Sleep & The Chi Cycle

newletter-sleep-secrets-chi-cycle-oneSarah Knight, PhD, RM

How energy flows through the body is intrinsically linked to how we function during the day, and how we sleep at night. If you have ever lain in bed in the middle of the night, eyes wide open, mind and body alert, then you will have a clear understanding of this.

Life force energy, or “chi”, moves through our bodies in a 24 hour cycle. Just like a boat travelling down a river, there are specific times of the day where our chi is most active along certain energetic pathways (called “meridians”) in the body. For example, most people rise during stomach time, 7-9 am, when the stomach chi is most active. This is a good time to have your first meal, and signals to the rest of the body that you have arrived in to this new day. 

In order to keep our bodies and minds in harmony, we should be living in harmony with our chi-cycle, keeping our activities in rhythm with how energy is flowing through our systems. While eating breakfast supports our flow of energy, eating late at night does not. Liver time is 1-3 am, and as the liver is all about recovery (which any hangover sufferer is well aware of), if we put stress on the liver by eating late at night and asking it to process at a time when it should be recovering, then we are not allowing either the organ, or our chi, to properly recover and prepare for the next day.

Keeping your daily rhythms in harmony with your chi cycle and still can’t sleep?  Well sometimes, depending on the day you might have had, a little more is required! Here are a few practical energy tips.

If an overactive nervous system is to blame, try Dr. Andrew Weil’s “4-7-8 breath”:

  1. Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound.
  2. Close your mouth and inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of four.
  3. Hold your breath for a count of seven.
  4. Exhale through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to a count of eight.
  5. This is one breath. Repeat until you fall asleep! It might take nightly practice, but the more you do it, the better it works.

If the physical body is too charged up, try shaking your body before you climb into bed, with the intention of shaking out stress, excess and anxiety. Donna Eden’s “Heaven and Earth” stretch is also a great pre-bed activity:

  1. Standing with your feet flat on the floor, hands on your thighs, swing your arms out to your sides, inhaling through the nose as you do.
  2. Exhale through the mouth and bring your hands to the centre of your body, in the prayer position in front of your heart.
  3. Inhale through the nose, and push one hand up towards the ceiling and the other hand down towards the floor. Looking up, hold here for a moment.
  4. Exhale through the mouth, and bring your hands to your centre, in prayer position.
  5. Inhale, and push one hand up, the other down, on the opposite side.
  6. Exhale, bringing your hands back to centre in prayer position.
  7. Repeat this cycle 2 more times, then bend over at the waist, letting the top half of your body hang loose, and taking 2 more deep breaths.
  8. Slowly roll up your spine until you are standing.