Sleep is a major part of our lives, just like eating and doing other activities during the day. Often sleep is regarded as a passive activity, and therefore not given its due importance in maintaining our health. Yin and yang, the two polarities that weave through all aspects of our lives, represent two fundamental energetics of life. Sleep is an aspect of yin which represents inactivity, rest, hibernation, recuperation, night and darkness, while yang symbolizes energy, activity, function, day and light.
Optimal health is dependent on the balance of yin and yang in our lives. When there is too much yang, the yin will suffer and vice versa. If we are always active, overactive and on overdrive during the day, then our sleep or the yin time will suffer, meaning we will not get the deep, restful sleep that we so badly need to recuperate from a day’s work. Modern daily life is full of stressors that are both hidden and obvious. Aside from the obvious ones such as our work stress, and existential worries, the hidden stressors are also constantly draining our energy. We are not aware, for instance, of electromagnetic radiation and chemical exposures.
- From a Chinese Medicine perspective, it is ideal to be asleep no later than 11pm. This is important because after this time the body starts going through a period of replenishment to recover from the previous day’s work. If we are awake past 11pm, this will not happen which will then act as a major stressor on its own.
- Stop all stimulating activities at least three hours before bedtime. These include being on the internet, texting, looking at bright screens, watching stimulating television, and doing work-related activities. It takes a period of time for the nervous system to calm down enough to enable sleep. If we are getting stimulated late in the evening, it will be hard to fall asleep.
- The last meal of the day should be at least two hours away from bedtime, though more time would even be better. This allows ample time for proper digestion to take place. Going to bed while still actively digesting food leads to serious digestive and health issues. Once we fall asleep, all digestive processes shut down as the focus shifts to the recuperation of the nervous system. Any food that is working its way through the gut will sit there undigested. This wreaks havoc on health, causing weight gain and all sorts of immune-related issues.
- The last meal of the day should be the simplest and the smallest. This is due to the fact that our digestive energy or fire diminishes as the day progresses. In the morning, after a night’s rest, we have the most energy. At noon, when the sun is at its maximum, digestive fire is still going strong, but as the sun goes down, digestive fire and metabolism goes down. Overwhelming the digestion with a heavy, complex and rich dinner is going to burden the system which can adversely interfere with the sleep process.
- Consumption of stimulants such as coffee, sugar, alcohol, and hot spicy foods in the second half of the day can disturb the sleep process, especially in people with already sensitive sleep as well as sensitive constitution.
- If you are using your cell phone as your alarm next to your bed, always have your phone on the flight mode. This will prevent radiation getting very close to your head where your phone is receiving its signals.However, it is best not to have any electronics in the bedroom.
- If feasible, it is recommended to turn the WiFi off before going to bed. This will protect you from unnecessary exposure to radiation (yang energetics) while asleep.
- Avoid strenuous workouts close to bedtime as the stimulation of intense physical exercises (yang energetics) can disturb the sleep. Gentle routines such as yoga, tai chi or a short walk are best to calm the system after dinner.