9 Easy Ways to Optimize Sleep Quality

During hot summer nights, do you often fold back the sheets from your legs? Are you keen on strenuous exercise at night? Is your bedroom messy? These might be some habits to avoid for better sleep and overall health. Nine Practices to Adopt for Good Quality Sleep 1. Tidy and freshen your sleep environment. Minimize clutter in your bedroom. Keep it tidy, quiet, and well-ventilated. Fresh air will keep harmful bacteria and molds at bay. 2. Direct fans and drafts away from the body. During hot summer nights, many people direct electric fans to blow on over their bodies or open a window wide while sleeping. A wise and ancient saying reminds us that: “Avoiding the wind is like avoiding the sword.” This is especially true during sleep time to keep the body from becoming chilled or ill. I’ve twice had patients experience an interesting reaction to sleeping in windy rooms. One had used an electric fan directed over his body—blowing from head to toe for an entire hot summer night. The other slept in a room with the window open on a winter night, with a cold breeze blowing over his face while he slept. In both cases, they awoke with one-sided facial nerve paralysis. 3. Keep the body covered from the calf down. If the feet are exposed to wind while sleeping, the qi and blood in the body will not flow as normal, and when you wake up the next day, you may suffer from numbness, limpness, rheumatic joint pain, or other ailments. So even during hot nights, it is best to keep your calves under the coverage of a sheet. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), qi and blood are the most important fundamental substances necessary for life. The concept of “qi” can be understood as the “energy” or “vitality” that constitutes life in the body. This energy flows throughout the body to maintain life activities. Illnesses or other conditions only appear when there is a qi imbalance or deficiency in the body. 4. Turn off the lights. Light while sleeping can easily disturb the soul and cause uneasiness. Keep heaters away from your head to avoid waking with a heavy head, red and dry eyes, and dry a nose. The study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2022 found that even a moderate amount of light exposure during sleep had adverse effects on the participants’ health parameters. During the study, the participants spent one night sleeping in a mostly darkened room, followed by another night in a room with overhead light. The group exposed to the light had elevated heart rates throughout the night compared to those who slept in the dark. Additionally, the participants exposed to light had increased insulin resistance in the morning, indicating difficulty in regulating blood sugar levels. The findings of this study suggest that even relatively small amounts of light exposure during sleep can have noticeable effects on physiological processes related to cardiovascular and metabolic health. 5. Rest in the evening. TCM reminds us to “Work from sunrise and rest at sunset; nourish yang during the day and yin at night.” Intense exercise at night, such as playing sports, dancing, riding a bicycle, or jogging, can easily damage the yin, causing yin deficiency and yang hyperactivity. With the spirit thus aroused, it will be difficult to fall asleep. In TCM, the philosophy of yin-yang serves as a fundamental principle for understanding health and addressing illnesses. This philosophy is rooted in the concept that everything in the universe, including the human body, exists in a state of interconnectedness and balance between yin and yang. Yin and yang are complementary forces that are opposite in nature yet dependent on each other. Yin represents the cooler, quieter, and more nourishing aspects, while yang represents the warmer, active, and energizing aspects. These forces are not static but rather in a constant state of flux and transformation. According to TCM, the harmonious balance of yin and yang is vital for maintaining good health. 6. Avoid having too much water or food before going to bed. They can cause nocturia (waking at night to urinate) and indigestion and can adversely affect sleep quality, reduce body metabolism, and lead to obesity. Going to bed 3–4 hours after dinner is considered a good practice. 7. Remove dentures and restrictive clothing, such as bras. Dentures can loosen and even be swallowed during sleep, which is life-threatening. The concept that bras may be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer was initially proposed by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer in their book “Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras” published in 1995. The authors were inspired by a 1991 study conducted at Harvard University and published in the European Journal of Cancer and Clinical Oncology.  The findings revealed that pre-menopausal women who did not wear bras had a significantly lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to those who wore bras. Motivated by these finding

9 Easy Ways to Optimize Sleep Quality

During hot summer nights, do you often fold back the sheets from your legs? Are you keen on strenuous exercise at night? Is your bedroom messy? These might be some habits to avoid for better sleep and overall health.

Nine Practices to Adopt for Good Quality Sleep

1. Tidy and freshen your sleep environment. Minimize clutter in your bedroom. Keep it tidy, quiet, and well-ventilated. Fresh air will keep harmful bacteria and molds at bay.

2. Direct fans and drafts away from the body. During hot summer nights, many people direct electric fans to blow on over their bodies or open a window wide while sleeping. A wise and ancient saying reminds us that: “Avoiding the wind is like avoiding the sword.” This is especially true during sleep time to keep the body from becoming chilled or ill.

I’ve twice had patients experience an interesting reaction to sleeping in windy rooms. One had used an electric fan directed over his body—blowing from head to toe for an entire hot summer night. The other slept in a room with the window open on a winter night, with a cold breeze blowing over his face while he slept. In both cases, they awoke with one-sided facial nerve paralysis.

3. Keep the body covered from the calf down. If the feet are exposed to wind while sleeping, the qi and blood in the body will not flow as normal, and when you wake up the next day, you may suffer from numbness, limpness, rheumatic joint pain, or other ailments. So even during hot nights, it is best to keep your calves under the coverage of a sheet.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), qi and blood are the most important fundamental substances necessary for life. The concept of “qi” can be understood as the “energy” or “vitality” that constitutes life in the body. This energy flows throughout the body to maintain life activities. Illnesses or other conditions only appear when there is a qi imbalance or deficiency in the body.

4. Turn off the lights. Light while sleeping can easily disturb the soul and cause uneasiness. Keep heaters away from your head to avoid waking with a heavy head, red and dry eyes, and dry a nose.

The study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2022 found that even a moderate amount of light exposure during sleep had adverse effects on the participants’ health parameters.

During the study, the participants spent one night sleeping in a mostly darkened room, followed by another night in a room with overhead light. The group exposed to the light had elevated heart rates throughout the night compared to those who slept in the dark. Additionally, the participants exposed to light had increased insulin resistance in the morning, indicating difficulty in regulating blood sugar levels.

The findings of this study suggest that even relatively small amounts of light exposure during sleep can have noticeable effects on physiological processes related to cardiovascular and metabolic health.

5. Rest in the evening. TCM reminds us to “Work from sunrise and rest at sunset; nourish yang during the day and yin at night.” Intense exercise at night, such as playing sports, dancing, riding a bicycle, or jogging, can easily damage the yin, causing yin deficiency and yang hyperactivity. With the spirit thus aroused, it will be difficult to fall asleep.

In TCM, the philosophy of yin-yang serves as a fundamental principle for understanding health and addressing illnesses. This philosophy is rooted in the concept that everything in the universe, including the human body, exists in a state of interconnectedness and balance between yin and yang.

Yin and yang are complementary forces that are opposite in nature yet dependent on each other. Yin represents the cooler, quieter, and more nourishing aspects, while yang represents the warmer, active, and energizing aspects. These forces are not static but rather in a constant state of flux and transformation. According to TCM, the harmonious balance of yin and yang is vital for maintaining good health.

6. Avoid having too much water or food before going to bed. They can cause nocturia (waking at night to urinate) and indigestion and can adversely affect sleep quality, reduce body metabolism, and lead to obesity. Going to bed 3–4 hours after dinner is considered a good practice.

7. Remove dentures and restrictive clothing, such as bras. Dentures can loosen and even be swallowed during sleep, which is life-threatening.

The concept that bras may be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer was initially proposed by Sydney Ross Singer and Soma Grismaijer in their book “Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras” published in 1995.

The authors were inspired by a 1991 study conducted at Harvard University and published in the European Journal of Cancer and Clinical Oncology.  The findings revealed that pre-menopausal women who did not wear bras had a significantly lower risk of developing breast cancer compared to those who wore bras.

Motivated by these findings, Singer and Grismaijer conducted their own research between 1991 and 1993, involving 5,000 women. They found that the risk of breast cancer significantly increased in women who wore bras for more than 12 hours per day. Further studies are needed to establish a conclusive link between bra-wearing and breast cancer risk.

8. Avoid sleeping with wet hair. Sleeping on a warm and damp surface, such as wet hair on pillows and bedding, can create a potentially unfavorable environment for the face and scalp. The moisture from the wet hair can evaporate into the air or be absorbed by the bedding during the course of the night. This combination of warmth and moisture can create conditions that may contribute to certain issues.

The prolonged contact of the face and scalp with a warm and damp surface may lead to discomfort, such as skin irritation or itchiness. Additionally, the moisture can create a breeding ground for bacteria or fungi, potentially increasing the risk of skin or scalp infections. It’s also worth noting that excessive moisture and warmth can affect the natural balance of the skin and scalp, which may contribute to issues like excessive oiliness or dryness.

According to the TCM theory, wet hair during sleep may also cause headaches, swelling, dizziness, baldness, dark complexion, toothache, deafness, and white dandruff on the head.

To avoid these potential problems, it is generally recommended to ensure that hair is thoroughly dry before going to bed. This can be achieved by allowing sufficient time for the hair to air dry or using a hairdryer on a low heat setting. Additionally, using a clean and dry pillowcase can help maintain a more hygienic sleeping environment.

9. Turn off mobile devices and WiFi. The use of mobile devices is accompanied by a wide range of electromagnetic radiation of different frequencies and wavelengths, forming an electronic cloud, which may result in the disorder of the human nervous system and physiological functions. WiFi is like a base station emitting electromagnetic waves—a possible hazard to good health.