Improve Your Sleep with Qigong
How to Balance Your Chi for Deeper Rest
During an episode of insomnia, someone said, “God gives you the sleep you need.” It seemed blunt at the time, but I got the point: There’s often a purpose to our troubled sleep.
Just acknowledging there’s a lesson behind our insomnia can help, like viewing adversity as a teacher instead of a tormentor. We can choose learning over suffering.
We first stop worrying about sleep, because worry self-perpetuates the problem.
Instead, greet the unexpected late-night guest as a “teacher.” Make a hot beverage and sit down with your insomnia. See what they have to say, as running from a teacher will just delay the lesson.
The sleepy-eyed guide usually just wants us to live a more balanced life, closer to nature, to intuition, to our Source. This can mean an evening walk among trees instead of staring at television, reading a book instead of scrolling on a device, and focusing on peace of mind instead of high thread counts.
Knowing that sleep quality depends on how we spend the day helps. If we’re over-scheduled and stressed, it’s going to take longer to wind down.
And it’s good to “ramp down” from the day as evening approaches, slowing down activities and the mind, so by bedtime we’re already sleepy.
Of course, this can all be easier said than done, and sometimes we need additional help. For me, that arrived in the form of the ancient wisdom found in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM).
The physical exercises of TCM, which include breathwork and meditation, are called Qigong (“chee-gong”). The practice aims to bring a balanced yet empowered state of mind and body.
George Lucas was inspired by Qigong when he wrote Star Wars, as “The Force” is a metaphor for Chi (which translate to life-force energy).
So let’s approach insomnia like a Jedi would…
The cause of insomnia, according to the Ancients
A comprehensive study found a common cause for insomnia is too much fire element in the heart center, or “hyperactivity of fire due to yin deficiency.”
What causes too much fire in the heart center? Extreme emotions such as sadness, worry, fear, anger and even euphoria, says TCM.
These emotions lead to an imbalance of the yin-yang balance, bringing too much active “yang” energy, which can foster inflammation, restlessness, and insomnia.
A general remedy would be to boost yin energy, which is cooling, soothing, quiet and dim (think of the moon compared to the sun). Reading by candlelight is a good example of a yin activity.
Reducing the fire of insomnia
Qigong has 6 healing sounds to purge negative emotions from the organs. The sound to purge the heart center is like the sigh you’d make when falling into your favorite chair after a long day, “Haaaaaaa…” Combine this sound with stretching to reduce fire from the heart.
Meditation in Qigong focuses on bringing our energy to our lower dantian (energy center). This is located 2 inches below the belly button. There, it can be used for digestion, immune response and making us look vibrant. An easy meditation to focus our energy there is to watch your breath while inhaling into your belly with a smile. Let any thoughts drift away like clouds as you exhale, feeling the smiling energy grow in our lower dantian. Repeat until mind and heart feel more tranquil.
Herbs like Valerian root at bedtime and Ashwagandha during the day, as well as supplements like Vitamin D and magnesium, can work wonders for improving sleep quality and duration.
A trip to Vagus (the nerve, not the city) — Stimulate your vagus nerve, which activates the “rest-and-digest” response, through pressure points and stretches. Yawning, massaging the area around the eyes, and tugging on the ear lobes are good starts, as the vagus nerve is prevalent in those areas.
Subconscious reprogramming like listening to positive affirmations while asleep can go to the core of motivation and desire, helping free us from our own shadow thoughts.
“Let go and let God “— whether you’re religious or not, our spirituality (or lack thereof) plays a major role in how we sleep. Making an authentic connection with your Divine Source is a powerful way to extinguish the fire of worldly concerns.
Sweating — TCM says sweat is the “fluid” of the heart center, so any form of sweating is a good way to purge negative emotions.
Pressure points to stimulate healing and rest — Tapping points on the body can stimulate organs to remedy certain conditions. Here are some of the most powerful ones for insomnia:
Temple massage (Taiyang, which means great sun): Use two fingers to massage this area in circles, going both forward and backward, a great remedy for stress.
Wrist tapping: “Pericardium 6 Nei Guan (Inner pass gate)” — pushing between the tendons on wrist, feeling a slight sensation going up the arm, relieves throat and upper stomach tension. Tap both wrists points together, bumping them, to open the heart center and regulate chi to calm the mind. This point also harmonizes the stomach which can relieve nausea.
Another area to tap are the lower side of wrists: “Heart 7 Shen Men (Spirit Gate). Again, tapping the two wrist points together stimulates the proper areas.
Neck massage: Use your finger to massage in small circles the lower back of your neck “Gallbladder 20 Fengchi (Wind Pool)” circles. Then massage the Anmian (Peaceful Sleep). Both work well together to calm and tone our chi.
While massaging the Anmian point, end by sliding your fingers down under your chin to induce a restful state.
Qigong Exercises for Sleep (video)
This free lesson uses the above techniques: Qigong for Better Sleep.
A study published in the Journal of Health Research shows “Qigong stimulates the production of endorphins, reinforces the feeling of power during the day, and improves sleep quality during the night.”
So what are you waiting for? Learn Beginner’s Qigong Free!
Joe Moody shares ancient wisdom for modern minds at Club Qigong.
Standard disclaimer: None of the statements on this page should be construed as dispensing medical advice and/or making claims regarding the cure of diseases. You should consult a licensed health care professional before starting any supplement, dietary, or exercise program.