There are many causes for insomnia. The good news is our daily habits can be a natural sleep remedy.
One surefire way to wreck your sleep is to eat just before bed.
You might know of some digestive conditions associated with eating shortly before bedtime. In Chinese Medicine though, the effects go beyond acid reflux and weight gain.
When we eat late, our ability to relax is compromised. It unsettles the mind, leading to sleepless nights.
The Spirit-Gut Connection in Chinese Medicine:
In Chinese Medicine, the mind and body are interconnected. Our spirit or consciousness is also part of the equation.
The body, mind and spirit are a holistic unit.
The stomach handles the descent of food and yang qi (our life force). It belongs to what we call the yangming system. The Chinese character for yangming is an open gate with sunlight streaming through it.
The gate of our stomach provides descent for more than food. It is a passageway for mental, emotional and spiritual energies too.
Sleep happens when the stomach allows everything to pass through it and then closes. Only then does our mind-body-spirit have a chance to settle.
When we eat shortly before bed, this descending process gets blocked. The stomach starts closing before it has enough time to let everything pass through it.
With the stomach gate closed, yang qi goes up instead of down. In Chinese Medicine, we call it counterflow.
Acid reflux is a well known example of counterflow. But other symptoms we don’t normally associate with digestion manifest too.
Insomnia feels like energy that can’t descend, remaining stuck in the upper body. We feel agitated, especially in our hearts and minds.
We may experience anxiety, overthinking, palpitations, difficulty taking a deep breath or a blocked sensation just below the heart.
One symptom I hate is being startled awake as I’m just about to fall asleep.
In all these symptoms, the nervous system gets jolted by energy bouncing off the stomach. That energy then harasses the organs above it, the heart in particular.
The heart in Chinese Medicine is central to our mental and spiritual well-being.
When we don’t allow time for digestion before sleep, the stomach’s contents go up. Our heart becomes agitated like fire causing water to bubble.
For sleep to happen, our mind and spirit rely on the stomach’s ability to descend. Digestive counterflow leads to sleepless nights with our minds on blast.
Like nature, this type of insomnia is similar to a sun that never sets.
Easy Tips for Curing Insomnia:
Everyone’s lifestyles are different. That’s why having several wellness tools at your disposal is important. I encourage being flexible with these ideas so you can creatively apply them to your personal circumstances.
1. Eat earlier. Yes, this won’t be possible for everyone. If you have more freedom in your schedule, however, this is fundamental to good digestive health. Try eating at least 3 hours before going to bed.
Those who can’t have dinner earlier due to work may want to eat larger meals through the earlier part of the day. Then have something lighter at night.
If possible, try taking a break at your job in the late afternoon. You can have something substantial before working through the evening.
2. Consider meal replacement shakes at night. So it’s 9PM and you just got home. Food that quickly digests allows you to get to bed sooner.
Meal replacement shakes have essential nutrients and protein while providing quick transit time in the stomach. As a patient, you can get affordable meal replacement products through our fullscript supplement service.
Fat is also important to feel full. For dessert, here’s a coconut milk pumpkin pudding recipe. Add low-glycemic fruit like blueberries and strawberries. I also sprinkle some Ezekiel sprouted cereal for texture*.
1 can of full fat coconut milk
1 can of pumpkin puree
3 tbsp of cacao powder
3 medjool dates
Place in a mason jar or blender in the following order: coconut milk, pumpkin, dates and cacao powder. Use an immersion blender (most convenient) or regular blender until smooth.
3. Sleep in a recliner. For the first few hours before bed, keep your head raised above your chest if you are sleeping on a full stomach. This will prevent reflux. Not being in your bedroom also eases the pressure of trying to fall asleep when you can’t.
Not in the market for a recliner? This bed wedge pillow set from Amazon helps me when I need to stay up a little longer to digest food.
4. Chew your food thoroughly. This is your one chance to break down your food before it enters the stomach. It will also help you eat less.
5. Eat a red apple. Although the science is mixed, I’ve found sweet apples helpful for preventing acid reflux. It is also good for reducing gallstones, another risk of late-night eating.
6. Take a warm bath/shower. This relaxes the nervous system and the warm water loosens our muscles. It is also a powerful energetic cleansing ritual for closing the day.
Our pores open up when we do this which is better to do at night than at the beginning of the day.
Chinese Medicine recommends getting under the covers when your pores are open. This helps you from getting a cold.
7. Don’t drink alcohol before bed. It greatly reduces sleep quality. The deep sleep stage and REM are where we repair injuries and strengthen the immune system. Alcohol disrupts our sleep patterns so we spend less time in these restorative stages,
*I don’t do affiliate marketing. The products I recommend are from personal experience.