The Sanctuary of Sleep series Part Three: Techniques to help you relax and sleep

In Part One and Part Two of the Sanctuary of Sleep, I explained some basics to working with chakras and meridians for insight into why you are not sleeping well.

The next step is using simple techniques to help your mind, body and spirit release blocks in your energy system and allow sleep to follow. Here are some of my favourite acupressure points, chakra balances and massages and how they can help you enjoy better and more effective sleep.

Acupressure is the gentle pressure of your hand or finger tips on acupoints – the points that lie along Traditional Chinese Medicine meridians. Never forget that one of the most powerful healing tools are your own hands! Each of the following techniques can be performed alone or by another person.

Calming and grounding after stress

If you find it difficult to wind down at the end of the day due to stress, or are in your head too much, then this is the technique for you. It is important to relax and tell your adrenal glands to switch off. By working with the Base chakra, which penetrates the adrenal glands, and the Kidney meridian, which connects you to your source and clears anxiety, your body is able to de-stress. There are a few ways to achieve this:

  • Place your hands on the soles of your feet for 5-10 minutes
  • Massage your feet
  • Place two fingers or one thumb on the point below for 5-10 minutes.       

This brings your energy down to Earth which has a grounding and calming effect. Make sure you are breathing slowly.

 

Emotional stress release and visual memory

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Events may trigger a range of emotions and it is important to let go of these emotions and events each day. Storing emotions and thoughts in our energy system has an accumulative effect. As a result, a minor emotional response can quickly become an over-reaction as your body draws from the stored emotion. By placing your hand over your forehead for 5-10 minutes each evening, you encourage your body to release and rebalance. If you couple this with placing your other hand on the base of your skull, you will be clearing the mind and the visual memories of stress from the day. This technique balances meridians responsible for the mind and the Brow chakra responsible for our perceptions. It is incredibly calming and is best done lying down.

 

Settling the spirit in the body

As you lie down for sleep, your spirit will gently reside in your body for rest. Occasionally, our spirit does not settle and this can result in a restless body, mental loops, nightmares, wakefulness and insomnia. The 'Spirit Settlers' technique can be used to balance the Heart meridian, where our spirit resides. Place four fingers down your wrist, in line with your little finger. If you push into your wrist, you will feel a depression between two tendons. In the image below, you are using acupressure on points 4, 5, 6 and 7. It's nice to hold these points for 5-10 minutes in bed and if you wake up during the night. 

 

Helping children to sleep

The lovely aspect of working with children is I find their energy systems clear more quickly than adults! This is most likely due to their lower amounts of 'baggage'. The first two techniques are best for children as you will find they enjoy massage and holding their head feels very comforting and supportive. You will only need to balance them for 1-3 minutes. You can try the Spirit Settler points on older children and teach them to do it for themselves. It's very empowering to know they can help themselves. Adding an essential oil such as lavender, chamomile, lime or sage to a carrier oil such as almond oil will add another layer of healing and enjoyment for your child.

As we re-wire our mind, body and spirit and teach ourselves to be calm and relax, sleep will naturally follow. There are many more techniques that you can try, so start with these and see how you go! Remember to rate your quality of sleep on a scale of 1-10. Each morning, record your night and evaluate your quality of sleep in a week's time. Email me at kate@livewellnaturally.com.au to let me know how you go!

The Sanctuary of Sleep series Part Two – Why You Wake Up At The Same Time Every Night

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Have you ever wondered why you always seem to wake up during the night at particular times?

It’s not just an odd night here and there; after a while you begin to realise you’re waking up again and again, the nights of sleeping through a distant memory. You start to look at the clock and find it’s always at the same time – 2:55am or between certain hours like 4am to 5am. You’re not drinking coffee late in the afternoon, you’ve cut down on your much loved sugars and you’re fairly active during the day (incidentally, if you are drinking coffee all afternoon and you’re dipping into refined sugars, consider stopping and then see how you sleep!). Sure, life’s a bit stressful but how is it that it’s always 2:55am?!

Those who use Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) would tell you “that’s easy – look at the Chinese Medicine ‘Meridian Clock’”. It’s one of my favourite tools to use in kinesiology. The great thing about the Meridian Clock is you don’t have to be a Kinesiologist or a practitioner of TCM to understand or gain insight from it. Here’s a basic explanation to get you started.

 

What’s your time?

First, have a look at the clock above and find the time you’re waking up. Take note of the name that sits directly beneath it. For example, if you’re waking between 1am and 3am then you would read all about the Liver meridian. Don’t worry – it doesn’t necessarily mean there’s something wrong with your liver, it’s just the way they’re named in English.

 

14 major meridians – our 'electrical system'

There are 14 major meridians or flows of an energy substance (you may have heard of Qi/Ch’i which sustains life) with 12 of them sitting within the 24 hour clock. All are constantly flowing with energy from your environment and penetrating your body through your skin, central nervous system and organs. These portals on the skin are what acupuncture and acupressure use. Each meridian has a two hour period where they are the primary meridian. Each meridian is linked to particular parts of the body, mechanisms of the body, other meridians, thoughts and emotions, colour, sound, seasons and other spiritual aspects. They’re also partnered together as Yin (receiving energy) and Yang (expressing energy) of an element – Earth, Metal, Water, Wood, and Fire.

Think of it like electrical circuits – when the energy of a meridian is not flowing well due to a block (like stress), you’ll find that you’ll experience a sign or symptom from the meridian(s) involved. This block will also cause an imbalance in the flows between meridians. Therefore, when waking up in the night at the same time, or becoming exhausted with 3:30-itis in the afternoon, you can look at the meridian clock at work out what may be happening. Here’s a list of the basic emotions of each element.

Earth – Empathy, sympathy, balanced giving and receiving

Metal – Grief and loss

Water – Fear and anxiety

Wood – Anger, frustration and resentment

Fire – Love, hate and joy

 

What now?

Self reflection! It can be quite simple if you stop and listen. Your body is trying to tell you something by waking you up at the same time. Back to our previous example, if your time is the Liver meridian and the Wood element – ask yourself “What am I angry or frustrated at?” Or think of the Liver organ and apply this to your life “What is toxic in my life that I need to get rid of?” Perhaps you have symptoms that your digestive system is not working so well?

I’ll leave you with this as food for thought. Spend some time to reflect on your life and what’s keeping you awake based on the ancient wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Part Three will look at tools and techniques that you can do at home to help you sleep!

If you’d like to read more about Traditional Chinese Medicine start with ‘The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine’ by Ted Kaptchuk.

The Sanctuary of Sleep Series

Let's explore sleep from an energetic perspective; I'm talking about the energy systems of Hindu chakras and Traditional Chinese Medicine meridians, and how they help us understand our sleeping problems and provide insight into ways to support a good night's sleep.

For some, attempts at a good night's sleep can feel futile with long term insomnia or constant waking. For others, sleep is dependant on all things being well. Those of us who are parents might dream of the time when we get to sleep through the night.

Part One of this series will look at stress, the impact stress has on falling and staying asleep, and the importance of balanced chakras.  

Part Two will offer insight into some of the reasons why you may be waking at the same time each night through the ancient wisdom of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  

Part Three will focus on techniques to support sleep for infants and toddlers, preschoolers and teenagers, and adults. By the end of this series you will have a better understanding of your sleep challenges and a range of natural healing techniques to try at home.

 

Part One: Sleep & stress - why you can't fall asleep at night

The demands of modern life mean many of us live a high stress lifestyle: conflict with colleagues, meeting deadlines, traffic, chasing children, emotional relationships or learning new skills. Your body is designed to deal with stress by releasing stress hormones through the adrenal glands. You may have heard of 'fight or flight' response - also known as 'survival mode'. It's OK to be in short phases of survival mode throughout the day, however we are not winding down at the end of the day.

Your body remains in survival mode and your adrenals don't switch off. You might not think that you are a stressed person but ask yourself – what do you do at the end of the day to tell your mind and body that all is well, you are safe, it’s time to relax and the day is done?

It is now time to fall asleep – what happens? Your mind is caught up in mental loops from the day, you have restless legs and can't lie still and you fight for sleep. Your mind needs to rest and be calm and your body needs time to rejuvenate and release hormones such as melatonin (responsible for our circadian rhythm) and serotonin (known as the 'happy hormone' as it makes us feel good). You have stopped listening to your body and taking care to balance the high stress times with relaxation and recovery. Now when you try to relax, you can’t.

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Balancing the Base Chakra for stress

From a chakra perspective, being unable to relax is partly a Base Chakra problem. Your Base Chakra (or Root Chakra) penetrates the body through the adrenal glands. It stems down from your tail bone and outward toward the Earth like a pyramid. Each chakra has physical, emotional, mental and spiritual relevance. To balance your Base Chakra, contemplate the following concepts in your life:

  • Are you secure within yourself ? Are you comfortable with being you?
  • Do you feel physically safe?
  • Are you financially stable?
  • Do you try to control yourself, others and your environment?
  • Is your family foundation a happy one?

Survival mode is a physiological protective response by the body. For example, if you were very stressed in a previous job then a new job may still trigger survival mode. By addressing the concerns of the Base Chakra and taking a few minutes each night to relax, you are teaching your body to switch off when needed and to feel secure to gently fall asleep at night.

 

Balancing the Crown Chakra for sleep

The Crown Chakra stems up from the highest point of you head and penetrates through the pineal gland which is responsible for our circadian (sleep-wake) rhythm. The pineal gland secretes melatonin and serotonin. The Crown Chakra is our spirituality and our connection to spirit. The main concerns of this chakra are:

  • Our spirit path – are you living the life that is intended for you?
  • Are you following your heart, doing what makes you happy and nourishing yourself?
  • Are you listening to your Spirit's love, truth and wisdom (intuition or gut feeling) or does your ego mind speak louder?

If this speaks to you then you need to balance the Crown Chakra and to do this you need to find stillness and quiet in your life. Allow space for your Spirit to speak to you – this can come as a sense or feeling, as images or as a voice from your heart.

Meditation, visualisation, yoga, gentle walks in nature, reading or having a bath are simple starting points to balance both your Base and Crown chakras and to ultimately allow your Spirit to gently reside in your body for peaceful sleep.

In Part Two I will be discussing the exciting area of Traditional Chinese Medicine and how it can explain why you wake up at the same time each night!

Kate Pamphilon is Live Well's kinesiologist. She has lots of experience in helping people solve their health concerns including helping you get a better night's sleep.