In our original post about why people wake up at the same time every night we have discussed why people tend to wake up at the same time every night and affirmations that help heal your insomnia. Not being able to sleep well is a complex issue and different things work better for different people. So what else can be done when you can’t fall asleep, stay asleep, or wake up early in the morning?
Here are some solutions for wakefulness at different times of the night, from things that you can do at home, to the acupuncture’s approach for sleep issues.
9pm-11pm, Cannot Fall Asleep
This is the time when most people go to bed. The most common cause for not being able to fall asleep is that their brain is turned on and wide awake. This can be the result of stress, you could be working out a problem, you may be really excited about something that is happening in your life. If you feel wired before you go to sleep, here are some things to try, if you cannot fall asleep:
- Try to prolong the winding down time. For many people one hour of winding down (including not using any electronics) is plenty, but if you have trouble falling asleep, then you may need to allow two, three hours for winding down.
- Rub oil all over your body; shower right after to remove the excess oil. Use coconut oil if you tend to run warm, or sesame oil if you tend to run on the colder side. This will sooth your body and set you up for relaxation.
- Drink a cup of caffeine free tea.
- Read for a while.
- Listen to a podcast or music with the light off.
- Relax the muscles of your jaw and face and breath slowly and regularly.
It helps if you have a go to sleep routine that you repeat every night at bedtime. This will help set you up for successfully falling asleep every night.
There are a few acupuncture protocols that can help with this type of insomnia. As we have discussed in the previous article it can be an imbalance in the Triple Energizer channel, or a number of other Chinese medicine patterns, such as heart and kidney deficiency, or blood deficiency. The diagnosis is made based on the specific details around the insomnia, other symptoms, pulse, and tongue diagnosis. The efficacy of the chosen acupuncture points is given to this thorough diagnosis and the individual customized treatment.
11pm to 1am, Insomnia or Night Terrors
If you are a night owl, go to sleep late at night, and have trouble falling asleep follow the advice above to allow two, three hours for winding down and use oil depending on your body temperature.
If you fall asleep but wake up an hour or so after falling asleep feeling unsettled, you are most likely having a night terror. Night terrors have a way of leaving you confused, scared and wide awake. One of the most common cause of night terrors is high amounts of emotional stress. Here are some things you may want to try for night terrors:
- Meditate in the evening for half an hour may be helpful. The body may be tired, but the nervous system is still stressed from the daily problems and it will cause awakenings shortly after falling asleep
- Moderate exercise is a great stress reliever. Best time to exercise is before afternoon. If you work out too late in the day it may energize your body too much.
- Red meat consumption at dinner may disrupt the first part of the night so consume it in small amounts or simply avoid it.
Acupuncture is well know for its relaxing effects. Endorphins are released and many patients fall asleep right on the treatment table. In Chinese Medicine, each organ has a spiritual aspect to it. The ruler of all and the one that gets the most affected is the Shen, which belongs to the heart. As an acupuncturist, when making a diagnosis we look at all different aspects, from emotional to physical, to mental and spiritual. If the heart is startled it won’t be able to fully relax and allow our system to go into deep sleep. As humans, we leave ourselves into an incredible vulnerable place when we go to sleep. Acupuncture can help balance the different organs and channels so we can sleep well.
1am to 3am, Middle of the Night Insomnia
This is one of the most common types of insomnia. Women with hot flashes often awaken at this time and have a hard time falling back asleep. Men alike wake up after four or five hours of sleep, which usually ends up being around 2am in the morning. People do one of two things usually, either stay in bed hoping they will fall asleep soon and oftentimes develop an anxiety relationship with their bed; or they get up and do things in the house that may actually keep them awake.
If you are unable to fall back asleep within 10, 15 minutes, here are some of the steps you can take to fall back asleep:
- Get up, sit on a chair, make sure you are warm, and meditate for a few minutes. Sitting in the dark, feeling your body and really being aware of emotions and sensations can most effectively relax you and help you fall back asleep.
- Be aware that alcohol may also cause insomnia after 4, 5 hours of sleep. Simply drink less and earlier in the evening so the alcohol can clear out of your system.
Acupuncture helps with hot flashes and night sweats. Many women who wake up at this time of the night suffer from a hormonal imbalance such as perimenopause or menopausal syndrome. This study has shown that acupuncture can help with hot flashes. In Chinese medicine, there could be a few different patterns causing hot flashes and night sweats. Diagnosed correctly and treated with acupuncture, many people can get great relief and sleep well through the night. The liver, spleen, and kidneys can be affected in men or women and cause insomnia in the middle of the night. Once a few treatment are given and the patient gets more and more nights of better sleep, the body stays in that place of homeostasis, a perfect balance that we were all born with.
3am to 5am, Waking Up Early in the Morning
If you wake up early in the morning you may know the anxiety that comes with it. It is not fun; too early to get up and too close to wake up time to allow yourself to relax and go back to sleep. There could be a number of reasons why people wake up early, one of them is long-term stress.
If you wake up early in the morning here are some tips you can try:
- Try a 21-day routine of meditating every day, even for just 10-15 minutes a day.
- For some people reading something light (no electronic devices) helps them get sleepy again.
One of the most common patterns from the Chinese medicine perspective is related to the liver being stressed. The liver organ is associated with the wood element. Imagine a tree that is unhealthy, stressed and rigid; it is most likely to snap with a strong wind. However the healthy tree will gracefully and easily move and sway with no worries, even with the strongest storm. The same with us, managing our stress will less likely push our edges, make us feel wired at night or wake up with a night terror. Many of the acupuncture points provide relief within just a few treatments.
Note that 3am to 5am corresponds to the lung channel and while that channel can show as diseased for people waking up at this time, it is very common that people with a liver imbalance (previous channel in the Chinese clock) will be affected at this time and are unable to go back to sleep.
5am to 7am
Many people wake up between these times. They are also people who would rather be asleep at 5am or even 6am. They wake up feeling wide awake but not rested, or slightly groggy and anxious. Just as the insomniac who wakes up between 3 and 5 am, the later time awakening can also be caused by long-term or short term stress. Stress affects our hormonal and nervous systems in multiple ways leaving us unable to sleep well.
- Follow the tips above and also remember that this is the large intestine time, a time to let go, of our our past, old patterns, and start a new day with a clean slate and fresh perspective.
- Find a good time to wake up in the morning and stick to it. If you wake up at the same time each morning, your internal clock will learn and adjust to the new habit and even your insomnia will get better. A note on what is a good time to wake up; the time that will allow you enough time (1 hour is good for most people) to meditate, exercise, journal, eat, or whatever sets up the day for a good start. The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod is a great book that shows the benefits of having a morning ritual, beyond helping with your sleep, but how it affects all different aspects of your life.
Acupuncture is an effective solution for those who wake up at the same time every night
When you try one of the remedies above make sure you give it a good try, at least a couple of weeks, before deciding if it’s working or not. Acupuncture can augment and support any of these practices. Acupuncture reminds the body what is natural, what is balanced, and how to sleep well, so then you can do it on your own easily. When treating people with insomnia, those that wake up at the same time every night provides clues about what bodily systems are out of balanced. This makes it easier to diagnose and treat their insomnia with acupuncture.