What better time to write a blog about sleep than when you’re up at 5 am unable to sleep? Yes….I’ve been up since 3 am, must be time to write about sleep.
Sleep is all about brain chemistry and hormones, or in the case of Chinese medicine, Yin and Yang. Lets start with Chinese medicine. Yin and Yang energy are key concepts of everything. Yin is feminine, moist, cool, and nighttime energy. Yang is masculine, hot, dry, daytime energy. Everything has a yin and yang component. They cycle through out the day. At night the yang energy drops and yin energy rises, but when there is an imbalance, sometimes the yang energy doesn’t drop, or there isn’t enough yin to allow you to sleep.
In our western system, the yin energy is represented by the female hormones- estrogen, progesterone, pregnenolone, and the calming neurotransmitters – GABA, serotonin, and taurine. The Yang energy is represented by the masculine hormones- cortisol, DHEA, testosterone, and excitatory neurotransmitters – epinephrine, dopamine, norepinephrine and others. Its all about balance, when all the individual components aren’t working together or if there isn’t enough of some, you won’t be able to sleep.
To solve these issues you can do several things. You can start simply by getting a chinese diagnosis of whether the yin or yang are out of balance. There are wonderful chinese herbal preparations that will work to balance your energies. If that doesn’t work or you have a more western bent, you can measure all those hormones and brain chemicals. By figuring out which ones are out of tune, we can give you supplements or medications, depending on your preference, to get them back in balance.
Of course there are other reasons people can’t sleep. If you don’t get enough oxygen, you can’t breathe and it will wake you up in the middle of the night, that’s called sleep apnea. It can be diagnosed in a sleep lab. Sometimes heart burn will wake you up in the middle of the night – either coughing because you got stomach acid into your airway, or because your stomach hurts. You might have had too much caffeine, or too much alcohol, or too much food – all of which affect your sleep.
In my case, I think I was supposed to get up and write this blog! But I might have had too much caffeine yesterday……