From the standpoint of Traditional Chinese Medicine, external factors such as the weather play a significant role in the body’s overall health. Oftentimes, the heat of summer makes for sweaty, uncomfortable sleep time, leading to poorer daytime energy and mental focus. Nutritional therapy can aid in removing the damage of these effects.
Summer heat calls for cooling foods and sour flavors. Insomnia is a condition that is considered both hot and dry in Chinese medicine and fruits and vegetables with higher water content should be used to promote moisture.
The Principle of Yin: Cooling, Moistening Foods
Traditional Chinese Medicine follows the principle of balance through the dualistic viewpoint of yin and yang. Almost everything in the universe can be categorized as either yin or yang. A relative excess of one or the other can lead to disease.
Yin is the quality of quietness, coolness, rest, inactivity. Yang is the energy of activity, heat and expansion. Those with less yin and more yang may be more prone to poor sleep even without the added burden of hot weather. To counterbalance the yang energy and build yin, one can focus on “yin-type” foods and “yin-type” activities.
Insomnia and night sweats can be improved with proper nutrition as well as acupuncture and should be accompanied by restful, yin-promoting activities such as yoga or tai chi.
When facing a night of restless sleep, one may notice in the additional symptoms of restlessness, night sweats and irritability. To treat any sleep disorder, it is first important to identify the pattern. Some insomnia types tend towards difficulty falling asleep and others more toward difficulty staying asleep. Once the pattern is established, a proper diet in combination with acupuncture and herbs can provide therapeutic results.
The best foods to reduce internal heat include Chinese cabbage, carrots, dandelion root, radishes, tomatoes, seaweed, mung beans, spinach, celery and green tea. Foods that are also helpful but can only be eaten in small quantities due to their richness include duck, chicken, liver, beef, bass, eel, oysters, octopus, cherries, plums, grapes, pine nuts, black sesame seeds, butter and milk.
Chronic Sleep Disorders
Chronic sleep conditions are defined by dry skin, fatigue and poor memory and may take longer to cure. Traditional Chinese medicine holds that this type of condition is caused by poor digestion, overworry and mental work. The causes of this type of insomnia often result from enduring heat, an inappropriate diet, or overactivity.
When faced with poor sleep on a regular basis, it is important to adjust your diet first. It is best to avoid bitter, drying foods like coffee, acrid spices and foods with too much sodium.
To moisten dryness include bananas, pears, kiwis, watermelons, wheat, soybeans and soy products, honey, peanuts, pine nuts, butter, yogurt, cream in small amounts on a daily basis. Building yin is a slow process and cannot be rushed.
Whether your sleep disturbance is transient or chronic, it is always a good idea to promote rest and grounding energy in the body in our often stressful and overstimulated society.