We were recently discussing sleep with a patient. Due to circumstances, sleeping was difficult for this individual, who ended up needing medication to ‘put’ her to sleep. Yet, when she awoke, she would still feel fatigued and drained.
This is how we described the situation, according to classical Chinese medical understandings, yet using modern terminology (and technology):
“At the end of the day your phone has almost run out of battery. It’s sitting on 12%. So you turn it off and sit it on the table. In the morning, when you switch it back on, it will still be sitting on 12%. Still drained. The issue isn’t switching it on or off, it’s an issue of recharging. You need to plug that phone into the power source. That cord that you use is the instrument by which this connection exists. This is your recharging instrument. In the morning, you turn on your phone and it is buzzing at 100%, you can unplug and head off into the beautiful day. Chinese medicine and its approach to insomnia is a process of re-establishing your recharging instrument. We need to disconnect from the technology that distracts us from our innate cycles and rhythms, keeps us up late at night overusing our ‘phones’, over draining our batteries, staring at dead screens wondering why we are so dissatisfied with our lives. We need to plug back into that which nourishes us: nature. The nature of human sleep is to rise and fall appropriately. Bed by 10pm, and that’s it. Ten at night is when your pineal gland begins secreting melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall and stay asleep. No computers, TVs, phones or tablets (ha!) after 8.30pm, as this artificial light tells your pineal gland that it is still daytime and it shuts off melatonin production. So, at 8.30pm, go plug your phone in somewhere else, prepare for bed, and sit down with a good book.”