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Complementary Corner

Rest and Sleep

Renee Lehman

"To achieve the impossible dream, try going to sleep."
    - Joan Klempner

"I have never taken any exercise except sleeping and resting."
    - Mark Twain

(12/2012) Thanksgiving Day celebrations are over, and you may find yourself getting pulled into the frenzy of the Christmas holidays. Are you dreading the holidays? Feeling "stressed" out? Finding that you don’t have enough time to get your shopping completed? Feeling tired? Do you not want to go to all of the parties, or make all of the trips to see friends and family that you committed yourself to? If you want to stay home and rest, THEN DO IT! Instead of listening to your mind which is telling you that you NEED to "Go, Go, and Go." Listen to your BODY. Your body is wise. You may need the rest. You may need to sleep!

If you observe what is happening in nature during this time of year, you will see that the days are shortening, the days have less light, it is getting cooler, and the countryside is "quiet." We are moving into the season of winter, nature’s "resting season." Some aspects of nature may look dead (at least you may think that); however, nature is actually storing its potential deep in the earth and the roots of vegetation. Life does not stop during the winter months. Remember that the bulbs that are in the ground are not dead, and the seeds that fell to the ground from the trees/plants are still alive. Some animals are hibernating during the winter. Everything in nature is taking a "rest", and is storing up energy so that it can burst forth during the growth period of Spring. This is a natural cycle! Everything in nature follows this natural universal law. We humans are the only species that tries to go against it.

So, getting back to sleep… Do you know that nationwide, an estimated 50 to 70 million people suffer from chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders? Also, about 10 percent of adults report not getting enough rest or sleep every day in the past month, according to a four-state study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report ( Sleep loss is associated with many health problems, including obesity, depression, increased risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, and increased risk of stroke. Sleep deprivation is also a leading cause of car accidents. In fact, $15.9 billion/year is added to national health care costs by sleep problems, according to the National Commission on Sleep Disorders.

So how much sleep do we need? The National Sleep Foundation reports that most adults need 7-9 hours of sleep each night to feel fully rested, while school children aged 5-12 years require 9-11 hours, and adolescents aged 11-17 years require 8.5-9.5 hours each night.

What are some lifestyle issues associated with sleep deprivation? Certain risky behaviors can lead to an inability to sleep, such as, cigarette smoking, physical inactivity, and heavy drinking. Also, sleep patterns can be affected by: consuming too much caffeine (coffee, soft drinks, energy drinks, snacks); certain medications (prescription and over-the-counter drugs); being "over-wired" (video games, Web browsing, social media, texting); being overstressed (making us too restless to sleep); being overworked (longer hours, night shifts incompatible with our biological clocks); and finally there's societal pressure, "the pervasive, erroneous attitude that sleep is not a biological imperative, that it is negotiable." "We have raised sleep deprivation to a badge of honor," reports nationally recognized sleep expert, Dr. Mark Mahowald.

Traditional Chinese Medicine Tips for Better Quality Sleep

So, what are some things that you can do to strive for a better quality sleep?

1. Drink green tea instead of coffee in the morning. It has half the amount of caffeine than coffee.

2. Go to sleep before 11pm. Your body spends twice as much energy per hour for every hour that you stay up past 11pm. Also, give yourself some time to "wind down" before going to sleep.

3. Do NOT drink very cold water at night. Your body has to expend extra energy to heat up the cold water, which will over-stimulate you and cause you to stay awake.

4. Do NOT eat for at least two to three hours before bedtime. Your body will expend extra energy to digest the food, which will over-stimulate you and cause you to stay awake.

5. Massage your feet. This helps to relax and calm you.

6. Avoid over-stimulating food like hot peppers, alcohol, and coffee. These over-stimulate the nervous system, and may disrupt your sleep.

7. Block out all the light in your room (and turn off the TV). Light will continue to stimulate your nervous system and will disrupt your sleep.

8. Begin a Qigong practice. The regular practice of qigong is associated with stress reduction and the encouragement of a deep, restful sleep.

9. Meditate. Meditation helps you to feel peaceful. This will help you to not get caught in your mind, and in what you think the outside world is telling you to do. Listen to your heart and spirit, instead!

10. Stay connected with the season of Winter. There is less light so it’s natural to go to bed earlier and get up a little later.

Allow yourself to be in harmony with the season of Winter. Even as we enter into the time of year when our culture wants you to "run, run, run", be true to yourself. Give yourself what you need – REST and SLEEP! You may just find yourself feeling more "rested" and "alive."

Renee Lehman is a licensed acupuncturist, physical therapist, and Reiki Master with over 20 years of health care experience. Her office is located at 249B York Street in Gettysburg, PA.  She can be reached at 717-752-5728.

Read other article on well being by Renee Lehman