Relaxation techniques used to help us sleep better have been around for thousands of years in one form or another so the problem of interrupted sleep patterns have also been a part of our lives for as long.
In their infinite wisdom the ancient Chinese believed insomnia and generally sleepless nights to be the product of a broken energy force or what they call qi.
This energy, according to Chinese medicine flows along meridians throughout the organs of the body, which is controlled by the opposing, but complementary forces, yin and yang.
Any sleep disturbance could be attributed to an imbalance of these two forces within a particular organ.
So, for instance, a restless sleep pattern is a signal that there is a problem with the energy force in the kidneys whereas broken sleep caused by illuminated dreams is the result of an imbalance that is connected with the heart or liver.
The Chinese beliefs in the properties of yin and yang in control of the energy force qi within the body and between the organs, was very strong and so they developed areas of discipline that tries to redress the imbalance.
It’s an exercise that uses distinct and slow movements and one ideally suited for relaxation in preparing for a good night’s sleep. It encourages better circulation of the energy force through the body as well as focusing the mind.
Whatever the Chinese believed about yin and yang and qi, the benefits of this relaxing form of exercise to promote good quality sleep is undoubted as it helps greatly in the release of physical and mental tension in preparedness for a relaxing sleep. This is great news for our anxiety levels. Anxiety is the prime reason for restless sleep and anything that is a relaxation technique for anxiety is also a good sleeping tip.
As well as physically and mentally relaxing, this exercise benefits our posture as well as increasing muscle strength, control and suppleness.
Tai Chi is a form of exercise first thought to have been used by an Indian monk in the 6th century. It then evolved and by the 14th century it’s positions were better defined and then it became a gentle movement from one static position to another.
Regardless of age or disability it’s an exercise that anyone can benefit from and the Chinese gather in large groups early in the morning to practise outside in the fresh air (maybe not as fresh in the cities these days).
However, Tai Chi is not only practised in the mornings and can be used just before sleep time as a way to create a wonderful feeling of relaxation in readiness for a good night’s sleep.
Anticipating a solid night’s sleep try a couple of exercises about an hour before retiring to bed.
Stand with your feet slightly apart in parallel with the shoulders. Bring your left and right palms up to meet your shoulders. Then make circular motions with your elbows as wide as possible. Go one way for half a minute then the opposite way for another half a minute.
Next standing as before, hold your arms, parallel to the floor. Raise one arm as high as you can, reaching for the sky whilst plunging the other arm to the floor.
Hold for 15 seconds then reverse the arms for a further 15 seconds.
Complete both exercises 2 or 3 times. For extra sleep promotion try doing the exercises in a quiet, coolish and darkish room which is how your bedroom should be before going to sleep anyway.
There will be more sleep relaxation techniques and sleeping tips coming soon.