Back in the 1980s, the carrot industry was struggling. More than half of the crops was misshaped and unfit for the supermarkets’ shelves. Farmers were struggling.
But in 1986, Mike Yurosek made a discovery that would change the way we are eating. He invented a way to use those hideous carrots, by merely shaping them into appealing baby carrots. ‘Baby carrots’ were born and took the markets by storm.
Interestingly, few people know baby carrots are not small carrots. They are totally unaware they have been shaped into the snacks they love so much.
When it comes to sleep, many people are unaware of the impact of Heat and how it can disturb their sleep. In this article, we will look at:
– What Heat is
– Why Heat can disrupt your sleep
– How Heat is disturbing your sleep
– What you can do to reduce Heat at night
– What is making Heat worse
So, where is Heat coming from?
You can think about our bodies as a car, made with different parts such as the engine, the cooling system, the gearbox etc… To be able to move, each part of the car needs to work smoothly as well as in sync with the others. If you put poor quality fuel in the tank, the wrong type of oil in the engine, no cooling fluid, and carry on revving the engine at full throttle, the engine will eventually heat up.
Something similar is happening with your bodies. When we run our bodies on poor quality food, and push them to their limits through overwork, emotional and/or physical stress, our bodies heat up.
In Chinese Medicine, Heat is in part, but not just, a feeling of heat in the body.
It’s related to some feeling of hyperactivity, wherever that hyperactivity is. Having a headache is too much Energy/hyperactivity in the head. A strong feeling of palpitation is hyperactivity of the Heart etc…Other symptoms of Heat can include feeling thirsty, being restless, waking up during the night with dreams or nightmares (1).
Heat can also keep us awake and active at night.
Our normal rhythm at night is to settle down. Our temperature drops by 1 or 2 degrees preparing us for a good night of sleep. Heat does the opposite. It keeps us warmer and more ‘awake’ and active, stopping us from settling down. This is also why we can sometimes wake up in the middle of the night and feel fully awake (and unable to fall back asleep) (2)
Heat is disturbing the body overall.
It can make you too hot, which can be enough to keep you awake just like a hot summer evening can stop you from sleeping well. It can disturb the mind and leave you unable to switch off, thus making it hard to fall asleep at night. It can disturb the Heart and lead to nightmares. It can even make your muscles/legs hyperactive and give you restless legs (1).
For a good night of sleep, the first step to take is to cool the body down before bedtime.
That means putting the heating down at night or opening the window a bit. Some people find that having a cool shower or putting their feet in cool water helps them cool down, ready for a good night of sleep. Many people also tell me that they always stick their feet out of the duvet to cool down in the middle of the night. You might be doing that too!
Doing some exercise away from the time you go to bed is helping too. Exercise needs some Yang energy (and therefore Heat), so we can move/exercise/run which explains why we can be wide awake after a run in the evening. Leaving a couple of hours between finishing exercising and bedtime is usually enough to be able to settle down.
Stress is a significant source of internal Heat. Just like an engine which is working on overdrive tends to heat up, our bodies then to heat up when they are under constant pressure and stress. An excellent way to help with insomnia and sleep disturbances is to have some routine in place to help us reduce stress. This can be anything from some exercise during the day, meditation, reading a good book or spending time with friends.
It’s important to also avoid activities that are creating Heat in the body.
This is simply anything that is creating internal Heat (3):
- Alcohol is a very Hot food thus drinking alcohol is more likely to result in a disturbed night.
- In the same way, coffee is also a Hot food and will stop people from falling asleep as easily.
- Eating too late at night can be any issue too. When we go to sleep, the whole of digestion slows down. If we are eating too close to bedtime, food tends to sit in the stomach leading to some ‘Heat in the Stomach’. That Heat can then disturb sleep and sometimes gives way to nightmares.
- What we watch, read, listen to. Emotional disturbances create Heat in the Heart. This is why, for example, we have palpitations when we are frightened watching a film. What we ‘put in our minds’ in just as important as the food we eat. Too many scary stories, from the News we watch to the books we read, all of these have the potential to create Heat in the Heart and then lead to nightmares and a night of disturbed sleep.
Stressing about falling asleep is counterproductive.
This happens when people want a good night of sleep and then start the night struggling to fall asleep. Some of my patients tell me that they then begin fretting about the lack of sleep, how they need to get up early the next morning, won’t have slept enough and will feel exhausted. They think about how hard the next day will be, get frustrated about not being able to fall asleep. The thing is all those thoughts are basically creating emotional stress, which, in turn, makes the Heat worse and stops them from falling asleep!
A simple remedy to that is to break the cycle of frustration.
Sometimes, just getting and getting a glass of water can be enough to distract you and allow you to fall asleep.
Making a point of thinking about something else can be helpful too. Some people find that repeating the same word over and over again in their head works well. Others prefer to think about a beautiful relaxing place they’ve visited or imagine laying on a beach listening to the waves and the wind.
Getting up again and reading a book, listening to some relaxing music (avoid TV or the phone as the blue light will keep you awake) can also reduce frustration and allow you to fall asleep.
To recap, reducing Heat can be a straightforward way to get a good night of sleep.
Having a cool shower and a relaxing routine before bed can sometimes be enough to get a better night sleep. Being mindful of what we ‘eat’ both as foods (such as alcohol and caffeine) and what we put in our mind (TV, news, books) all help reduce internal Heat and are conducive to good night sleep.
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