We Reunite You With Your Sleep

“Sleep is your life-support system and Mother Nature’s best effort yet at immortality”
Dr. Matt Walker, Ph.D., author of “Why We Sleep”, professor of psychiatry at Harvard

Sleep deprivation is no joke. If there is one thing that can ruin your health, your relationships and your career, it is the inadequate amount of time you spend in REM and deep sleep every night. There are hidden factors in sleep that can make or break your day, your month, or even your whole life. Do you walk around tired and anxious, catching every cold? Are your productivity and focus gone? Is chronic pain draining you? Poor sleep is most likely the culprit.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, up to 40% of American adults have intermittent insomnia and up to 15% of us have chronic insomnia.

In his famous Google talk titled “The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life”, Dr. Matt Walker says “There is simply no aspect of your wellness that can retreat at sign of sleep deprivation and get away unscathed. Sleep loss will leak into every nook and cranny of your physiology… It is almost like a broken water pipe in your house.”

Here are the effects of sleep deprivation:

  • If you sleep for 4 hours just for one night, the activity of your natural killer cells (the soldiers of the immune system that destroy cancer, virus, and bacteria cells) declines by 70%! Can you imagine the state of your immune system if this happens night after night, for weeks,months, or years?
  • Men who sleep 4-5 hours per night have significantly smaller testicles and the testosterone levels of someone 10 years older, compared to those men who sleep 7-8 hours.
  • Sleep deprived humans can’t effectively learn new information. One study showed that, compared to those who slept 8 hours, the ability to store new memories declined by 40% in a sleep-deprived group. When we go into deep sleep, our brains produce powerful slow brain waves that shuffle new information into long-term memory storage. A lack of sleep causes cognitive decline and increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  • A single night of disrupted sleep can put you in a pre-diabetic state.
  • When we lose one hour of sleep in the spring due to daylight savings, there is a 24% increase in heart attacks. When we gain an hour, these rates drop by 21%. If there was a drug that could do that, the pharma industry would be all over it!
  • Sleep loss tampers with your DNA, suppressing the genes that upregulate your immune system and activating those that promote tumors and inflammation.
  • Ignoring your natural circadian rhythm is dangerous. The World Health Organization classifies shift work (i.e. sleeping during the day or irregularly) as a possible carcinogen!

The bottom line is depressing: Poor sleep can predict an overall increase in mortality from all causes, and affects every aspect of your health negatively. Great sleep is a biological necessity, not a luxury or a sign of laziness.

At Luna Body + Mind, we are dedicated to optimizing your sleep so that you can be fully present in your life.

Conditions associated with insomnia

Lifestyle factors that affect sleep include disrupted circadian rhythms due to shift work or traveling, poor sleep habits (irregular sleep time, napping, temperature of the room, technology in bed), eating too much close to bedtime, use of caffeine/stimulants for energy and/or alcohol as a sleep aid and others.

Your lifestyle impacts the amount of quality of your sleep tremendously. There are some general sleep guidelines that are appropriate for everyone and we have compiled the most comprehensive guide for our patients. However, we will also work with you individually to pinpoint the specific lifestyle adjustments that are necessary to improve YOUR sleep. Everybody’s lifestyle and circumstances are different, and sometimes life gets in the way even of your best intentions. We will be there to guide you and keep you accountable in the process of tweaking your lifestyle to optimize your sleep.

Emotional dysregulation disrupts sleep, and lack of sleep leads to volatile emotions. If you were caught up in this vicious cycle, you know how fast it can spiral out of control. Our acupuncture protocol slows the body’s production of stress hormones (cortisol/adrenaline) and releases endogenous opioid like, feel good substances (endorphins) that play an important role in regulating emotions. The immediate results come even after one session, although it does take a series of treatment to rewire the stress response permanently. A recent systematic review published in 2018 found that all 13 included studies “reported an anxiety decrease for their treatment group relative to the control groups.” Three of these studies used pharmaceuticals as controls.

The other mechanism for relieving anxiety and depression with acupuncture is the direct stimulation of the Vagus nerve, a major part of the parasympathetic nervous system, responsible for being in a “rest and digest” mode. This is the opposite of the “fight or flight” sympathetic branch of the nervous system that keeps us alert, anxious, and unable to sleep. When both branches of the nervous system are in balance, Heart Rate Variability (HRV) (measure of cardiovascular, mental and overall health) is increased and anxiety and depression are decreased. The inflammation theory of depression explains why reducing inflammation (through lifestyle or other means) reduces depression. Our acupuncture technique subdues harmful chronic inflammation that plagues many depression sufferers, lifting the mood and calming the mind. This allows the body to build up enough adenosine (inhibitory neurotransmitter) that will make you feel sleepy at nighttime. Cortisol levels stay low through at night allowing you to get into deep and REM sleep and deep sleep and wake up energized.

Poor sleep quality and shorter duration are often caused by pain. According to SleepFoundating.org Americans report an average of 42 minute sleep, higher stress levels and lower sleep quality cased by the chronic pain. Only 45% of people with acute pain and 37% of people with chronic pain have good sleep quality. Pain sufferrers also feel loss of control over their sleep and higher levels of worry and anxiety about how poor sleep affects their overall health. Anything that causes worsening of sleep (noise, light, etc.) affects people with chronic pain even more negatively. Our treatments address pain from either chronic or acute inflammation, arthritis or fibromyalgia. We understand that sleep is a complex issue and removing the root cause of insomnia created a permanent shift towards healthy sleep/wake balance. Our approach to pain is complex because pain is often caused by a multitude of factors. Whether your pain symptoms are straightforward (acute injury) or chronic (arthritis, cancer, fibromyalgia, complications of surgery, food sensitivity), we find a solution that works for you. The solution involves our skillful acupuncture (which excels at pain management), lifestyle, herbs, supplement and dietary recommendations.

Both overactive and underactive thyroid can cause sleep imbalances shifting the body’s metabolism toward overactive/requiring less sleep or underactive/requiring more sleep. Of course, we encourage our patients to seek qualified medical help and get on the right amount of medication when necessary. However, when thyroid levels are normal according to the lab, thyroid hormones may still not be perfectly balanced. Our acupuncture treatments encourage the body’s innate ability toward hormonal balance, therefore working synergistically with the medications and sometimes eliminating the need for medications entirely. Autoimmune conditions affecting thyroid are pretty common causing either Hashimoto or Graves disease. We use acupuncture protocols to modulate your immune system and calm down the autoimmune response. It is a known fact that acupuncture releases endorphins. These feel-good neurotransmitters don’t just make you feel relaxed and eliminate pain. There are receptor sites on your immune system cells for endorphins. When endorphins bind to these receptors, the immune system “relaxes” and stops mistaking your own cells for foreign invaders and allows your body to heal. This is true not just for Hashimoto or Graves disease but also for rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and a multitude of other auto-immune conditions.

If you have GERD (acid reflux), there is a 75% chance you feel nocturnal symptoms such as insomnia or sleep apnea in addition to heartburn. You may wake up from the pain of heartburn or experience coughing or choking when acid comes up to your throat. GERD increases the chances of sleep apnea as well. Sleeping in the prone position increases the amount of acid coming up in your esophagus, which makes the nighttime symptoms even more exaggerated. There are some sleep positions that can lessen nighttime heartburn such as elevating your head using pillows and sleeping on your back or left side. Our treatments are aimed at determining the root cause of your acid reflux and reversing it. We will take a look at your diet and eating schedule, address your stress levels and use acupuncture to promote healthy digestion. Chinese medicine considers digestive system as one of the main pillars of health and excels at addressing digestive problems with acupuncture and herbs.

Sleep apnea causes interruptions of breathing for at least 10 seconds during sleep. This is a very common condition that can be caused by an obstruction (airway does not stay open because of muscle constriction) or by the central nervous system dysfuction (brain fails to control breathing). Obstructive apnea is much more common.

If you are a loud snorer, it is possible that you suffer from sleep apnea and need to be properly diagnosed by a doctor. Sleep apnea deprives the brain of oxygen and causes frequent waking throughout the night and daytime fatigue.

We can’t address some of the permanent structural problems associated with sleep apnea. However, acupuncture excels at stimulating the muscles surrounding the airway so that it opens properly for breathing as well as clearing nasal allergies and removing mucus obstructing the airway. Lifestyle changes in combination with acupuncture and herbal medicine have been proven effective in the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea.

If you ever experienced this neurological condition, you know that weird sensation that makes you want to move your legs just as you are falling asleep or in the middle of the night. If left untreated, RLS can worsen causing you to lose a significant amount of sleep. If you are over 45 and/or a woman, you are more likely to experience RLS. We use an RLS acupuncture protocol that was determined effective in a clinical trial. In Chinese medical acupuncture, the theory for the cause of RLS is disclosed as reduction in the legs blood Yin and Xue, which is responsible for body and brain relaxation. Particularly, the lack of liver blood and Yin which controls activity of legs at night is the main cause of RLS. Acupuncture alone quickly eliminates this annoying problem with just a few sessions for the majority of our patients. Unlike gabapentin, acupuncture is very safe and does not cause day time brain fog and lethargy.

Hormonal shifts that begin during perimenopause and continue into menopause are associated with the decreased levels of estrogen and progesterone. This is the period in a woman’s life where she experiences the majority of sleep related problems that include hot flashes, anxiety, depression, snoring and sleep apnea. Over 60% of post-menopausal women report insomnia symptoms.

Hot flashes cause the rise of body temperature and leads to sweating and waking up during the night. Some women experience hot flashes for several years leading up to menopause. These symptoms are extremely common and almost universally accepted as normal. In Chinese medicine, we consider these symptom a pathology and effectively treat them with acupuncture and herbal medicine. Eliminating hot flashes involves a relatively short course of treatments that is determined based on your specific condition, age and pattern of disharmony.

Nighttime itching (also called nocturnal pruritus) is an extremely common complaint. If nighttime itching is severe, your sleep can be disrupted. To treat this concern we will evaluate your symptoms and find the possible reason for the itching. The most common causes include increased skin temperature, overactive immune response (allergy, inflammation), increased sweating, dry skin, hormonal changes associated with pregnancy or menopause, thyroid imbalance, depression or anxiety. Once we determine the root cause of itching we will treat it with acupuncture, herbs and supplements and diet recommendations.

Primary insomnia (also called idiopathic insomnia) is the condition where sleep is disrupted without a known reason. This is where Chinese medicine shines because of its diagnostic methods. We can evaluate your insomnia using Chinese pulse and tongue diagnosis, observation, palpation and questioning to determine your “pattern of disharmony.’ We will take into account your constitution and your family history. It is impossible to predict how we would treat a patient for primary insomnia until we employ this individualized approach. However, there is a finite number of patterns of disharmony that are associated with primary insomnia. Once we determine your pattern, your treatment protocol will focus on resolving it and reestablishing optimal quality and amount of sleep for you.

As we get older, we tend to sleep less; yet we still require 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. People over 65 often report sleep problems and daytime sleepiness. However, besides a shift in circadian rhythm that causes older adults to fall asleep and wake up earlier, age related insomnia is usually caused by the same problems as insomnia in younger people. Older people are more likely to have medical conditions such as arthritis, andiety, indigestion, or sleep apnea. So when we approach insomnia in an older adult, we don’t assume that the age is the root cause of insomnia. We carefully examine all possible causes and treat them simultaneously. Addressing the root cause in an older adult will lead to optimized deep and REM and deep sleep and overall improvement of health.