Beauty Sleep: When Science Meets Tradition 2

As I was browsing on the web today, I came across “The Latest Sleep Science on Skin“. What excited me most was how the “latest” sleep science echoes back to what had already been documented in Traditional Chinese Medicine over 2,000 years ago. And I’ll explain more in this post…

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) focuses on the unity of nature and your own self (physically and mentally), the balance of yin and yang and performing health practices based on specific time and four seasons of the year. What I am about to discuss below specially touches upon the last point: guarding your time well and performing health practices in harmony with how your internal body works. According to TCM, there are three periods of time when it is recommended that we stay in sleeping mode to optimize our health.

Chinese detox cycle

TCM believes that each body has 12 passages through which vital energy circulates (Jing Mai, or 经脉). There isn’t a specific English word for that. We can understand the passages as channels. The Chinese Detox Cycle includes three time frames during which our body cleanses itself best only when we are in sleeping mode: from 11p-2a (when the Channel of Gallbladder is most active), from 1-3a (when the Channel of Liver is most active) and from 3-5a (when the Channel of Lung is most active).

  • 11p-2a: according to Chinese culture, the time between 11p to 2a is the beginning of a day. This is when your body starts to build up the energy for the day. You will need to be in sleeping mode in order to optimize the energy building process. 11p-2a is the period when Gallbladder cleanses itself and replenishes its energy supply. TCM believes that the energy in Gallbladder determines the operation of the rest of the organs. It is recommended that we sleep at between 9p-11p, so that we can make sure we are in deep sleep mode by the time it gets to 11 o’clock.
  • 1-3a: sleeping at this time helps our liver cleanse itself, so that it can most effectively filter our bloodstream. If you are still awake during this time, your other organs might need more energy than when you are in the sleeping mode. They would be competing for energy against the liver. This might have a negative impact on the liver’s self-cleansing process, hence an influence on the filtering process and a lower quality of the filtered blood.
  • 3-5a: this stage requires us stay in deep sleep mode, when our lung heals itself and is most actively working. Being in deep sleep mode helps our lung optimize its performance in detoxifying itself and bringing more oxygen into our body. Similar to the case of the liver, if you do not sleep at this time, your other organs consume more energy than when you are in deep sleep mode. This way, the lung could not get access to the most energy possible between 3-5a. This would have a negative impact on the lung’s self-recovery process, oxygen production and quality of the reproduced blood stream.

How can this detox cycle trigger our skin problems and other health issues?

A good sleep maintains metabolism and stabilizes nervous system. Lack of sleep can cause bleary red eye and different kinds of skin problems such as psoriasis, eczema, acne, dull complexion, and loose skin. It can also influence your thinking process as your brain is not able to rest well overnight.

According to TCM, toxins in innate organs can be reflected as acne or other skin problems on different parts on our skin. This means that if our gallbladder, liver and lung cannot detoxify themselves properly at the time of their peak performance; and it may cause us acne later on.

TCM also believes that each of our innate organs has its own corresponding area in our body. Lung is connected to our hair and skin. Based on the theory, health conditions of the lung can determine whether or not we have glowing skin. So, one way to give the lung enough time and energy to heal itself is protecting it by staying in a deep sleep mode between 3-5a.

What is your first next step?

By now you may have checked out the latest sleep science I share with you at the beginning of the post. You see, both the latest western studies and Traditional Chinese Medicine demonstrate the importance of sleeping according to your circadian rhythm. So, sleep early (at the very least, “earlier”)!

I know, in today’s day and age, it is hard to keep a long night of deep sleep these days, as we have all kinds of stress and late-night habits such as watching TV, getting lost in social media and browsing internet just for fun. Some people even consider sleeping a waste of time as they think the time could have been used at work-related activities instead. The result? They may start developing chronic diseases over time; and some people become wealthy with the sacrifice of their health.  We should always understand that work is a marathon, that your professional achievement is a result of a work-life balance and enough rest, and that we do not need to sprint to get there. Therefore, we should rethink about the value of sleep, just as Arianna Huffington from Huffington Post says at TEDWomen, “shut your engine and discover the power of sleep!”

[ted id=1044 lang=en]

With that mentality, here are some tips I come up with for myself (obviously, like some of you, I do not go to sleep by 10p, either). I would like to share my plan with you here for your reference:

  • First thing first, have the message in mind that I have to sleep from 10p to 6a, even though I feel that the task is a bit daunting to me ; )
  • Start small: Often sleeping at around midnight (12:00a), I am trying to sleep at 11p these days. Are you sleeping at 1:00a right now? How about challenging yourself to sleep 30 mins earlier? Once you get used to sleeping at 12:30a, then you could set an even earlier time. Just like any diet change, getting into a new habit should not and can not happen overnight. Give your body some time to adjust to a new routine one baby step at a time.
  • Beauty Sleep by 10Make sure my face is clean by 10p: according to TCM, at around 10p to 11p, skin cells start renewing themselves at the fastest pace in the whole day.  Would you like to create a clean, toxin-free and makeup-free (for girls) environment for your skin when the cells are in the renewal process? If yes, it is recommended that we keep our face clean. From 10pm to 2am, it is the best time of the day for our skin to absorb whatever nutrition we put on our skin. So, make sure we put on our favorite moisturizer by 10pm. Okay, some of you might be thinking: what about partying late at night? Well, I will leave that to you to decide ; )
  • Get on an accountable community: I am using an app called “Lift” to keep track of habits I would like to keep. It is fun and simple to use. Each time you finish a habit, you just have to click on the “tick” sign; and it is recorded into the system. Overtime, the app will be able to tell you how often you do this habit per week and per month. You can then perform a quick analysis on the frequency to see whether you need any improvement and, if yes, how to do so.  Attached is a screenshot of my account to keep track of my habit of sleeping early. Apparently, there is still a distance from my end goal. But I am sleeping one hour earlier than before these days. So I can’t complain! Remember, one baby step at a time as long as you move towards the better.
A Screenshot of my Lift Account Showing How Often I sleep before 10p. Obviously not a very good outcome so far ;-(

A screenshot of my Lift account showing how often I sleep before 10p. It is obviously not a very good outcome so far ;-( But I will keep working on this!

  • Be productive at work: increasing my productivity at work will definitely allow me to finish tasks of the day in time, so that I can go to bed early. If you are into increasing your productivity, you can check out: LifeHack, Get Things Done, Wake Up Productive or The Now Habit, all of which serve as guidelines and important inspirations for my work during the day.  Hope you find them helpful.

How about you? Do you find that sleeping early can work wonders for your skin (personally, I do see and feel the difference when I go to bed before 10pm and sleep for 8 hours)? Please feel free to share your comments below;)

Note: the beautiful clock above is taken by Arjan Richter.

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