Circadian Rhythms in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic

The Yellow Emperor’s Inner Classic, the Huang Di Nei Jing, written in the 1st millennium BCE, is one of the two foundational texts of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture, and the first to discuss what are now known as Circadian Rhythms.

The Inner Classic contains much of the essential Chinese Medical theory that all later texts reference. Its the basis for both modern and classical Chinese acupuncture practice. One of the most basic notions discussed in the Nei Jing is the specific pathways of Qi flow through the Acupuncture channels from morning thru night. 

Living with the Seasons in Classical Chinese Medicine

The Nei Jing also gives very specific instruction on how to adjust our lifestyles and diets to the climate and the seasonsIn long days of Summer, for example, we can afford to stay up late; yet still get up early. Yang peaks in summer, so our Qi is at its most kinetic.

In Winter on the other hand, we are advised to go to bed early and sleep late. The idea is to not go against the flow; conserve your energy in the cold and dark, rest when Mother Nature rests, wait for the sun to warm the air before you go out. This way our internal solar energy, our yang, does not have to work over time.

Digital Devices, 24/7, and Disrupted Circadian Rhythms

But regardless of season, what is very consistent is that at nighttime we ARE supposed to sleep. Now here comes this article in Scientific American about how “Digital devices and 24/7 lifestyles are messing with our body’s natural circadian rhythms, threatening our health. What does it take to keep our inner clock ticking?”

Smart Phone Light Pollution and Insomnia

And here is another excellent article that describes the pernicious effects of one aspect of the smart phone addiction that permeates most societies, checking at night before bed. It also addresses the light pollution from televisions and other devices.

“Lately, however, scientists have been cautioning against using light-emitting devices before bed. Why? The light from our devices is “short-wavelength-enriched,” meaning it has a higher concentration of blue light than natural light—and blue light affects levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin more than any other wavelength.

Deleterious Effects of Sleep Disruption on Overall Health

“Changes in sleep patterns can in turn shift the body’s natural clock, known as its circadian rhythm. Recent studies have shown that shifts in this clock can have devastating health effects because it controls not only our wakefulness but also individual clocks that dictate function in the body’s organs.

In other words, stressors that affect our circadian clocks, such as blue-light exposure, can have much more serious consequences than originally thought.”

All of which makes total sense to the Yellow Emperor and anyone who practices classical Chinese Medicine or Ayurveda. Because the basis of good health is a healthy lifestyle. A healthy lifestyle is more than a healthy diet. Its also a healthy mental attitude. And a healthy mental attitude involves intelligent stress management.

And intelligent stress management includes knowing how to turn the outside world off. Night is to Day what Winter is to Summer. The time for storage. Sleep has such enormous restorative value on so many levels. That is why it says in the Nei Jing, that  “…good sleep, good digestion, good elimination, good prognosis….”

There are no shortcuts to good health. Yes, some of it in fact is the luck of your DNA. But whether you deplete what God gave you, or build on it, is a function of your lifestyle.

In the year 2020, healthy lifestyles can demand going against the societal grain. But, if you value your health, its worth it. Do you really have a choice?

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