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Improve your sleep with acupuncture

acupuncture sleep

Acupuncture research on sleep disturbances

An article published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine titled Acupuncture for Treatment of Insomnia: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials discussed the prevalence of sleep issues and insomnia in adults. Estimates show that 40% of adults experience insomnia. Of this total percentage, 10-15% is identified as chronic, and 25 – 35% occurs on an occasional basis. Sleep disturbances generally involve difficulty falling asleep, and / or difficulty staying asleep. In Chinese medicine, we also consider excessive dreaming and the types of dreams that occur. Sleep deprivation can be very detrimental, with consequences ranging from delayed reactions and cognitive responses, distractedness, and headaches, to the development of mental illness.

 

Importance of sleep

An article from Harvard Medical School called In Search of Sleep shares that high-quality sleep is vital to good health. A lack of sufficient sleep has been linked to weight gain, cognitive decline, and an increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.

 

We do some of our best healing while we sleep. In fact, the Harvard Medical School article shared a scientific discovery of an important brain cleaning function that occurs during sleep. Scientists discovered a waste clearance system called the glymphatic system. The cerebrospinal fluid in the glymphatic system washes away harmful proteins that can build up without proper rest.

 

In Chinese medicine, the optimal time to sleep is from 10pm to 6am. This allows enough time for a person to enter a deep sleep by 11pm when the Gall Bladder is at its peak functioning time from 11pm to 1am collecting and processing bile which helps with digestion and breaks down fats. Then, the Liver reaches its peak between 1am and 3am. This is when the Liver processes and detoxifies the blood. The other two organs that reach their peak on the Chinese organ clock during optimal sleep hours are the Lungs and Large Intestine.

 

Sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene is a term used to refer to sleep habits. “Good sleep hygiene” means that there are good habits around sleep. “Poor sleep hygiene” means that the habits are not conducive to sleep. Developing a set of good habits is key to promoting healthful sleep. Here is a list of positive habits to consider:

 

  • Establish consistent sleep and wake times.

    Go to bed at the same time every night. Wake up at the same time every morning. Try to stick with this schedule even on the weekends. The body craves consistency and a predictable sleep schedule. Most people need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.

 

  • Create a quiet and dark environment.

    Close the shades and turn off all lights. This includes any blue light from electronics, including the TV, tablets, and smart phones. The bedroom should be as dark as possible. From an acupuncture perspective, the first point on the Bladder acupuncture channel is called “Bright eyes”, and it is located in the inner corner of the eyes. When the “Bright eyes” point and the eyes experience light, they send a signal to the body to wake up. This is why a dark room is so important to achieve restful sleep. The room should also be quiet, unless soft music or a sleep guided visualization is being played. The temperature should be comfortable and cool.

 

  • Do not eat before bed.

    Large meals should be avoided before bed. The stomach needs time to digest food after a meal. Ideally, food should not be consumed after 7pm. In Chinese medicine, the peak time of the stomach’s ability to function is between 7am – 9am. Conversely, the low point of the stomach’s energy occurs between 7pm – 9pm. This is the time that the stomach is slowing down and is least able to digest food effectively.

 

  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed.

    Most people would agree that caffeine should be discontinued several hours before bed. While it may seem like alcohol can help people fall asleep more quickly, it actually results in poorer sleep. When alcohol is consumed before bed, the liver has to deal with processing the alcohol instead of restoring and regenerating itself. This derails the healing that would normally occur during sleep.

 

  • Exercise, though not right before bed. 

    Exercise has many benefits, including improving sleep. An article from Johns Hopkins Medicine called Exercising for Better Sleep details why it may be better to complete exercise several hours before bed. Essentially, exercise causes the body to release endorphins that can increase brain activity and make it hard to fall asleep. Exercise also increases core body temperature which gives the body the message that it is time to be awake.

 

Acupuncture for healthful sleep

There is no one-size fits all acupuncture treatment for sleep.  This is because there are many potential reasons why a person may have trouble sleeping.  Some of these possibilities include excessive thinking or worry, poor digestion, hormone imbalance, hot flashes, and pain. A Chinese medicine diagnosis and treatment is tailored to the individual, and a variety of questions are covered to identify what is going on from a Chinese medicine perspective. For example, if a person wakes up frequently during the night, knowing what time this occurs is extremely helpful to correlate this to the time on the Chinese organ clock.   The Chinese medicine diagnosis and acupuncture treatment focus on the energetic imbalance that the practitioner identifies in the patient. The overall goal is to balance the patient’s energy, which allows the body to heal itself.

 

Ear seeds

Ear seeds are a great option to include with an acupuncture treatment. They can also be used as a standalone treatment for people who are afraid of needles or are not able to see an acupuncturist. The points chosen on the ear depend on the Chinese medicine diagnosis. The practitioner selects the points that most effectively promote healthful sleep for the patient and their specific needs. Read more about ear seeds in the blog entitled All about ear seeds and auriculotherapy.

 

When to see a doctor

It’s a good idea to see a doctor if you are regularly tired upon waking and have trouble staying awake during the day. Additionally, if you have been told that you snore loudly or it sounds like your breathing stops at times, it is recommended to seek medical attention to rule out conditions like sleep apnea.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

Healing yourself with the relaxation response

relaxation response

Relaxation is key to reduce stress and improve immunity

The world is experiencing an unprecedented increase in stress and anxiety during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since stress has been shown to weaken immunity, it is important now more than ever to find ways to manage stress. Because of the pandemic, I have temporarily stopped practicing acupuncture in my office as I transition to telemedicine. I am eager and excited to share ways that people can work on managing stress and building immunity from their own homes, like learning to practice the “relaxation response”.

 

The “relaxation response” is an amazing practice that can be done anywhere. I first heard about this term in a TedX talk given by Dr. Lissa Rankin called “Is there scientific proof we can heal ourselves?”. In her talk, Dr. Rankin gives numerous examples of the power of the mind and its ability to heal the body, including the relaxation response. Dr Herbert Benson, a pioneer in mind / body medicine, created the relaxation response term and practice. The relaxation response counters the fight-or-flight stress response that is activated quite frequently in our modern lives.

 

The relaxation response works by slowing down the rate of breathing, reducing blood pressure, and relaxing muscles. And, there is no one right or perfect way to practice this. Rather, there are many possibilities that people can consider based on what works best for them. As I studied the relaxation response, I realized that this is one of the many benefits that an acupuncture treatment can bring to patients.

 

How to practice the relaxation response at home

Dr. Benson has created a simple, nine-minute Youtube video where he guides you through the relaxation response process. Click here to watch “Relaxation Response: Dr. Herbert Benson Teaches you the Basics” on Youtube. Dr. Benson states that only two things are necessary to practice the relaxation response:

  1. A repeated word (like “peace”, “love”, or “calm”), sound, prayer, phrase, or movement
  2. Disregard other thoughts when they enter your mind and come back to the repetition

You can sit or lie down in a comfortable position to practice. Close your eyes and breathe slowly. It’s helpful if you can focus your breathing in your lower abdomen, though this isn’t necessary. Repeatedly say your word, sound, prayer, or phrase on your exhalation. If other thoughts come into your mind, Dr. Benson advises you to tell yourself “oh well”. Then, bring yourself back to the repetition and continue. Dr. Benson recommends daily practice for 10-15 minutes. Finish your practice, and take your time getting up and returning to your day.

 

If you think that this sounds a lot like meditation, you’re right! This is a powerful form of meditation. If the recommended daily 10-15-minute practice feels too long for you, start slowly. Even as little as one minute can be beneficial. Take your time, and gradually build up to a longer practice. Ultimately, having a regular daily practice of at least 10 minutes will be very effective at building immunity and countering daily stress.

 

Additional ways to practice the relaxation response

One great option to practice the relaxation response is through guided visualization. This can bring the same benefits as the meditation described earlier, but it may feel more doable because all you have to do is sit or lie down in a quiet place and listen to someone else speak. One of my favorite creators of guided visualization tools is Belleruth Naparstek. She has made over one hundred recordings available on iTunes as well as in CD format. Topics range from Immunity to Insomnia & Restful Sleep, Stress, Grief, and Anger & Forgiveness as well as number of condition-specific titles like Headaches, Menopause, and Cancer.

 

Another favorite is the 21-day medication experience collections created by Deepak Chopra and Oprah Winfrey. Many of these collections are offered for free. Each daily audio program starts out with an inspirational message from Oprah. Deepak follows Oprah with his own words of wisdom. Deepak then suggests a meditation phrase and guides the listener in a 10-minute meditation. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Oprah and Deepak created a series called “Hope in Uncertain Times” which is available for free until May 15th, 2020. After that, it will be available for purchase. The programs last for 21 days because it has been shown that it can take 21 days to create a new habit. I have followed several of these 21-day meditation experiences, and I have purchased some of them. I will often restart a program from day one to start a new 21-day cycle of meditation.

 

Physical options

While I am a huge proponent of stillness, I also love to experience movement in a meditative form. As mentioned earlier, Dr. Benson states that movement can also elicit the relaxation response. What’s important is having a way to break the train of daily thoughts and stressors. This can be accomplished through repetitive exercise where you become immersed in the movement. Examples include yoga, tai chi, qigong, running, rowing, or even knitting or playing a musical instrument.

 

Overall, what’s most important is that you find what works for you and commit to a regular daily practice. I think you’ll be thrilled with the benefits you experience!

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

Telehealth now available to patients in North Carolina

Telehealth in North Carolina

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is now offering Telehealth in North Carolina

People often ask me, “How can you practice acupuncture and Chinese medicine in North Carolina through Telehealth? What do you do when you can’t use needles?” People are surprised to learn that Chinese medicine covers much more than acupuncture. Telehealth is a great option for someone who is scared of needles or reluctant to try acupuncture. One of the techniques used during a Telehealth session is acupressure. Acupressure is the application of gentle pressure to acupressure points. Many people don’t know that acupressure can be just as effective as using needles on acupuncture points. It is easy to learn and do.

 

Telehealth is a great option for people who cannot or do not want to leave their home. This is beneficial to parents when childcare is not available, and they don’t have an option to leave the house. Sometimes personal protective equipment is not available, and people don’t feel safe leaving their homes. With Telehealth, you do not need to go into an office. Instead, you relax comfortably in your own home during a session. Another benefit of Telehealth is that patients can be located anywhere in North Carolina. You don’t have to travel to Wilmington. You can still get a customized treatment without leaving your home.

 

How it works

All you need is a computer, tablet or phone, and an internet connection. Just like in an office session, we’ll go through a comprehensive health history. This includes the medications and supplements you are taking, and previous and current conditions. We’ll discuss your primary concerns and goals.

 

Patients send me a picture of their tongue and ears before their appointment. This sounds weird, and it is! It’s also really easy to do. The pictures give me a lot of information about what is going on in the body.

 

When I review tongue pictures, I look at the size, shape, color, and qualities of the tongue. The tongue shows the status of  the major organs in the body. Looking at the tongue gives insight into how the organs are processing energy.

 

The ear is a microcosm of the body. This means that the different areas of the ear represent all of the parts of the body. For example, issues with the head can be seen on the earlobe. When I review ear pictures, I look for areas of redness, swelling, and dark or white patches. Recently, when reviewing ear pictures, I noticed markings on a patient’s ear that coincide with lower back pain. The patient had not mentioned lower back pain. During our appointment, I asked them if they had any trouble with their lower back. The answer was a surprised “Yes!” Patients are often amazed at what I am able to see just by looking at the ears.

 

Finally, I can also see what’s going on in your body by examining your face over the camera during a Telehealth session. Chinese face reading and facial diagnosis can be a very powerful tool. Various colorings, markings, and lines can give clues about overall health and what’s going on in the body.

 

Telehealth can help with many health concerns

The Telehealth sessions I offer can address many of the conditions commonly treated with acupuncture. This includes pain, headaches, digestive, respiratory, dermatological, neurological, reproductive and sleep issues. Sessions are also very effective in supporting emotional well-being, including stress, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction. Sessions can also focus on boosting immunity.

 

A customized treatment plan is developed during a Telehealth session. This may include acupressure, ear seeds, gua sha, moxa, qigong, as well as nutrition and lifestyle advice. Any tools needed are delivered or sent to the patient for home use. Detailed instructions are provided.

 

Available treatment modalities

Here’s a quick overview of the different modalities that are available:

  • Acupressure is the application of pressure to acupuncture points. This is done through gentle massage or tapping on acupuncture points.
  • Ear seeds are small seeds that are held to acupuncture points on the ear with adhesive tape. They can treat conditions throughout the entire body and often have a very calming and relaxing effect.
  • Gua sha is a gentle massage technique that incorporates a smooth-edged tool that stimulates blood flow, removes stagnation, improves circulation, produces an anti-inflammatory effect, and increases immunity to promote healing.
  • Moxa is a Chinese herb that is lit like incense. Moxa burns close to the surface of the skin and stimulates acupuncture points. It is a great tool for building immunity. It helps relieve pain, and also warms and encourages the flow of blood and “qi” (energy) in the body.
  • Qigong refers to gentle exercises that help smooth and strengthen the body’s energy.
    “Qi” means energy and “gong” means work. Qigong is a practice of working with the body’s energy.
  • Nutrition and lifestyle: We’ll discuss your current diet, exercise, stress-reduction and sleep habits. I’ll share advice on what foods may help balance your energy from a Chinese medicine perspective. I’ll give lifestyle recommendations to support you and your goals.

 

Telehealth for facial health and beauty

With so many offices and salons closed, people are excited to learn that facial procedures can easily be practiced at home. This includes lifting, toning and brightening the skin and minimizing wrinkles. I offer a facial gua sha protocol that I teach you during a Facial Gua Sha Telehealth session. I’ll give you instructions and the tools you need to practice at home. Read more about facial gua sha by clicking this link.

 

Are you located in North Carolina and interested in Telehealth? Call 910-622-6960 to learn more.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. HAVEN now offers Telehealth in North Carolina. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.

How to Stay Strong During COVID-19

Walking during COVID-19

COVID-19 from a Chinese medicine perspective

COVID-19 is a virus, and viruses are characterized in Chinese medicine as an external wind-cold disease. That means that the virus travels from outside the body through the air, or wind, into the body through the nose or mouth. Viruses are cold in nature. This is often why after someone is exposed to a virus they will feel cold or want to bundle up and avoid cold air or wind. Often, the back of the neck, head, and shoulders will feel stiff as the acupuncture pathways associated with protecting the body’s wei qi, or defensive energy, are activated.

 

COVID-19: The Fear Virus

COVID-19 has been referred to as “the fear virus”. The unknowns surrounding the COVID-19 have brought up a number of fears for many people. How long will it last? Will they get sick? Will they lose a loved one? What if they lose their job? Will they have to close their business? Can they support their family? Will they ever get to hug their family and friends again? The questions can be limitless and spiral into a scary place.

 

Choose your antidote to fear

Fear cannot exist in the presence of a stronger positive feeling, like love, hope, faith or calm. If the idea of hope makes your heart sing, consider this powerful quotation from Maya Angelou: “Hope and fear cannot occupy the same space at the same time. Invite one of them to stay”. If you are a religious person, you might resonate with the quote from the Bible: “Faith and fear cannot exist together”. People who meditate know that calm and fear cannot be felt at the same time.  Choose the positive feeling that resonates with you the most. Find time every day, or even every hour if needed, to invite that feeling into your consciousness. Be still and let yourself embody it.

 

Tips to stay strong during the COVID-19 pandemic

 

Keep yourself warm

Keep yourself warm and avoid cold, drafty environments. Many people in Asian and European countries will wear a scarf around their neck, even in warm weather, to protect their bodies from viruses and help keep the more vulnerable areas of the body warm.

This is a great time to be outside in the warm sunlight. In addition to keeping the body warm, sunlight provides a natural form of Vitamin D which has been shown to promote respiratory health. Read about the science behind this in two recent articles:

Vitamin D and respiratory health” from the National Institutes of Health United States National Library of Medicine

Vitamin D linked to COVID-19 mortality” from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Aging (TILDA) at Trinity College Dublin

Gentle exercise also warms the body. Taking a walk outside every day is a great way to get sunlight  and exercise, which have a variety of health benefits. Two great articles on the benefits of walking outside every day are: “Walking: Trim your waistline, improve your health” from the Mayo Clinic, and “The Amazing Health Benefits Of Walking Outside Every Day” from Prevention magazine.

 

Sleep well

Plentiful, quality sleep gives our bodies the chance to deeply restore. Getting to sleep before 10pm gives the body’s energetic pathways the time and ability to relax and allow for the protective and defensive energy to strengthen and circulate through the body. Be sure to remove electronics from the bedroom. Make sure the room is dark. Light, even the blue light from electronics, can send a signal to the body that it is morning and time to wake up.

 

Eat well

Eat on a regular schedule, and focus on foods that are warming rather than cooling. Warm foods refer to cooked foods and nourishing foods like warm oatmeal, broths, soups and casseroles. Cold foods, which should be avoided when possible, include foods that are physically cold like ice cream, juices, smoothies, and salads. This also includes food that is energetically cold like raw foods, dairy, and sugar. These cold foods require warm energy from the body to be digested. This takes resources away from the body’s defensive energetic system and the ability to protect itself.

 

How to thrive with social distancing during COVID-19

Social distancing can be very disruptive and stressful. One simple way to adapt to social distancing is to create a new routine. This calms the body and nervous system, and lets the body know that there is predictability and that the body will be fed, rested and cared for. Doing things like setting consistent mealtimes and going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day can be tremendously beneficial.

 

Social distancing can create and foster loneliness, which has been shown to negatively impact the immune system. It is critical now more than ever to counter potential loneliness and keep immunity strong. Consider using this time to rekindle and strengthen relationships by reaching out to people through technology. Technology options include: Facetime, Zoom, Google hangouts, E-mails and even just picking up the phone to call someone. People will appreciate the thought, and many people are reporting that they are loving having the time to connect with loved ones more regularly.

 

In this time of change and the slowing down of our busy world, consider any or all of these tips to make some positive changes in your own life to cultivate long-term health and wellness.

 

About the Author

Ericca Burke is the owner of HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine where she provides acupuncture and Chinese medicine treatments in Wilmington, NC. Click this link to read more about Ericca. 

 

About HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine in Wilmington, NC

HAVEN Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine is an acupuncture and Chinese medicine practice located in Wilmington, NC just minutes from beautiful Wrightsville Beach. Click this link for contact information and directions. Click this link for a listing and description of services offered.