Sleep from Traditional Chinese Medicine Point of View

Do you or someone you know, suffer from insomnia?  There is primary and secondary insomnia.  Primary is long lasting, possibly genetic, with little or no reasonable relationship between psychic or somatic events.  Insomnia can be secondary to emotional problems or stress, use of and withdrawal from drugs and alcohol, pain, overuse of caffeine, environmental changes, travel, night shifts, and physical disorders.  Age and emotional state influence the duration and quality of sleep.  

Insomnia can be classified as transient (short term), intermittent (on and off), and chronic (constant). Insomnia lasting from a single night to a few weeks is referred to as transient.  If episodes of transient insomnia occur from time to time, the insomnia is said to be intermittent. Insomnia is considered to be chronic if it occurs on most nights and lasts a month or more.  Insomnia for long duration can cause many secondary symptoms such as fatigue, infections, repetitive illnesses, low libido, rashes, weight gain, depression, irritability and anxiousness, and eventually can be a precursor to dementia, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), sleep depends on the quality of Blood and Yin in the Liver and Heart, which are the “residence” of the Mind. Yin represents our body’s fluids and is cooling. Yin represents nighttime, the moon, estrogen, female, restorative energy, sleep, blood and its nutrients. If the Blood and Yin are deficient, the Mind has no residence and it “floats” at night, causing insomnia. Through hormonal changes, men and women can experience insomnia as we age, due to Blood and Yin deficiency. People of all ages can have insomnia and other paired symptoms due to dehydration, too much alcohol, caffeine, and sugars, hormone imbalances, eating too much or too little, eating late at night, lack of exercise, and stress. Traditional Chinese medicine can treat specific diagnosis patterns of insomnia via herbs, acupuncture, and/or lifestyle programs. Do these sound familiar?

  • Not being able to fall asleep, but sleeping well after falling asleep
  • Waking up many times in the night
  • Dream-disturbed sleep
  • Restless sleep with dreams
  • Waking up early in the morning and not falling asleep again

As we age, it is somewhat normal to awaken earlier due to physiological decline of Qi (pronounced “chee” and represents our vital energy), Yin, and Blood.  

Our every day life can become overwhelming, causing stress, anxiety, worry, grief, etc. and the complex of anxiety, stress, and insomnia ensues.

The licensed acupuncturist/herbalist can tailor a treatment plan specifically to each person’s needs after diagnosing the type of insomnia.  Acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas can help calm the mind, release stress, nourish Yin and Blood, balance hormones, and move stagnations from food, traumas, emotions, and pain.  Usually acupuncture and herbs are combined for greater results. Chinese herbal formulas are considered internal medicine and should be prescribed by a licensed herbalist.  Other considerations would be to analyze your home life, bedroom “sleep hygiene,” and diet.  

Meditation, restorative yoga at night, slow breathing techniques, journaling can be very helpful in creating a good night sleep.  

What type of sleep disturbance do you have?  We are here to help!