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Sleep plays an essential role in maintaining good health and well-being. This concept is not novel, nor is it exclusive to a particular practice of medicine.

Similar to Western Medicine, Chinese medicine (TCM) recommends reducing stress, avoiding late eating and stimulating activities for both body and brain, as well as stimulants such as coffee and alcohol before bedtime. Good bedtime hygiene, and routines for winding down the day can be helpful and don't forget that hormone levels also play a significant role in a person's ability to sleep.

TCM theory divides the day into two sections, Yin (night) and Yang (day). During the day we move, eat, work, all with switched on brains. In the evening we switch to Yin and prioritise relaxation, digestion, switching off the brain and most of all, sleep.

Similar to the concept of circadian rhythms, TCM recognizes the body's natural rhythms throughout the day and night. The Chinese meridian clock however, divides the day into 2-hour segments, with each section corresponding to a specific organ system that is at its peak performance and governs the body's function during that time.

At night, the Lung, Large Intestine, Liver, and Gall Bladder are all at their strongest. According to Western Medicine, these organs are the main sites of detoxification in the body. Therefore, getting enough sleep is critical in purifying our bodies and restoring balance. In TCM, the Liver is responsible for moving the body's Qi throughout the day, so it needs sufficient rest to perform its other functions properly, such as blood storage and yin replenishment. The Liver, and Qi flow is very affected by stress, so if you are one of those who wake between the hours of 1-3am, you are probably one of a large section of the population who is feeling the pressure of life and suffering stuck Liver Qi.

TCM places significant importance on sleep disorders as it relates to overall health and distinguishes between difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep ("light sleep"), and having sleep interrupted by dreams. Each type of sleep disruption is associated with an imbalance in different organ systems. Acupuncture increases the content of y-amino butyric acid (GABA) which is known to inhibit the central nervous system and enhance sleep quality. When I am talking to patients and developing a treatment plan, their sleep disturbance patterns are always taken into account.

An ancient Chinese quote states that "Replenishing health with medicine is not as good as replenishing health with diet, but replenishing health with sleep is the best treatment of all," highlighting the value of restful sleep in promoting good health. If your sleep could use a little assistance, come see me in clinic. I can help get you to the restful, restorative sleep you need.

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