The story of sleep.

The story of sleep.

According to, 30% of Australians experience insomnia at some point in their lives, although only 5% require professional treatment. Insomnia can last for a short time, or months, even years. Women and elderly people are more likely to suffer from it.

In clinic, we do see and hear about bad sleeping habits more often these days. The challenges of life and existence are not always easy to manage. Often problems with sleeping comes up in the conversation in combination with something else.

According to a Professor Matthew Walker, a Neuroscientist with a special interest in the science of sleep says: “Two-thirds of adults throughout all developed nations fail to obtain the recommended the recommended eight hours of nightly sleep”.  Eight hours of sleep for adults are recommended by both the WHO (World Health Organisation) as well as the National Sleep Foundation.

An article in Psychology Today debates if sleep deprivation is considered torture or not and further states: “The first signs of sleep deprivation are unpleasant feelings of fatigue, irritability, and difficulties concentrating.  Then come problems with reading and speaking clearly, poor judgment, lower body temperature, and a considerable increase in appetite.  If the deprivation continues, the worsening effects include disorientation, visual misperceptions, apathy, severe lethargy, and social withdrawal.” Individuals will die if sleep continues to be deprived.

In Chinese medicine, we believe that the importance of sleep is under rated simply based on the balance of Yin and Yang. Yin being the inactive, quiet part. The phase where we internalise and consciousness withdraws into the ‘centre of the blood’, the most Yin part of our body. Our sensory organs are ‘shut’ to avoid stimulation and the blood replenishes.


The foundation of sleep

Our biology bases our entire health and wellbeing on sleep. And yes, based on eight hours of sleep per night, we will sleep away 30% of our existence, but if we don’t, we may experience impaired health. Thousands of studies have established the importance of sleep for any organism on this planet that lives past several days. It’s essential to our existence (and survival), no matter how foolish it seems.

Nature helps us in establishing a good rhythm which is called the circadian circle. It responds to the changes of light in our environment.  It’s important to know, that we all form our own rhythm and hence some people prefer to rise early, and others stay up late. The cycle also controls our preferred times for eating, the fluctuation of body temperature, moods and emotions, the amount of urine that we produce, the metabolic rate and the release of hormones.  Once we have discovered and established our cycle, it’s best to honour it.

The structure of sleep

NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement) sleep
It includes all of the stages of sleep other than REM (Rapid Eye Movement). These stages of sleep vary in depth from stage 1 (lightest) to stage 4 (deepest). Stages 3 and 4 are considered deep sleep and this is where most of the physical restoration occurs. At this stage, growth hormone is produced, and cellular repair begins in NREM.

REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep
It’s the deepest of all the stages of sleep. It usually takes up about 25 percent of our sleep time. REM comes in short bursts at first and lasts for only a few minutes but then it gradually stretches into longer time segments. REM is great for building memory as during this phase, the brain moves information from short term to long term memory.

As the body seems to be in a paralyzed stage and doesn’t move, the eyes move quickly from side to side. They remain closed whilst doing so. Heavy dreaming accompanies the REM phase of our sleep. As we age, the sleep architecture changes and we spend less time in deep sleep and tend to wake easier after the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) phase.


What’s detrimental to good sleep

According to Professor Matthew Walker there are five key factors that have powerfully changed the quality of our sleep:

Constant electric and LED lights

At dusk, when natural light fades, the part of our brain that is in charge of our internal clock (the suprachiasmatic nucleus) floods our system with melatonin that signals our body that darkness is near and it’s time to prepare for bed and sleep.

With constant lights around us (especially when we live in the city), this natural process is inhibited and the prepared of the body for sleep is delayed or impaired. The invention of LED (Light Emitting Diodes) made the situation worse, as the light receptors in our eyes that communicate with the brain are sensitive to the short-wavelengths light that LED’s emit and thus the release of melatonin is suppressed more strongly.

We might not look at LED powered light sources all night, but we might stare at LED-powered screens: smart phones, tablets, laptops, TV’s. Those devices emanate a blue light that has harmful effects on our bodies preparing for sleep.

Regulated temperatures

Body temperature has to drop by about one-degree Celsius to be conducive to sleep. Our body temperature is regulated by the hypothalamus Those cells in that particular endocrine gland live close to the suprachiasmatic nucleus, the part of the brain that regulates the release of melatonin.

Core temperature can drop if we cool parts of the body’s surface like the hands, feet and the face. If you are feeling hot, give your extremities and your face some cooling down with a cold compress and your core temperature is able to drop that one degree to prepare our bodies for sleep.

Now living in air-conditioned homes, we have severed the natural relationship with our environment that signals the body the onset of night with cooler temperatures hanging around. This is one more reason why air conditioners seem appealing but are not supportive of our health, except in some circumstances.

Professor Matthew Walker recommends a bedroom temperature of 18.3 degrees Celsius assuming that the standard bedding and clothing made from natural fibres is used as well. There are slight varieties based on gender, age and unique physiology but you will know what’s right for you.


Adenosine is the chemical that builds in our brains when our body requires sleep. With every waking minute, the build up grows and the desire to sleep increases. There is one chemical that counteracts this process and its called caffeine. Caffeine is the most used psychoactive stimulant in the world and apparently the second highest commodity traded after oil.

Caffeine fights for the adenosine receptors. In this way, caffeine blocks the sleep signal and that’s how we feel more awake and alert. In pharmacological terms, caffeine has a half-life (which means that build up of it in the body halves) in five to seven hours. For instance, if you have a cup of brewed coffee at 7.30am in the morning, (which contains an average of 95mg of caffeine), six hours later, at 1.30pm, there is still 44.5mg of caffeine in the system.

This amount halves again in the next five to seven hours, which means that at 7.30pm, an amount of 22.25mg of caffeine is still in the system. Most people do not realise how long it takes the body to clear caffeine out of the system. This certainly explains why drinking coffee (eating chocolate or ice-cream that may contain caffeine) is not the best idea if you find it hard to sleep at night.

By the way, de-caffeinated coffee still contains caffeine: about 15-30% of the amount of regular coffee. 


In contrast to our expectation for alcohol to relax us, it actually sedates us which doesn’t mean that our sleep improves. Alcohol is a powerful sedative and suppressor of the important REM phase of sleep. Alcohol also fragments sleep, which you might not remember, because you have been sedated by its effects.

As a result, sleep is broken, and its restorative effects are lost. Over time, this will build up and lack of continuous sleep (during the night) will have harmful effects. The body will go to the extent of disrupting the REM phase into waking consciousness as hallucinations, delusions and disorientation. Just to show how important the REM phase is for our health and wellbeing.

Women are more susceptible to the effects of alcohol due to delayed metabolism of alcohol in the system. Alcohol is literally flowing around the body for longer because the update is inhibited by a larger content of fatty tissue.

Waking with alarm clocks

How do you feel about living in an industrialised world, where most of us start and finish work at the same time? Nine to Five? Being rattled out of our slumber and worse, repeatedly shocking the cardiovascular system with the snooze button, over and over again?

We are actively working against our unique circadian rhythm unless, our own rhythm reflects the nine to five cycle. A study showed that participants being woken from sleep prematurely with an alarm clock, suffer a spike in blood pressure and an acceleration of the heart rate triggered by the fight and flight response of the nervous system.


What’s great for better sleep

With all the information provided, it’s easy to work out which activities promote quality sleep and why:

  • Use candlelight or turn off LED lights at night, particularly leading up to bedtime
  • Switch off screens such as smart phones, tablets and TV’s and read a book to avoid the harmful effects of blue light on sleep
  • Turn off air conditioner so your body can naturally adjust to environmental temperatures and pick up the cool breeze at dusk, signaling the end of the day and sleep ahead
  • Stop drinking alcohol if you want to catch a good night sleep, particularly if you are a woman
  • Don’t drink excessive amounts of coffee particularly after midday or make coffee an exception rather than a necessity

When treating sleeplessness with Chinese medicine, we determine the pattern causing insomnia. Secondly, we treat the imbalance with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicines and discuss sleep hygiene.

Table 1 – Source:

Following are the 10 most common Chinese medicine patterns for insomnia:

Chinese medicine pattern Chinese name Subjects with insomnia (N = 9499)
Number of subjects (%)
Deficiency of both the heart and spleen 心脾 兩虛 2378 (25.0)
Hyperactivity of fire due to yin deficiency 陰虛 火旺 1622 (17.1)
Liver-qi stagnation transforming into fire 肝鬱 化火 921 (9.7)
Heart-kidney noninteraction 心腎 不交 767 (8.1)
Qi deficiency of the heart and gallbladder 心膽 氣虛 544 (5.7)
Internal disturbance of phlegm-heat 痰熱 466 (4.9)
Liver fire flaming upward 肝火 上擾 285 (3.0)
Heart deficiency with timidity 心虛 膽怯 202 (2.1)
Stomach disharmony 胃腑 不和 120 (1.3)
Stomach qi disharmony 胃氣 不和 44 (0.5)

The pattern of insomnia is most likely connected to other signs and symptoms. The application of tongue and pulse diagnosis and well as looking at your circumstances, enables us to suggest a treatment strategy.

Make an appointment today, if you suffer from insomnia and would like to tap into natural treatment modalities to help you catch a good and restful night of sleep (full of dreams), call us today 03 5956 7011 or book online now.



Children are full of yang (the energy that makes them grow and develop). We consider them fully physically developed by the age of 7 (girls) and 8 (boys). But as parents we know how easily they bring home sniffles and snotty noses and generously pass them on to us as well, especially in those early years. As annoying as that might be, it’s important for them to be exposed to ‘bugs’ in the environment and ‘run’ fevers to fine tune their immune system. It’s only when they are really weakened – perhaps to unrelenting exposure and ‘infection’ – that there is need for intervention.

As us adults, everything starts with their diet, they are what they eat. If they eat a lot of sugary foods, the endocrine system is in overdrive, flooding the entire system with hormones and the result is, that they become hyperactive.

So here it is, it’s ok to give kids a bland diet of freshly prepared vegetables, some grains and a small amount of proteins, preferably all food that you give your child is not coming out of a packet and is cooked. Chinese medicine doesn’t believe in raw food diets as it puts too much pressure on the digestive system.

In recent years the gut-brain connection has been well established. According to Chinese medicine, the gut also stabilises and nurtures the immune system (via the spleen and the lungs). We never have too much immunity, we always lack it and hence become more susceptible to disease. If your child experience issues with digestion, it’s best to address it early as it’s easier to fix. We treat children as early as six months old. And yes, we also use acupuncture with real needles, but don’t worry, all children love it once they find out how painless it is.

If your child has issues with low immunity or reoccurring gut issues, acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicines are great modalities to assist. We use simple point combinations or liquid herbal formulas to correct the body’s imbalance, no matter what the disease is called.

Ideally, we only give herbs for a short period of time, simply to correct the disharmony by a combination of flavours and once the imbalance is addressed and corrected, herbs can be stopped. Kids being more ‘pure’ and ‘unburdened’ usually don’t take very long to bounce back, remember, they are full of yang (which is the energy that drives all processes in the body).

If you have any concerns with your children’s development in any way, please make an appointment with one of our practitioners today.


At Safflower we offer children’s consults at a reduced rate of only $65 for initials and $45 for subsequent appointments. Speak to one of our qualified therapists today to see how we can help with your child’s heath and well being

Menopause – A Time of Change And New Opportunities

Menopause – A Time of Change And New Opportunities

As our female bodies prepare for the transition of perimenopause to menopause (when the periods have stopped for more than 12 months), it’s important to be aware of many physical changes taking place.  

Before menopause when women are fertile, oestrogen is produced mainly in the ovaries. Ovaries are grape-sized glands located by the uterus and are part of the endocrine system. After the cessation of the menstrual cycle, the body still makes small amounts of oestrogen by changing hormones called androgens into oestrogen. Androgens are produced by the adrenal glands, located above the kidneys. A hormone called aromatase changes androgens into oestrogen. Aromatase is produced mainly by fatty tissue.  

Oestrogen is no longer important for reproduction as we mature, but it still plays a key role in other bodily functions:  

  • It maintains blood vessels and vascular health  
  • Supports skin function, skin texture and hydration  
  • Retains salt and water for hydration and fluid balance in the body  
  • Increases bone strength and calcium for bone health  
  • Decreases cortisol and stress responding mechanisms  
  • Manages gastro-intestinal tract by: 
    • Improving smooth muscle function of the intestines and the stomach  
    • Reducing bowel motility  
    • Increasing cholesterol in bile  
  • Promotes lung function by supporting alveoli  
  • Assists thyroid function  
  • Regulates immune function  
  • Increases platelet adhesion and coagulation  
  • Supports brain health  

Inflammation and oxidative levels increase with age, making us more susceptible to a variety of age-related conditions. The drop of oestrogen at midlife will increase oxidative stress and inflammatory cytokines in the body. Cytokines are messengers in our bodies, creating certain reactions in our system and they play an important role in immunity. It’s vital to support all bodily functions with a clean, fresh and versatile diet. High acidity which promotes inflammation and vice versa can be targeted with an alkalizing diet, which means cutting out junk food or things that come out of a packet. It also means having fewer animal products, sugars, grains and alcohol.  

Hot flushing  

Hot flushes and night sweats are experienced by 70% of women undergoing menopause. Fluctuating amounts of oestrogen upset the body temperature thermostat and the brain signals that the body is too hot. It’s similar to a stress response that is activated and hence the dread and anxiety that sometimes accompanies hot flushes.  

A stress response involves the release of adrenaline and cortisol and these key hormones prepare our body for fight or flight which causes an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and a boost in energy supplies. This is important in a situation where there is threat but is unhealthy when it becomes our normal state of being. High levels of adrenaline and cortisol in the system will not only deplete the adrenals glands but also have an adverse effect on our health.  

High stress levels in menopause reduces the body’s ability to make androgens which convert into oestrogen. Ongoing stress situations will also deplete serotonin levels and hence create depression and mood disorders.  

Body weight gain  

As these hormonal changes take place leading up to, during and after menopause, women lose their waist because we gain more fatty tissue around our abdomen. Its natural and acceptable to increase healthy body weight by around 5kg post menopause. Too much abdominal fat, however, will adversely affect our health and could result in a condition called ‘Metabolic syndrome’ which results from overweight and is associated with abdominal obesity, blood fat disorders, inflammation, insulin resistance, full-blown diabetes, and increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease. During menopause where our bodies are switching from a childbearing to a non-reproductive phase, to be under- or overweight can be an additional complication.  

Migraines with or without aura  

Headaches are more common in females because of their highly sensitive hormonal balance. Due to stronger fluctuation of oestrogen in menopause and particularly related to the ratio of progesterone and oestrogen, headaches might become more predominant during the transition of perimenopause to menopause.  

Sleep disturbances  

Sleep disturbances are often a primary complaint in menopausal women. Staying asleep without waking is a bigger problem than falling asleep. Sleep problems are not necessarily a primary symptom of menopause but can be aggravated by:  

  • High levels of stress  
  • Poor health in general  
  • Mental illness  
  • Sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea, insomnia, restless leg syndrome  
  • Hormonal changes  

A structured sleep routine is best to assist the chaos of perimenopause, so the brain can easily release the hormones needed at the right time. For instance, establishing a routine of going to bed and waking at the same time assist your body in balancing the circadian cycle.  

The body must cool down for sleep so use layers of natural fibres in bed, rather than one big doona that might overheat you. Tire your body before going to bed, turn off the screens (TV, Phone, other electronic devices) and calm your brain with meditation, light reading or any other relaxation technique that works for you. If there are primary sleep disorders such as sleep apnoea, you will need to address these too.  

Bone health  

One of oestrogen’s benefits is to protect your bones and help keep them strong and healthy. When oestrogen levels drop, many women lose bone density and a loss of bone strength and mineral density make women susceptible to fractures.  

Many lifestyle factors are important to good bone health: Stop smoking (if you still are), lose weight (if you are too heavy), clean up your diet, get moving and have your prescription medication regularly assessed by your medical professional as some medication will affect bone density.  

Vitamin D is a hormone and assists the absorption of calcium and is important for bone health and 15 minutes of sunshine on arm and legs can go a long way when it comes to good health. Eggs, tuna and salmon also contain a healthy dose of Vitamin D. 

Exercise is important for our cardiovascular health as well as for bone density and weight bearing and resistance training is best for stronger bones. Walking, skipping or tennis and other forms of exercise improve our metabolism and help maintain good physical range and function.  


In Australia, breast cancer rates are high but thankfully most women affected by breast cancer will not die from it. Breasts are loaded with oestrogen receptors and when oestrogen is in the blood stream, the receptors will soak it up. This will generate cell growth which is how our breasts grow initially during puberty but if there are excessive amounts of oestrogen, it can stimulate cancer growth. Excessive oestrogen levels may result from HRT (Hormone Replacement Therapy) or many years of taking the contraceptive pill. Another cause could also be starting periods at a younger age or finishing at an older age because the system would have a longer exposure to extra oestrogen.  

HRT can be derived from bioidentical hormones (they are identical chemically to those our bodies produce naturally and are made from plant oestrogens) and these are different to the traditional HRT, which is composed of the urine of pregnant horses and other synthetic hormones. 

Breasts are still important for post-menopausal hormone production. As women age, the fat cells in their breasts tend to produce greater amounts of an enzyme called aromatase. Aromatase promotes the production of oestrogen by changing androgens to oestrogen. We require a good balance of aromatase in breast tissue, so we have the right amount of oestrogen.  

Heart Health  

Oestrogen plays an important role in cardiovascular health: 

  • It dilates blood vessels to lower blood pressure  
  • It increases good cholesterol (HDL)  
  • It decreases platelet clotting  
  • It lowers fat deposits in arterial walls  
  • It triggers chemicals to keep the blood flowing  
  • It regulates insulin  

Its assumed that overstimulation of the sympathetic nervous system resulting from lower levels of oestrogen after menopause can cause irregular heartbeats and palpitations.  

Cardiovascular risk factors are higher post menopause and must be addressed early. Many cardiovascular factors are related to our body weight and the way we eat. The better you monitor your weight and ensure that it’s within the accepted dimensions, the better you will feel overall. It’s almost as simple as that.  

Brain health  

Haziness, forgetfulness, brain fog, losing words are all part of the process of change when the body stops producing oestrogen in the ovaries and instead adopts to the post-fertile phase of womanhood.  

Oestrogen, as you may have guessed already is an important ‘brain player’. It regulates neuronal biochemistry. The structure and function related to cognitive and emotional processes. Research is not quite able yet to pinpoint exactly to what extent oestrogen is involved. Oestrogen is so important to brain function that it has its own endocrine gland – the hypothalamus – to produce oestradiol which is a type of oestrogen to support brain function. This production buffers the supply of oestrogen in times of great female hormone fluctuations like puberty, pregnancy and menopause.  

Oestrogen also impacts our cognitive function and hence the ‘symptoms’ that sometimes accompany the peri- menopausal and post-menopausal phase. Oestrogen is involved in memory, problem solving, information processing, reaction time, language and emotional regulation, so you start to see why we experience brain fog, forgetfulness, memory loss and similar cognitive functions. The good news is it doesn’t last!  

Change of life means that our bodies are making changes to our chemistry that are no longer relying on oestrogen production in the ovaries. Oestrogen is such an important hormone and messenger and supports many functions, so it’s important that those ‘system changes’ are done properly and over time.  

The onset of menopause is truly the start of a new era and there is nothing wrong with celebrating it with a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Having the right amount of oestrogen floating in our system is the key to a happy, healthy and vital life beyond menopause.  

In Chinese medicine theory  

From a Chinese medicine perspective, menopause is the onset of Yin deficiency. Yin embodies the principles of passivity, female, earth, dark, cold and more. So, when Yin is deficient it allows the rise of Yang which causes some symptoms like hot flushes, night sweats, irritability etc. So, for instance to address a Yin deficiency situation, we supplement the body with Yin-type nourishing herbs and acupuncture protocols to ultimately boost the potential lack of oestrogen in our bodies. Frequently there is a variety of patterns in menopausal women as everyone presents differently. Nevertheless, the changes that our bodies undergo with peri-menopause, menopause and post-menopause can be similar. It’s important to understand also that it’s not a condition, it’s simply a modification and adaptation to a new situation.  

Chinese medicine includes several modalities such as acupuncture and Chinese herbs. We have a range of formulas that we use depending on your situation and the way we tailor those formulas to your need is based on a treatment strategy that we agree on in support of your situation. Most women respond positively to both acupuncture and or Chinese herbs.  

What you eat every day is your responsibility, but we will certainly address dietary optimization and most importantly, we understand that menopause is an important (and exciting) phase in a woman’s life and we are here to support you. We have done so with many other women in the past, and we can confidently say that the results have been very positive.  

Hello September! Whats on this month at Safflower

Hello September! Whats on this month at Safflower


Yep it’s time to say thanks to all the amazing dads out there and what better way to say thank you then a gift voucher for a  acupuncture or massage treatment with one of our skilled therapists? Treatments are tailored toeach individual so you can be sure he will be getting just what he needs this fathers day! Call us on 03 5956 7011 to find out more!

Book Now!


Spring has officially arrived!  For most of us the warmer months will be a welcome change to the Winter just passed, unless of course you are one of the 18% of Australians who suffer from Seasonal Allergic Rhinitis (hay fever). The presence of increased pollen in the air this time of year can cause an overreaction of the immune system leading to symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, itchy nose, chills, sweating, asthma or malaise. This is due to immune cells releasing the irritating compound histamine in response to allergens in the environment. Apart from living on antihistamines, sufferers can take steps to improve their symptoms and gain a better understanding of their body processes.

Click to read more about what you can do to help reduce the severity of hay fever symptoms.


In Traditional Chinese medicine Spring is attributed to the wood element and the liver and gallbladder organs. The Liver plays a major role in your body system. It works to remove toxins from the body, produces bile and preforms essential metabolic functions. In TCM the Liver is said to regulate the Qi of the entire body, it also stores the Blood and thus plays a big part in overall health and well-being. Signs of bad liver health may include a yellow or pale complexion, acne, eye problems (such as bloodshot eyes or blurry vision), muscular weakness, insomnia, migraines, vertigo and menstrual irregularities. The liver also helps to regulate emotions, so unexplained irritability and anger can also indicate a liver problem. It’s important to note that many liver detoxifying methods use cold and draining herbs and while this may work for some, many people will damage their digestive fire if too many cold herbs are consumed. For this reason, we recommend seeing one of our dedicated practitioners to delve deeper into your unique constitution and discover the best ways to promote your health.

Click here to learn about some foods that may help promote healthy Liver function.

Let’s Spice Things Up!

Let’s Spice Things Up!

Many of us are familiar with our spicy friend called ginger, but do you know just how potent this little rhizome is?

Rhizoma Zingiberis Recens, commonly known as fresh ginger, is native to the warm parts of Asia and is often added as pungent flavouring for soups, stir-fries and sweets. Ginger is frequently used in Chinese medicine for a variety of ailments and this time of year is the perfect time to start adding it into your daily food regime.

Chinese medicine defines ginger as warming and tonifying, it enters the Lung, Spleen and Stomach meridians, induces perspiration and expels cold from the body. Placed in the herbal category of ‘Releasing the Exterior” ginger is traditionally used to push disease out from the superficial layer of the body making it perfect for colds and flus. It warms the lungs and stops coughing and its spicy nature helps to break up phlegm.

It is also said to warm the digestion and stop vomiting and is often used to aid in the relief of digestive complaints such as nausea, morning sickness, diarrhea, constipation and IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Compounds found in ginger are known to help relieve GI (Gastro Intestinal) irritation and stimulate saliva and bile production. It also seems to have positive effects on the enzyme trypsin and pancreatic lipase, increasing motility through the digestive tract.

The spicy warm nature of ginger makes it ideal for those who are easily affected by the cold. If you feel your energy levels dropping coming into the cold months or notice that your hands and feet are always cold, then ginger is a great start to help build your internal fire and get your circulation moving.

Modern research has shown that high doses of ginger powder could be beneficial in the treatment of menstrual pain and osteo arthritis and further research is being conducted to uncover the mechanisms and potential health benefits of this widely used spice. To find out how best to nurture your body through these cold months book your appointment with us today or simply call 5956 7011.