As discussed earlier in the Re-Imagining Our Approach to Health series, the etymological idea of the word Health means to be whole. To be in our Wholeness, in my vision, in a broad sense means to be close to and resilient in our essential nature.
One layer of our essential nature is what I refer to as our Inner-Life. This was discussed in Part 2.
Having recently studied mammals with my daughter in our home-school science class, we had a wonderful time surveying our mammalian relatives niches and adaptations. And what is more intertwined to the essence of our human mammalian nature then a restorative night of sleep! I like to think of it as our nightly hibernation, where we enter the suspended and restorative state of rest.
In the wisdom of health tradition known as Chinese Medicine, the foundational understanding of Yin and Yang can not be bypassed, as we can not overlook the cultivation of yin as an important part of our capacity to self regulate and return to our wholeness.
With the advent of artificial light and the stream of activity in the global information age and economy on one hand and the high demand of our nuclear family systems and professional lives on the other, that demand of activity (Yang-which is supported by Yin) is challenging.
And the troubling health issues associated with lack of sleep are plenty. Every week additional studies show serious health risk and associations between ineffectual sleep and health outcomes.
Trouble Sleeping May Increase Heart Attack Risk by 45% (1)
The Use of Sleeping Pills is Associated with Increased Mortality (2)
Sleep Apnea shows increased risk for Silent Strokes (3)
And what else confirms the need for Yin (cool) to balance Yang (warmth) then the following research that a head cooling device helps with sleep quality. (4)
Or for a page listing extended links to concerns on health and sleep issues check out- Health Day Sleep Articles
In any case, we know that sleep is golden and the incredible regulating aspects are happening each night to both our physiology and our psychology via the “royal road” of dreams. As such follow these basic principles for better health.
1. Create creature comfort habits- nest your self and transition from stimulating activities.
2. Sleep Earlier and Wake Earlier- Every hour of sleep before midnight is twice as valuable as after midnight. Catch the Yin tide of darkness. Use candles to read by… aim for 10 to 6 vs. 12-8.
3. Use guided visualization practices, meditation and hot baths to de-stress your body if you are feeling wound up.
4. For middle of the night waking and light sleeping, try a protein drink before bed to keep the blood sugar and not stressful levles.
5. Expect to sleep more in the Winter than the Summer… synchronize your body clock to the solar rhythms.
6. Open the window to allow cool air to freshen and calm your body.
7. Feng Shui your room- is your bed in the best place, is your room organized, bring in some plants and stones to “naturalize” your sleeping space.
8. Start with natural solutions to sleep problems: exercise, removing caffeine, addressing life stresses, magnesium, acupuncture, massage, and system balancing Chinese Herbal Formulas.
And finally, I beatific poem and the gentleness of sleep and surrender by Mary Oliver- the deepest kind of restoration.
Sleeping in the Forest
I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.
Wishing you the blessings of sweet sleep and the recovery of it if is missing,