Insomnia can plague all of us at any point in our lives, at any time of year.
At our clinic, we often see a steady uptick in the number of patients who complain of insomnia and poorer sleep during the summer months. Believe it or not, there is actually a good reason for this change! And, better yet, there are positive steps you can take to help get a better night’s sleep.
The reasons for worsened insomnia in the summer are many, but the biggest culprits are longer daylight hours and hotter temperatures. Here is what we know about these things from a scientific standpoint: First, your pineal gland turns on when exposed to daylight and this causes the brain to wake up. So, unless you sleep in a deep, dark cave (ooh, doesn’t that sound great right about now?), you will likely find it harder to sleep as late as you do during the winter months, simply because the sun begins to rise so early in the day.
As for the hot weather, studies show that there is an important relationship between body temperature and room temperature, which creates a temperature gradient that promotes restful sleep. If the room temperature is too hot, this gradient is skewed and you lose sleep. For menopausal women experiencing hot flashes, this can be even more troublesome because their gradient is already out of balance due to higher body temperatures. This can be very uncomfortable, and that deep, dark cave can sound like a perfect hideaway.
Interestingly, these explanations find a perfect crossover in Chinese Medicine and go far in explaining how acupuncture can help insomnia. According to Chinese medicine, insomnia is often related to an excess of heat in the body. This heat is then said to rise upward and harass the Heart, which is one of the primary organs responsible for getting quality sleep, thereby causing insomnia. This heat can arise from an imbalance in your body’s internal ecosystem (which is what acupuncture is always seeking to correct) or from exterior influences, such as hot weather.
Why is all of this so important? Isn’t a summer of less sleep part and parcel for the season? Actually, no. Studies show that sleep deprivation has wide-ranging effects, from physical ailments to decreased success at work. (Huffington, 2016) The occasional night here or there may go unnoticed. But several weeks of poor sleep can take a significant toll on every area of your life. And as our under-functioning selves become habituated to this new way of being, we may not even be aware that we are operating at about 40% of our potential, and so continue in this fashion thinking it is our new norm. Yikes!
So, what do we do to treat insomnia?
At Well Woman Acupuncture, we utilize acupuncture and herbs to help clear heat and bring the body back to a state of the internal homeostasis. But there are a plethora of lifestyle tips that you can follow to help support your body and your sleep cycle:
Remember to keep your cool over the hot summer months and you’ll find yourself resting and feeling better as a result. And if the steps above don’t do the trick, just let us know. We are always happy to help!
1. Huffington, A. (2016). The Sleep Revolution. New York, NY, USA: Harmony Books
2. Osmun, R. (2015, May 22). Retrieved July 17, 2017, from Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rosie-osmun/sleeping-with-the-seasons-see-how-weather-influences-your-sleep_b_7269960.html
3. Steelman, L. (n.d.). Retrieved from Real Simple: https://www.realsimple.com/health/preventative-health/sleep/summer-sleeping-heatwave