Insomnia and the Change of Seasons
Is everyone else wondering what happened to the summer? Here on the east coast it feels like it rained for the whole month of July and half of August.
In Chinese Medicine we use a diagnostic system called Five Element Theory. This diagram corresponds the elements in nature to our body organs, and also analyzes how the natural elements affect our body during different seasons. For example we can have dampness or wind in our body, and also they can get influenced by different seasons and weathers. We are in a state of balance and health when there is harmony between the elements in the body and also in relation with natural elements. When the balance is off, one element over powers or another one is weak, that becomes a source for diagnosing how to bring back health.
We have five main elements that relate to one another in two ways: one is a generative cycle, the other a control cycle. The generative cycle is the following: Water generates Wood, trees grow using water. Wood generates Fire, when it burns. Fire generates Earth, turns into ashes. Earth generates Metal, it condenses in the depths. Metal generates Water, the minerals in the water. The control cycle is the following: Water controls Fire, it extinguishes it. Fire controls Metal, it melts it. Metal controls Wood, axe chopping trees. Wood controls Earth, the roots split the rocks. Earth controls Water, mud. In this blog I will attempt at finding some correlations between our dampened summer this year and the insomnia and restlessness that I'm feeling and also observing in a lot of people around me at this time.
Summer is associated with the Fire element. This summer our Fire got quite dampened by all the rain. Water controls Fire. With a weak Fire we have a hard time at the end of summer which is the Earth time, since Earth is nourished by Fire. The Earth element in our body corresponds to our digestion, our center, what keeps us grounded and helps us create enough energy to go on our daily life. When the Earth element is weak in our body we get loose stool, and feel bloated. Our tongue is puffy with teeth marks around it, and our mind gets foggy. The gut brain theory makes sense from the Chinese Medicine perspective since the Earth element has to do with function of our mind and focus. When it's weak we worry, we brood over and over and it seems as if there is fog in our brain. We feel heavy inside, the way damp weather feels heavy and sticky. Our joints might swell and there is more edema.
Soon the crisp air smells of Fall and the kids are going back to school. Fall is associated with the lung organ, the Metal element. One feels like going for a long walk and taking in the fresh air. To balance the lung and liver organs, the Metal and Wood elements, is crucial for this time of the year. If we fail to take some time to exercise and move our body, the fall season, Metal element, will overwhelm the smooth flow of our Wood energy. The fall is also the time when winds are starting to become more intense on the east coast. A weak Wood element is associated with wind as well. The way wind manifests in the body is either by entering the body as cold symptoms, or is associated with the function of liver in Chinese Medicine, causing high blood pressure, tremors, paralysis, or in extreme conditions seizures.
The Wood element, associated with liver and gallbladder, is in charge of our balanced emotions, uplifting mood, visions and dreams, and deep sound sleep at night. The liver organ stores blood during the night. Blood is made from the work of digestion and breathing. If there is not enough blood at night the liver will not have enough grounding to hold the body in sleep and let the Hun, spirit of Liver, go out into the dream land. One will have shallow sleep or keep waking up during the night. Someone with a weak digestion wakes up in the middle of the night, around 1 to 3am which is the time corresponding to the liver meridian and keeps brooding over anxious thoughts.
I'm not surprised this week when in the clinic I see bags under everyone's eyes. They all get a nourishing treatment and to some I suggest my favorite herbal formula for sleep: An Shen Bu Xin Wan, to calm the spirit and nourish the heart. If you want to ward off the colds this Fall, start now to strengthen your digestion: no more iced drinks, time for ginger tea and warm stews with pepper and spices. Go for walks and exercise regularly to move your energy. Take the herbal formula An Shen Bu Xin Wan before going to bed, or some calming tea. Limit screen time before bed and be asleep before 11pm which the time when the Wood meridian gets activated. Time to rest the eyes!
For more information on Five Elements you can check the following links: