Monday, September 5, 2011

Renew Your Energy by Following a Traditional Chinese Medicine Schedule

Benjamin Apichai, a licensed acupuncturist and doctor trained in traditional Chinese medicine, sees dozens of Seattle patients who complain of chronic fatigue.

Tired-looking woman
Following the circadian rhythm of traditional Chinese medicine can renew your natural energy.

They're tired all the time. They've tried sleeping more. They've tried caffeine. What they have not tried, until visiting Dr. Apichai, is following the circadian rhythm of traditional Chinese medicine.

By aligning their daily schedule with "yang" times and "yin" times, many of his patients are able to renew their energy during the day without artificial stimulants. Dr. Apichai says anyone can benefit from two simple steps: going to sleep before 11 p.m. and exercising between 5 and 7 a.m.

"In the U.S., there are so many people who suffer from chronic fatigue," says Dr. Apichai, a clinical faculty member at Bastyr Center for Natural Health. "Is it because they don't drink enough coffee? No. Is it because they have malnutrition? No. It’s because they don't have enough yang qi."

It's About Balance

Unlike Western medicine's focus on the absence of disease, the heart of traditional Chinese medicine is maintaining balance between primal life forces, particularly yang qi (pronounced "chi") and yin qi. Practitioners divide the day into yin times (11 a.m. to 11 p.m.) and yang times (11 p.m. to 11 a.m.). Each contains six two-hour periods, each one best for certain activities.

It's not as complicated as it sounds. By falling asleep before yang time begins at 11 p.m., sleepers are able to get good rest and wake up refreshed, Dr. Apichai says.

"Patients tell me they can't fall asleep so early," he says. "I tell them to lay in bed and meditate, or read a book."

Before artificial lighting disconnected our daily schedules from the sun's schedule, people followed this rhythm more closely, he adds.

The next key, Dr. Apichai says, is to exercise early in the morning, between 5 and 7 a.m. Parks in China are busiest during this time, with people practicing tai chi, qigong and other physical activities. This provides energy and alertness for the rest of the day, says Dr. Apichai, who earned his Doctor of Medicine at Jinan University Medical School in China.

The other good news: It gets easier to get up early the more you do it. "I've seen many patients with chronic fatigue, and this schedule helps so much," Dr. Apichai says. "Once they have learned how to follow it, they don't need to come back for treatment."

Following Nature's Rhythms

There has been little scientific research to validate the traditional Chinese time cycle in Western terms, Dr. Apichai says (even the term "exercise" fits Western health concepts more than Eastern ones.) However, the phenomena of circadian rhythms — natural 24-hour cycles — has been widely observed in biochemical, physiological or behavioral processes in the natural world. (Some flowers open and close based on this schedule, for example.)

For people who work night shifts or can't follow the circadian cycle for other reasons, Dr. Apichai says it's still best to try to get physical activity early in the day.

Furthermore, eating the right food helps to maintain a yin-yang balance and allows organs to produce qi for daytime energy and nighttime sleep quality.

And for those who want to delve further into following a traditional Chinese medicine schedule, he recommends seeing an acupuncturist at Bastyr Center for Natural Health. To make an appointment, call (206) 834-4100.

FALL 2015
Have questions about a program?
Request information »

More Health Tips

Conserve resources and save money by cooking with less water.

Planning your picnic in advance can gives you more time to enjoy your family and the great outdoors.

Eating more fermented foods like lassi, kimchi and miso is a delicious way to boost your immune system and introduce good bacteria and important vitamins into your diet.

Be a part of the heirloom revolution! Heirlooms taste better, are adapted to local growing conditions, and can improve the security of our food system.

The more we can elongate our muscle fibers, the more we can ensure maximum functionality when it comes to movement through our daily lives.

In general, fish caught outside the Fukushima area have levels of radiation far below acceptable limits, but long-term effects of the disaster are still unknown.

Subscribe to Newsletters

CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
2 + 1 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.