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Natural Awakenings Tampa Florida

Trouble Losing Weight? Get Some Sleep!

Jun 05, 2012 01:47PM ● By Tom Elman, AP

Everyone experiences times when they can’t sleep well. This can be a natural response to stress or not getting the usual exercise. However, if the situation goes on for more than a couple of nights, recurs frequently or is chronic, it is time to look for ways to address the problem. Then, there are people who think that sacrificing some sleep is an acceptable way to gain time during their busy day. They deliberately restrict their sleep. Whether the sleep deprivation is voluntary or not, the consequences can be significant.

An article by Dr. Eve Van Cauter, Dr. Kristen Knutson, Dr. Rachel Leproult and Dr. Karine Spiegel (Journal of Applied Physiology, November 2005) explains how sustained sleep loss can adversely affect the level of the stress hormone cortisol. It goes on to note that abnormal levels of cortisol can eventually lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is considered to be a risk factor for obesity and diabetes. In addition, the article explains that loss of sleep adversely affects hormones which control appetite, possibly leading to a tendency to overeat.

A number of other studies have shown that most people who experience consistent sleep loss underestimate its effect on their performance. Losing sleep can have an adverse effect on your job, your reflexes when driving, your performance in sports and your health. In short, sleep loss is a definite concern if more than an occasional occurrence.

When using Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat an individual with sleeping problems, the approach will depend on the underlying cause. Using acupuncture points or herbs which simply sedate may not be appropriate. In fact, Chinese Medicine often sees underlying deficiencies as the cause of insomnia. In such cases, treatment would include tonifying and building up the body rather than sedating it.

To understand this, imagine the body has elements that prevent it from becoming too hot and elements that prevent it from becoming too cold. If you are deficient in those substances and energies that keep you cool, you overheat. It is much like an engine running low on oil. The engine overheats and can seize up. In your body, the result can be insomnia, night sweats, anxiety, headaches, or a number of other symptoms. With an engine, you wouldn’t simply slow down; you’d add oil. Similarly, rather than sedating the body, tonifying the cooling energies would be the course of treatment.

How is this done? Common acupuncture points for the treatment of insomnia may include areas on the back of the neck, insides of the ankles and wrists, and a variety of other areas depending on the underlying cause. Herbs may include suan zao ren (sour date seeds) or formulas like Liu wei di huang wan (six flavor teapills). But again, the specific herbs used will depend on the underlying problem. What works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. It is advised to consult with an experienced herbalist before starting any herb regimen.

Make certain to get regular exercise. Not only is this good for the cardiovascular system and weight control, it also helps with sleep. Try a glass of warm milk before bed. Avoid eating just before sleep. Don’t let sleepless nights continue. Sleep loss may contribute to diabetes, obesity and other stress related problems. If you’re having trouble, get help.


Tom Elman is a Diplomate of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, an experienced herbalist, and holds licenses as both an Acupuncture Physician and a Massage Therapist, and certification as a Hypnotist. Email Elman at [email protected], call 727-344-8690 and visit Jade Tree Wellness Center is located at 6701 - 38th Ave. No., Suite 3, St. Petersburg. See ad page 24.