In today’s fast-paced world, many of us are forced to juggle a multitude of priorities in our daily lives that compete for our time. Between meeting deadlines at work, demands at home, recreation, and personal time, we often compromise on sleep. While most of us can recover from the occasional sleepless night, those who habitually don’t get enough sleep over the course of months or years may face more long-term health consequences. It’s no wonder then that we find ourselves fatigued, stressed out, irritable, and maybe even battling a nagging cold or cough that just won’t go away. Not only does sleep deprivation impair cognitive functioning, memory, and mood, it also is linked to a weakened immune system and increased risk of chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Despite the growing evidence in support of sleep, we continue to neglect our slumber time. Instead we opt to apply band-aid remedies such as using caffeine for fatigue, alcohol to relieve stress, high intensity exercise to release frustration, and over-the-counter medications for sniffles and coughs. From an Eastern medicine viewpoint, these quick fixes are almost exactly the opposite of what you should do because they throw your body into an even greater state of imbalance.
A good night’s sleep is essential to rest and recharge not only the mind, but the internal organs as well. This is particularly true for the liver, which in Eastern medicine is considered an important organ responsible for maintaining day-to-day physiological rhythms in the body. This view is not far off from the Western medicine perspective, which attributes the liver with many significant functions, including regulating components in blood, metabolizing fats and sugar, storing nutrients, synthesizing hormones and proteins, producing immune factors, and removing toxins. Eastern medicine also holds the liver responsible for maintaining a balanced emotional state, and associates the organ with functions that modern medicine considers to be part of the autonomic nervous system, a.k.a. our “fight-or-flight” and “rest-and-digest” responses. Stress, poor diet, alcohol, and bad sleep habits can disrupt the liver’s normal cycle, and subsequently, impair functions of other systems in the body. In fact, researchers have found evidence of the impact of sleep deprivation on liver health, and the link between irregular sleep patterns and liver fat production.
So next time you feel a little sluggish or irritated, maybe it’s your organs trying to tell you something. Instead of reaching for that stimulant for a little perk-me-up or suppressant to curb your stress, just try to get some sleep. Your life and schedule may be demanding, but so is your body and well-being, so make sleep a priority again and get it done.
A good night’s sleep is easy, natural, free, and most of all, your liver and other vital organs will thank you for not throwing it into a spiral of imbalance. Not only will you physically and emotionally feel better immediately after some quality sleep, your physiology will also improve.
For more insights on the physiology of good sleeping habits, check out WellnessFX to see how you can track and measure your progress!
Currently a student and clinic intern at American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine (ACTCM) in San Francisco, Teresa Lau believes that health should not be viewed as merely a lack of disease, but rather, a positive state of physical, mental, and social well-being. Teresa’s vision is to combine her clinical training in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with her background in Public Health to not only heal clients through acupuncture treatments and herbal remedies, but to also educate everyone on TCM perspectives of health and well-being in order to empower them with the knowledge and tools to make positive lifestyle, diet, and behavioral changes.