sleep is thought of as ”the wet-nurse of the world” because it promotes proper growth and nourishes us, just like a mother her baby. Sleep allows the mind and the body to rest and rejuvenate for the next day. Oversleeping, however, is an important cause of overweight. If you have this problem and think you sleep too long, then try to go to bed each night and wake up each morning at the same time. If you go to sleep earlier than usual one day, then get up earlier than usual the next morning. If you have difficulty with this, try waking yourself up in the middle of the night and get out of bed. Stay awake for a while, then return to bed to sleep. Breaking a sound sleep will help reduce your sleep habit without affecting your rest.
If you are having sleeping problems and don’t seem to be able to find the cause, acupuncture may help. There are several acupoints that can be treated in cases of insomnia, and moxibustion can also be beneficial.
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