The yin/yang concept of sleep (best times to go to sleep and wake up in the morning) and why this is essential for our energy:
Chinese Medicine is rooted in Daoism which is also known as “The Way”. “The Way” refers to the order of natural things. When we follow the Dao we live in harmony with the seasons, elements and day and night cycles. To stray away from the Dao is to cause physical, mental and spiritual health issues as ancient Chinese texts tell us.
To maximise our health and sleep, we need to follow the day and night cycles. The days are longer in summer and shorter in winter. For optimal health, our sleep cycles should also change to reflect the changing seasons.
In summer we can naturally sustain longer days without exhaustion, this is because the increased sunlight provides our body with natural Yang energy such as vitamin D and infrared heat and our body doesn’t have to spend as much energy devoted to keeping us warm. Napping midday is more common in summer especially those with weak Yin energy as it protects the body from burn out.
In winter the days are shorter, there is no vitamin D and our body uses more fuel to keep warm.
This means our sleep at night will be longer and it prepares our yin to be strong enough to withstand the demands of summer.
The Ideal Sleeping Time
It’s best to sleep 1-2 hours after last light, our body is well and truly designed this way.
It’s important to be in a deep solid sleep well before 11 pm, so our body can properly detoxify, build blood and nourish the brain.
Modern day exposure to artificial ‘blue spectrum’ light at night such as watching tv, using phones or laptops or using bright lights at night can take away our innate sense of feeling tired. This prevents our energy from going inwards (melatonin production), and by the time we sleep, we have not gone deep enough to completely nourish our system.
Changing our lights to warm-toned lights, wearing blue light blockers or avoiding artificial light at night completely if lifestyle permits give a deeper rest and more energy throughout the day.
The Ideal Waking Time
Generally waking close to first light is ideal. Our body is temperature sensitive and will wake us around the time when it’s coldest and most Yin. It is at this point when Yin turns to Yang. Exposure to the early light tells our bodies it’s time to get up and in turn also sets our bedtime earlier.
So what does this have to do with sleep? We must let the rhythm of nature move through us. When the sun yang energy begins to diminish, we also diminish the amount of movement and stimulation we do. When the sun is winding down, we wind down and go “yinwards”. We need to calm the stress and stimulation from the day, we need to avoid artificial bright lights (blue light) that affect melatonin.
We need to connect with our bodies. Gentle stretching like yin yoga can calm the nervous system and bring the energy back in and down to relax.
We should avoid screens, loud sounds, and physical training. Doing this allows the body to get into a deeper sleep that is more nourishing and you will wake with more energy and sustain it throughout the day.
Waking up early and seeing first light is a magical experience to see each day, however, it also sets our circadian rhythm, regulates hormones and stimulates neurotransmitters that make us feel awake and happier.
Written by TCM Dr. Lee Smith (@lee_smith_natural_soul)
Yours in wellness,
Traditional Chinese Restoratives
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