What Causes Poor Sleep?
There are various kinds of imbalances that can lead to imbalanced sleep. One common issue many of us experience is waking up in the middle of the night and having a hard time getting back to sleep. This has a variety of potential causes—including low blood sugar, hormone imbalances and inflammatory issues, among others—but the vast majority of us have what’s sometimes called the ‘wired and tired’ condition. This occurs when we have too much “charge” built up in the nervous system. Even if we’re exhausted on one level, our body finds it hard to rest and drop the hyper-vigilant, low-level stress state that we are in a lot of the time. Once we fall asleep, that built up tension from the day has a jack-in-the-box effect when our body tries to go into deeper rest states. This keeps us in a mostly light sleep, and deficient in the deeper and REM states of sleep we need to restore and reset overnight.
The tension many people build up throughout the day (like a coiling up process) is mostly due to overstimulation and lots of mental work. When we’re furiously working away at a computer, our body is still and stagnant, but energy churning through from the mind will get stuck in our muscles. If we don’t maintain balance with periods of lower stimulation and more physical activity, muscles get tense, breathing gets shorter, and the tension continues to coil. Once we fall asleep, that coil springs up again and keeps us from getting deep rest.
Pulsed Dosing Ritual
This is a classic ritual that Goldthread founder and clinical acupuncturist, William Siff, has been using with patients for years. Think of the nervous system like the surface of a pond. A pond will stay flat and still unless something from the outside acts on it. Toss a pebble in and a small ripple will form and spread outward. The one pebble will make a small impact that will quickly dissipate, and the pond will return to its original state. If you drop a pebble in, and then another pebble, and then another, the pond does not have a chance to return to its original state and eventually stays rippling out to the shore. We use this principle with plants in the pulsed dosing ritual.
Use a tincture of a classic nervous system plant, Passionflower or Skullcap are our favorites, and begin a few hours before bedtime in the evening. The process is simple—take a dropper full of tincture, or dilute it in an ounce or two of water, as one ‘dose’. Take another one after about 30 minutes. Continue this for 4-6 rounds. Each dose of the plant tincture trains your nervous system to change over to “chill mode” so that by the time you are ready to go to bed, your nervous system will be in a new, more relaxed state.