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June Newsletter 5 Helpful Tips for Sleep


Seasonal Advice “Calm heart keeps you cool” Zen saying

It is getting warm out there! Do you have trouble sleeping as the summer heat kicks in? There are many causes of poor sleep; hormone imbalances, dehydration, blood deficiency, stress, pain, emotional or spiritual imbalances. This month’s newsletter is about heat causing poor sleep.

In Chinese medicine we say the spirit settles into the heart at night in order to sleep. If you have too much heat in your heart, your spirit won’t settle and you’ll feel restless because the heart is the fire element. Excess heat throws the fire organ out of balance. Some symptoms of heart heat are palpitations, thirst, tongue/mouth ulcers, dry mouth, restlessness, red complexion, bitter taste in the mouth (especially after a poor night of sleep), feeling hot, anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, dream disturbed sleep, easily startled, poor memory, malar flush, night sweats, and heat in the palms. You can have some of these symptoms; only in severe cases you would have all of them. Adding cooling yin to your body can reduce heart heat and keep the fire element in balance. Acupuncture is great at cooling heart heat. Herbs are really effective at adding yin and cooling fire. One of my best selling supplements is a valerian, poppy, and schizandra blend because it works so well. It nourishes the heart and calms the spirit which treats insomnia and lessens the severity of sleep apnea. In addition, it acts as a calming sedative for daytime anxiety, agitation, or for substance withdrawal.

Here are some specific cooling foods to help reduce heart fire; celery, cucumber, lettuce, pears, watermelon, sprouts, watercress, bamboo shoots, water chestnuts, spinach, swiss chard, dandelion greens, asparagus, chinese cabbage, beets, carrots, parsley, plums, persimmons, tofu, yogurt, mung beans, aduki beans, and oysters.

You can try to restrict foods that promote heat; chilies, cinnamon, ginger, black pepper, coffee, chocolate, vinegar, garlic, mustard, horseradish, excessive salt, red meats, alcohol, shrimp, cheese, eggs, and roasted, fried, deep fried foods in general.

Astringent foods, such as the plum, slow down movement of qi. If you are feeling hot and restless, plums can help slow down that sensation. Also, plums help clear heat. I have a bunch of wild cherry plum trees growing in my yard and they are almost ripe. A friend taught me this simple two ingredient plum jam recipe and now every June I can jars of this sweet, tart treat. Wild cherry plums are known as an urban fruit because they grow in lots of cities. Many San Francisco streets are lined with them. If unavailable, you can substitute regular plums. The original recipe calls for 1:1 ratio of fruit to sugar but that is way too sweet for me. I use about 3:1. You can adjust to your taste. Bonus: the seeds release their own pectin. I like the little bits of skin for texture so I don’t sieve the jam. I scoop all the seeds out with a slotted spoon. If you like a smoother jam, sieve or blend.  

Note: You’ll need about 4 half pint jars with rings and lids.

I don’t have a canner so I wash the jars, lids, and rings in hot, soapy water, and rinse well. Then I place the jars in a large pot with water and boil for 10 minutes, turn off the heat, and leave jars in the water until needed.

Recipe Cherry Plum Jam

6 Cups whole cherry plums or any plum, no stems or leaves 2 Cups coconut sugar or your sugar of choice

Combine the cherry plums in large pot. On medium heat, bring to boil and mash up fruit. Add coconut sugar. Cook for 10-20 minutes. Stir frequently as the jam thickens to prevent sticking or burning. Strain out seeds. Pour into hot, clean jars and seal. After they cool, store in fridge.

Acu Point Heart 8 少府 shao fu little mansion Location: When a loose fist is made where the tip of the little finger rests between the 4th and 5th metacarpal bones Action: Treats anxiety, restlessness, insomnia, palpitations, thirst, tongue/mouth ulcers, dry mouth, restlessness, feeling hot, dream disturbed sleep

Massage for 30 seconds, firm enough to activate but not enough to bruise.

Exercise Start at the base of your skull. Grasp the skin on either sides of your spine in a large pinch. Squeeze, release, and move down an inch. Grab another pinch and repeat. Pinches should feel good, not painful. Slowly move down your spine. When you can’t comfortably reach any further, start at the top of your spine and move down again. Massage your spine in a downward motion for about 5-10 minutes. If you have a partner, ask if they’ll pinch the entire length of your spine before bedtime.

This is relaxing because it calms the nerves running through your spine and there are a few points in this area that release heat.

Meditation Meditating is a great way to calm down your nervous system and ease restlessness. Late at night or in the middle of the night is one of the best times to meditate because the world is quieter. This meditation is call the micro-cosmic orbit. It helps heal all your organs, energy lines, chakras, and aura. If you fall asleep while doing this orbit, you continue to orbit and heal while you are asleep. It’s a two-for-one; it makes you fall asleep quick and you heal while you sleep.

Image your lower belly and low back is full of a healing ball of light or energy. Take a few deep breaths. Ask the ball of healing light/energy to get stronger. Then imagine the ball traveling on a circuit around your body, from your low back, up your spine, through your brain, down your chest, to your lower belly, then tailbone. Continue orbiting the ball up your spine and down your front. The rate of speed for the ball is about one breath inhale up the spine and one breath exhale down the front. You can imagine the healing ball is cooling and pulls heat out of your heart as it passes down your chest. Continue to circulate the healing ball until you feel relaxed or fall asleep.

In the February newsletter there is more heart advice.

Happy warm weather everybody. I hope everyone is shining, thriving, and sleeping well.

Dr. Heather Bird