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The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Beating Insomnia

*This week's post is courtesy of Ted Ray, licensed acupuncturist who owns and operates Peninsula Acupuncture in Mountain View, CA. Ted's 360 approach to wellness aligns with Caliva's goal to promote balance between mind and body. 

What kind of wellness program can one adopt to help with insomnia?

People think insomnia is a complicated issue, but it need not be. By taking a comprehensive approach, you can see improvements to your sleep quality within a few days. As an acupuncturist, I’ve written about this issue from a Chinese medical perspective, so I’ll use this forum as more ‘how-to’ guide on steps you can take now to begin sleeping well right away. I’m breaking my advice into three categories, lifestyle, supplements and techniques. You’ll want to make lifestyle adjustments first and use additional tools like supplements when you’re looking for additional support.

LIFESTYLE

Sleep hygiene used to be a buzzword, but the term has faded away because no one knew what it meant. It refers to creating a ritual around sleep where you give yourself time to wind down before going to bed. It also relates to consistency. Going to sleep around the same time every night, drinking tea, meditation, and stretching can all be incorporated into this routine.

Exercise is hands-down one the most effective ways to improve sleep quality. Not only does it provide an emotional release from life’s daily stressors, it also helps with detoxification, neurohormonal balance, circulation, and pain relief. You’ll also sleep better when you’re physical tired and mentally calm.

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Diet includes caffeine and alcohol. In our wired and tired society, many of us use caffeine to get going (or push through fatigue) and alcohol to calm down. Ironically, both of these substances can have unintended consequences.

  • Caffeine in the afternoon can have an effect which carries over to bedtime. You may feel exhausted, but your mind won’t let you sleep. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, the heart needs to be strong enough to contain the spirit at night. If the heart is too weak, the spirit escapes and you wake in the middle of the night
  • Caffeine depletes cortisol. The coffee buzz results from cortisol unlocking stored blood sugar (glycogen). Too much coffee can deplete cortisol reserves and disrupt circadian rhythms.
  • While alcohol is primarily a depressant and should aid in sleep, it often has the opposite effect. Why? About 3 hours into your sleep, your body begins cleaning the alcohol out of your body resulting in a need to get up and go pee. If you have over-imbibed, your liver will also produce a chemical called acetaldehyde, a primary contributor to hangovers. Want to know more on how alcohol affects your sleep? Here’s a quick read from HuffPost.

Meditation

The main idea of meditation is to calm the mind. It follows that a person with a calmer mind will have an easier time falling asleep, and achieve longer periods of sustained sleep. So how do you do it? If you’re not a meditator, it’s best to start small and simple. Like anything, learning a new skill takes practice.

Here’s a quick way to start.

  • Find a quiet, comfortable place sit upright.
  • Set a timer for 5-10 minutes on your phone
  • Close your eyes and begin counting your breaths
  • Notice your mind wandering and come back to the breath
  • Hang in there until the timer goes off!

CBD Oils and THC Bath Balms

With improvements in the extraction process, implementation of quality controls, recent changes in legal status, the cannabis industry has made significant advances in recent years. Used appropriately, CBD-only and CBD/THC extracts can be a terrific resource for those struggling with sleep. As with all products, you’ll need to find product and dosage that works best for you.

Key benefits: anxiety and stress relief, promotes sense of wellness, assists in sleep onset

Recommended Products:  Papa and Barkley Releaf Body Soak, Om Edibles Night Time Tincture

 CBD Bath Soaks are a great for combatting insomnia. 

CBD Bath Soaks are a great for combatting insomnia. 

TECHNIQUES

Acupuncture

A 2009 study published by the Journal of Alternative & Complementary Medicine reviewed Forty-six (46) randomized trials involving 3811 patients concluding that ‘while acupuncture appears to be effective in treatment of insomnia, further large, rigorous designed trials are warranted.’2

I have created both custom and stock treatment protocols for sleep. Generally my patients need a combination of energy restoration and stress relief, so I employ acupuncture points that calm the mind, relieve stress, and support the adrenal glands. Ask your acupuncturist to try this protocol on you: H7, GB 40, SI 6, Lv 3, Si Shen Cong (don’t try and figure it out, just pass it on).