In our relentless pursuit of wellness, we tend to focus on how we spend our waking hours, making sure we eat our vegetables, move our bodies, quiet our minds, and nurture our relationships. The irony is that we often overlook the one fundamental activity that makes all of this possible: getting a good night’s sleep.
If you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up rested (and who among us doesn’t?), it’s all too easy to reach for an over-the-counter bottle and hope for the best. . There are now entire aisles filled with pills, gummies and syrups promising deep ZZZs. But a mass-produced supplement can’t help you get to the root of the problem.
This is where Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) comes in. Ancient healing practices and holistic principles have transported people to dreamland for millennia. In the hands of practitioners Northwestern University of Health Sciences (NWHSU) they are more than up to our modern midnight woes.
Insomnia as a side effect
Insomnia is usually a side effect rather than a primary cause, says Marley Schaberg, an acupuncturist and manager of the herbal dispensary at NWHSU, the largest in the Midwest. “Our acupuncturists are known all over town for having one of the longest intake appointments,” she says. “And that’s because we’re really working to get to the root of the problem.”
NWHSU treatment is integrative, which means it combines the best practices of TCM and the principles of Western medicine. You will begin by discussing the symptoms that brought you to the clinic. From there, your provider will ask you questions about your medical history, lifestyle, and environment, all of which can provide clues about what’s disrupting your sleep.
If your provider suspects that your sleep disturbances could be attributed to a medical problem, they will refer you for further evaluation, such as imaging or blood work. “We can still help [with complementary therapies]but if there is a medical problem, you have to fix it first,” says Schaberg.
When health issues have been ruled out or resolved, you will work with your provider to develop a personalized treatment plan. This can include any combination of herbal formulas, acupuncture, breathing, massage, cupping, or tai chi, depending on what is keeping you from falling asleep.
“That’s what I love about herbal medicine: it’s not just about going to the store and getting the same medicine as everyone else. You get something designed for you. Marley Schaberg, Northwestern University of Health Sciences
Curious to know what this looks like in practice? Schaberg explains how she helps patients deal with some of the most common sleep issues: preparing the body, calming the mind, and sleeping through the night.
1) Prepare the ground for sleep
As children, we have strict bedtime routines: a hot bath, a story, maybe a lullaby, then the light is turned off. In adulthood, bedtime routines are ignored in favor of “just one more email” or “just one more episode.” Making that difficult switch from stimulation to sleep quickly is next to impossible, Schaberg says. “We always need those signals that it’s time to go to bed.”
Qi Gong is a good starting point. The practice combines breathing and meditation exercises designed to calm your body and calm your thoughts. Schaberg explains that it’s about retraining your mind, deactivating the endless to-do list that plays out in your retinas. Your new bedtime routine may also include Chinese herbs. The habit of taking them before bed “sets the stage mentally and physically for sleep”.
2) Count worries instead of sheep
While a worried mind can mean you don’t take time to relax, racing thoughts can also have deeper roots in anxiety. “The majority of people have felt this at some point in their lives, either permanently or seasonally,” Schaberg says. “Our acupuncturists see a large number of patients with anxiety, whether it’s something experienced during the day, at night, or all the time.”
In addition to regular acupuncture sessions, anxiety patients are often prescribed a personalized herbal formula. What you take home will be different from what a friend or even a family member might get. “That’s what I love about herbal medicine,” says Schaberg. “It’s not just about going to the store shelves and getting the same medicine as everyone else. You get something designed for you.
3) Where you sleep is how you sleep
What if you spend the recommended 7-9 hours in bed but still wake up feeling foggy? “If you’re not going into that deep REM sleep on your own, even if there aren’t any health issues, that’s when we look at your sleep environment,” says Schaberg. .
Mild discomforts or disturbances may be enough to disturb your sleep without waking you up completely. Common culprits include animals jumping in and out of bed, blue light or sound from a TV left on overnight, a partner’s snoring, or an old pillow twisting your neck.
Schaberg recommends fixing your sleep hygiene before seeking pharmaceutical or over-the-counter sleeping pills. You can assess your sleep environment on your own, but “sometimes people have to come in and have a third party ask these questions,” she says. “They’ll say, ‘I never thought of that before.'”
Fast Results, Lasting Relief
Whatever your treatment plan, sleep relief should come quickly. The benefits of an acupuncture session, for example, can be immediate. Many patients fall asleep directly on the table, a phenomenon that Schaberg and his colleagues call “an acu nap.” Herbal formulas can be fast or slow acting, depending on the patient’s needs and constitution. The goal remains the same regardless of the approach: “We want to see you sleeping better within a week,” she says.
Because Chinese medicine addresses the root cause, the benefits last long after your initial treatment ends. If you experience a relapse of symptoms — Schaberg says it’s somewhat inevitable given that life changes, health issues, and even seasonal weather can upset your hard-earned rhythm — all it takes is a tune-up. with your practitioner to get you back on your feet. Track.
Located in Bloomington, Northwestern University of Health Sciences is a premier integrative health institution that prepares the next generation of health professionals to deliver and advance health care, offering 11 areas of study. His clinics and TruNorth Wellness Center are open to the public to promote better and healthier lives for all. Bloomington Clinic specializes in care for the whole family, offering chiropractic treatments, acupuncture, Chinese medicine, massage therapy, naturopathic medicine, nutrition and cupping. Swere Clinic offers comprehensive care for complex pain conditions and trauma. The biomechanics laboratory and the human performance centerr support proper movement and recovery through gait analysis, rehabilitation, strength and conditioning.
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