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Why sleeping in isn’t the answer

October 31, 2016

acupuncture-for-insomnia

We’re wired to believe the notion that ‘sleep is for the weak.’ Rather than sleeping, many of us opt to spend our time being productive and getting something done – remember all those all-nighter’s in school? I don’t want to sound like a Debbie Downer, but sleeping in on the weekends isn’t going to cut it. Getting at least 8 hours of sleep per night is key to maintaining good health. My favourite book talks about protecting the asset (hint: that asset is YOU!) – not only is sleep a priority, it leads to hours of productivity, enhances creativity and allows for greater mental contribution to your work and overall quality of life.

What is Insomnia

Insomnia can occur due to a number of reasons: hormones, caffeine and alcohol intake, poor sleep hygiene, anxiety, depression, etc. Women commonly experience insomnia due to the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, postpartum and anxiety and depression.

Insomnia is classified as: the dissatisfaction with sleep quantity or quality, associated with one (or more) of the following symptoms:

  • Trouble initiating sleep
  • Trouble maintaining sleep, as seen by frequent awakenings or problems returning to sleep after awakenings.
  • Early-morning awakening with difficulty returning to sleep.

Creating a Good Night’s Sleep

Like most health issues, getting to the root cause of insomnia is of the utmost importance. However, as we treat the root cause we also want to ensure a good night’s sleep in the interim. Here are some natural therapies that help with insomnia:

Nutraceuticals

Melatonin: This is a neurohormone that is produced by the brain, and is released in the darkness. It’s shown to be moderately effective for insomnia and delayed sleep phase syndrome (ie. falling asleep 2 hours after getting into bed). Talk to your ND about how much melatonin you should be taking – it’s generally avoided in pregnancy prep and pregnancy, and taking too much may cause night terrors!

L-theanine: This is an amino acid that is commonly found in green tea. It helps the the nervous system relax, and can act as a sedative depending on how much you take. Pro-tip: Drink a cup of green tea after dinner to help the sleep process along.

Botanicals

Lavender: Lavender is one of my favourite herbs, I usually add it to my nebulizer and I’ll often drink it in a tea. Lavender works on the GABA receptors, to help induce a calm state.

Passionflower: This herb is used to help with restlessness, wakefulness from exhaustion, and insomnia from mental overwork and/or worry. Passionflower helps calm the nervous system and can act as a sedative.

Acupuncture

Have I told you how much I love acupuncture? There was a time in my life where it literally took me 2 hours to fall asleep (sleep deprivation is just awful!), and after a few acupuncture sessions my sleep was fixed!

Although it’s difficult to study the effect of acupuncture within the body, it’s thought to increase the amount of serotonin with the brain which can help promote relaxation and sleep. Many studies have proven the benefits of acupuncture when it comes to insomnia – in fact there are 3 body points commonly used during treatments: Gv20, Sp6 and Ht7. There are also certain points on the ear (known as auricular acupuncture) that can help promote relaxation and sleep. They can be needled or seeds can be applied to these points.

Acupuncture treatments can range anywhere between 20-60mins in length and can be done on a weekly basis anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks. Acupuncture has been shown to be beneficial for sleep onset and maintenance.

Before you go to sleep

Creating an optimal sleep environment helps promote sleep onset and improves sleep duration. Before you go to bed, ensure that your room is cool, dark and free of distraction. Bonus points if you have your nebulizer/diffuser running with some lavender essential oil.

Remember, just because you’re sleeping 12+ hours on the weekend this doesn’t erase your sleep debt. Sleeping in on the weekend can disrupt your circadian cycle and cause you to be more tired. Moreover, it can also mess up your regular sleep routine.

Next Steps

Are you ready to lock down your sleep routine, and want some help? Book a free meet and greet with me – I may not do any acupuncture during that visit but I will help you determine if Naturopathic Medicine is right for you!

Detoxing the liver during springtime

Written by   in 
March 24, 2014

spring liver 5 element TCM

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each season is governed by an element. Spring is governed by the wood element, which also controls the TCM liver and gallbladder.

Quick facts about the wood element:

  • Season – spring
  • Organs – Liver and gallbladder
  • Colour – Green
  • Emotion – Anger
  • Behavioural pattern – Decision, indecision, and control

Spring brings about rejuvenation and growth, requiring quite a bit of energy this time of year. Seeds are sprouting and flowers are blooming, bringing about a sense of new life.  To help our bodies function optimally this season, it’s best to keep our liver healthy. A healthy liver brings about the smooth flow of qi, the vital force flowing throughout our bodies. During the winter months, our livers can become congested due to fatty foods as well as toxins (remember all that wine during the holidays?), therefore stagnating the flow of qi.

Liver qi stagnation can elicit various behaviours like anger, conditions like migraines and can even develop skin lesions (like acne!). Because the liver organ is associated with the spring, it’s important to cleanse it during this season to help it function at it’s best. Unblocking qi can occur through detoxing like deep breathing, exercise, and herbs. Moreover, avoiding heavy foods and toxins will help liver qi flow smoothly throughout the body.

We may be affected by other physical ailments at this time such as seasonal allergies (disharmony between the Liver and Lung) and red eye. This brings about the importance of supporting our liver during the spring through diet and lifestyle modifications. During the spring, it’s best to eat seasonal foods as the liver prefers growing and fresh foods. Green and leafy foods are excellent ways of keeping the liver happy and healthy. Lastly, research suggests that being out in nature calms the liver, and can bring peace and clarity to our lives.

Boost your yin with this smoothie

Written by   in 
March 3, 2014
yin boosting smoothie

A few years ago I shadowed an acupuncturist who showed a great interest in the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) properties of food. She introduced me to a couple of great books that I refer back to for assignments and personal interest.

After obtaining my TCM diagnosis in class, I quickly referred back to these books to see which foods I should be eating more of to help build yin. In TCM, the yin substance is referred to as the water of the body and is used to help fuel it. Compared to yang which is warm, yin is cool in nature and the key to restoring and supporting yin is rest. Therefore, stimulating foods like caffeine, alcohol, and sugar may not be the best things to be eating if you know you have a yin deficiency. Signs of a yin deficiency includes: warm palms and soles, afternoon fever, red cheeks, dry throat, dry eyes, insomnia — many heat symptoms!

Balancing our yin and yang is especially important in the spring, because yin helps qi energy to flow smoothly —  preventing liver stagnation!

A great way to build yin is through the food we eat. Since getting a Vitamix, I’ve been making smoothies left, right, and centre. Keep in mind though, you don’t want to eat too many cold and raw foods as it can be damaging to the TCM spleen!

Ingredients (* denotes yin foods):
  • *1 Apple (I used a Fuji apple), washed and chopped
  • *1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1 celery stalk
  • *1/4 tsp honey
  • *1/2 cup pineapple
  • *1 cup spinach
Other smoothie-friendly foods include: avocado, banana, mango, pear, pomegranate, watermelon Directions: Blend and enjoy To complete this all-around (yin) breakfast with healthy fat and protein: I scrambled an egg, and had mashed avocado on toast (1 avocado, 1 tsp of lemon juice, sprinkle of salt and red pepper flakes) PS. Other smoothie recipes that I love! yin breakfast