“I do sport because I love doing it. But I have a secret weapon,” Olympian Eileen Gu, also known by her Chinese name Gu Ailing, told reporters at a press conference. “My secret weapon is that since childhood, I have every night, had 10 hours of sleep. That’s how I grew up.”
Gu, who recently became the youngest Olympic champion to win gold in freestyle skiing at age 18 at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics has been professionally skiing since the age of 14. The American-Chinese sportswoman who has also modelled for the likes of Louis Vuitton and Fendi, credits the bulk of her ability on her sleep prowess.
“How did I do it? It’s sleep. It’s really sleep. Sleep stimulates body and brain growth,” Gu explains. “But at the same time, sleep is also a time of revision. So I’ll just review everything that I learned that day. Actually, I usually do that when I sleep. Ah, I dream of skiing or class, what I did that day, so I can wake up the next morning and discover how to be better.”
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In fact, Gu’s mother, Gu Yan who spent eight hours driving her daughter to skiing fields every weekend confirms: “When she was a little girl, I would let her sleep up to 15 hours a day. Then 13 hours when she was a primary school student. Now she sleeps 10 hours a day. Without adequate sleep, how can one have the energy to play?”
“In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we believe you can improve your energy and organs’ functional properties by having a good night sleep,” explains TCM physician Lee Shiang Jium of Ma Kuang clinic. “The Chinese body clock is built on the concept of qi (energy). During 24 hours, qi is thought to move in two-hour intervals throughout the organ systems. Qi is believed to draw inward to fully restore your body while one is asleep.
“One of the most important two-hour intervals is between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m., which is when the liver is functioning. The liver is responsible for the endocrine system, detoxification and it helps to manage our emotions. If one does not rest during this hour, potentially it can cause one to suffer loss of focus and short temper, amongst others.”
“A good night sleep keeps our body in good shape, improve immunity, and supports our Qi, thereby improving our overall health,” says physician Lee. “Most insomnia/sleeping disorder patients can be treated with Chinese medication and acupuncture.”
Aside from fatigue, irritability, headaches and brain fog in the short term, physician Lee cautions that insufficient sleep or poor sleep quality could have far-reaching health ramifications, including glaucoma, nosebleeds, gallstones, opsteoporosis, skin issues such as psoriasis, depression and anxiety, as well as hypertension and heart disease.
Physician Lee’s tips to getting a good night’s sleep include:
- Avoid overeating at dinner time
- Maintain a proper life balance between work and rest time
- Before bedtime, avold stimulant drinks such as coffee & tea
- Avoid high grease/high fat foods such as broad bean, onion, banana, potato, corn
- Restrict fluid intake at night
- Embark on proper exercise program
- Consider taking on acupuncture to enhance the energy flows within the body
- Consider taking some Chinese herbal medicine to nourish the heart including lotus seeds, lily, pearl powder, longan
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