(NaturalNews) If you've ever had a bout of insomnia or trouble falling asleep, and who hasn't at one time or another, then you know that it can be a very frustrating experience. Staring at the clock, doing mental calculations and thinking that if you just fell asleep in the next five minutes you would get this many hours of sleep, cannot only be aggravating and pointless but can actually serve to keep us awake even longer.
Being able to get a good night sleep in this stressful modern age is becoming more and more of a problem. This is especially true in these troubled financial times. But sleep is one of the major keys to health, healing and longevity. Studies show that people who sleep more are in greater health, think more clearly, have more energy, live longer and their hearts are less strained throughout the day.
While there are many medicines advertised to help you fall asleep, drugs are certainly not the answer at all. Many sleep drugs have some serious side effects associated with them including dependency. Drugs do not cure anything but only mask the symptoms and cause you to ignore the underlying cause of your insomnia. This is true with anything that drugs are prescribed for. Drugs can be great and life saving in acute medical emergencies and trauma, but to rely on them to do what the body is normally designed to do is not a good idea.
It's always best to try and find the underlying root cause of your health issue then use some natural remedy such as herbs, breathing, meditation, acupressure or other alternative methods to re-balance the system and thus restore health and normal bodily functions.
In Chinese medical theory, when the conscious mind is at rest during sleep, the body uses the extra energies that it now has available to recharge and re-energize the system. When we sleep most of the blood ends up in the liver and spleen. During this time, the liver is particularly busy not only filtering the blood but re-energizing it. This re-energizing process that takes place is one of the main causes of our dreams, which occur due to energy re-balancing in the organs and brain.
During sleep our heart rate slows down which creates less fire energy, this is one reason we get colder as we fall asleep. The heart is also busy resting and recharging at this time but without sufficient rest, the heart is deprived of this re-charging phase. In Chinese medicine, the liver is the wood organ and the heart is the fire organ.
If you have ever gone through the day on only a few hours sleep, I'm sure you've noticed that your heart is often beating faster and harder. Human consciousness is fueled by the combined energies of the heart and kidneys, while thinking clarity, mood, overall metabolism and energy are governed by the liver.
When the liver is unable to rejuvenate at night during deep restful sleep (build more wood), not only is the blood chi now deficient, but the heart must work harder to maintain consciousness (fire) and make up for this deficiency of "wood" energy that the liver is no longer providing in sufficient quantities.
So without sufficient sleep the whole system is operating on its emergency reserves all day long. For those in good health this is not usually a problem if it occurs sporadically. But if you're chronically sleep deprived your going to cause a host of short and long term illnesses. Deep sleep is necessary and critical to cell regeneration and the deeper the sleep, the greater is the healing and rebuilding of the body.
Another reason that sleep is so critical is that while sleeping, enzymes which are responsible for all processes in the body travel throughout the system and rebuild damaged cells and tissues, fight off bacteria, viruses, germs, dissolve tumors and cancers and so much more. This is why making sure that you have enough fresh raw foods in your diet with provide abundant enzymatic activity is critical to health, healing and longevity and can even help you get a good nights sleep.
How to get a good nights sleep
So now that we've covered some of the important benefits of getting a good night sleep, what are some techniques to help us achieve this wonderful state of unconsciousness that we all love to experience. Chinese and conventional medicine offer us a number of natural, fast and safe options to help you fall asleep faster and get a good nights rest. Below are eight of these simple and effective methods.
1. Make sure that you don't eat anything at least two hours before bed Because digestion increases the fire energies of the body and will keep you awake make sure your not eating anything at least two hours prior to retiring for the night. During the late evening hours enzymatic activity of the body is lower and food will not digest as completely as during the day. Noon time should be your largest meal with dinner being only a moderate sized meal, something that we in the west tend to reverse.
2. Try drinking some water 30 minutes before bed Since water cools the fire of the heart and strengthen the kidneys (The water organ) this will help to calm the conscious mind, slow down thinking and help you to fall asleep faster.
3. Greatly decrease and/or eliminate processed foods from your diet Processed foods containing ingredients like MSG are known excitotoxins. Excitotoxins are ingredients that actually accelerate the metabolism of the body, especially brains cells to the point where they die prematurely. So not only does this kill your brain faster, it will keep you awake in the process which further causes further cell degeneration due to lack of sleep.
4. Press on the Bubbling wells point in the middle of each foot In acupuncture there is a point on the bottom of the feet that can help you fall asleep faster. It is located on the bottom of each foot along the centerline, about an inch north of center there is a point which lies on the kidney meridians. Pressing on this point with moderate pressure for 30-60 seconds helps to strengthen the kidneys and thus the water chi of the body. As the water energy increases it will cool down the heart fire energy calming down the mind and helping you to fall asleep. This point is very effective and can sometimes result is sleep as little as 30 seconds later. You can also do a general foot massage while focusing on this point to achieve the same general effect.
5. Practice short breath holding exercises Another way to cool down the fires keeping you awake is to use the lungs to absorb the excess fire energy. In Chinese medicine the lungs are metal, so by practicing breath holding exercises we use the metal of the lungs to absorb the fire from the heart. Practice this by taking a moderately deep breath, then hold your breath for 3-5 seconds, then slowly exhale. Take a deep breath again, hold it for 3-5 seconds, then exhale. Repeat this breathing exercise anywhere from 5-10 times or more and then try going back to sleep. You may find that your mind is now much more calm and your should be sleeping before you know it.
6. Try taking Melatonin 1-2 hours before bed Melatonin is a natural hormone that regulates the human biological clock. The body produces less melatonin with advancing age, which may explain why elderly people often have difficulty sleeping and why melatonin supplements improve sleep in the elderly. Normally, the body makes melatonin for several hours per night—an effect best duplicated with time-release supplements. Studies using time-release melatonin have reported good results. Many doctors of natural medicine suggest 1–3 mg of melatonin taken one and a half to two hours before bedtime.
7. Take some proven herbal supplements before bed Herbs such as Valerian root make getting to sleep easier. It has also been shown to increase the depth of sleep and the frequency of dreaming. Valerian does not cause a morning "hangover," a side effect common to prescription sleep drugs and even melatonin in some individuals. A concentrated Valerian root supplement in the amount of 300–400 mg can be taken thirty minutes before bedtime. Combining Valerian root with other mildly sedating herbs is common both in Europe and the U.S. Chamomile, hops, passion flower, lemon balm, skullcap, and catnip are commonly recommended by doctors of natural medicine.
8. Meditate Meditation can help you to fall asleep in many ways. The main way is through the calming of the mind that gradually takes place the more you meditate. With the mind in a calmer state, thoughts, worries and fear are greatly reduced if not totally eliminated. This is extremely helpful in falling asleep as a racing mind is one of the main causes of insomnia today. Meditation increases the strength of your conscious mind and will. A stronger mind will be more under your conscious control. When you want to fall asleep you will do so much easier than someone who does not practice meditation. Without those nagging worries of the day you'll have a far easier time drifting off into the blissful world of deep sleep. Your mind and body will thank you for it the next day.
So remember these tips to make sure that you're enjoying your eight hours of sleep. The greater and deeper is our sleep, the stronger, healthier and more productive will our day be and the better you'll feel too.
About the author
Richard is a network engineer and longtime practitioner of Chinese martial arts, medicine and chi-gung for over twenty six years. Having learned many Chinese health and healing arts from old world gung-fu and healing masters and practitioners, he has helped many people to overcome their health issues and achieve their fitness goals. Through diligent study and experience he has taken this knowledge even further over the years including reading scores of books on Chinese medicine, health, chi theory, science, physics, nutrition, supplements, meditation, martial arts, and many other subjects. Utilizing the web, health and fitness videos, newsletters, articles, teachings and lectures, Rich is passionate about spreading the true knowledge of health, healing, fitness and spiritual truths. I'm proud to be writing articles for NaturalNews.com You can read many articles, hear audio interviews, and learn more about the highly praised Chinese Health and Fitness video by visiting Chinese Health and Fitness.com