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Insomnia: Treatment with Traditional Chinese Medicine

Insomnia, or the inability to fall into a deep, restful sleep, is a condition experienced by approximately one-third of adults at some point in their lives. If left unaddressed, this lack of sleep can lead to daytime fatigue, which affects one’s focus, decision making, and motor skills, resulting in dangerous situations  (i.e., driving sleep-deprived). It can also weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to disease.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) breaks down insomnia into two types: true insomnia and transitory insomnia.

True Insomnia: Explained by Traditional Chinese Medicine

True insomnia sufferers can further be classified into four: those who have a hard time falling asleep; those who wake up in the early hours of the morning; those who have light and restless sleep, which is often disturbed by dreams and nightmares; and those who can’t sleep at all.

Transitory insomnia, on the other hand,  is caused by temporary factors such as outside noise, weather changes, a recent emotional upset, or lifestyle changes. Normal sleeping patterns will return once conditions are back to normal.

In TCM, insomnia is caused by either excesses or deficiencies in the body, some of which are outlined below:.

  1. Excessive emotions. Deep-seated emotions such as prolonged anger, depression, or worry stagnate the qi, or life force, of the liver,  transforming it into heat that disturbs the mind. Symptoms include red or burning eyes, frequent headaches, a rapid pulse, and irritability.  
  2. Excessive consumption. Overeating and overdrinking leads to the accumulation of phlegm in the body, which again turns into heat and disturbs the mind. Symptoms include dizziness, chest and stomach discomfort, and bloating.
  3. A yin deficiency in the kidneys. Common among light sleepers,  a yin deficiency in the kidneys will fail to calm and cool the heart, causing a restless and hyperactive mind.
  4. Deficiencies in the heart and spleen. Senior citizens and those recuperating from surgery or a long illness may have an overworked spleen. As the result, it fails to nourish the heart with fresh blood, leading to chronic insomnia. Other manifestations include palpitations, a lifeless complexion, and loss of appetite.
  5. Qi deficiencies in the heart and gallbladder. Emotions such as shock and worrying deplete the gallbladder’s qi and affect the heart; those who experience this will find themselves awake all throughout the night.

Insomnia Treatment with Traditional Chinese Medicine

Insomnia treatment that involves prescribed medications may lead to side effects and even dependency; patients will not be able to sleep without a dose, and it could take weeks or months to be weaned off prescription pills.

Studies performed at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto have shown that insomnia sufferers who received a course of acupuncture treatments had lowered anxiety levels and higher melatonin production, which increased sleep times by an average of 1.4 hours.

TCM insomnia treatment will reduce excesses and replenish deficiencies, restoring balance and harmony in the body.

Acupuncture and TCM insomnia treatment will be even more effective when supported by lifestyle changes.

Such lifestyle changes  include:

Sleeping and waking up on a regular schedule.

Let your mind and body get used to a certain pattern so these eventually recognise when it’s time to rest.

Not forcing yourself to sleep.

The harder you try to go to sleep, the more your mind stays awake. Close your eyes, breathe slowly, and let your mind wander until you drift to sleep.

Getting at least 30 minutes of exercise earlier on in the day.

Schedule your workout at least 6 hours before bedtime. Working out later can prevent your body from falling asleep.

Avoiding stimulants before bedtime.

Caffeine, nicotine, watching television, or playing with your mobile devices can keep you from falling asleep. While drinking alcohol can make you drowsy, it can also keep you restless throughout the night.

Creating your own relaxation rituals.

Indulge in a soothing bath, listen to calming music, practice yoga, or meditate to calm your mind and body before sleeping.

Eating a light meal, at least, three hours before going to bed.

Heavy meals before bedtime can lead to digestion problems. Munch on healthy snacks at regular intervals throughout the day so you won’t feel famished by dinner-time.

Consult with a trusted acupuncturist or TCM practitioner today and address insomnia with natural therapies that also improve your overall well-being. Insomnia treatment is possible with traditional Chinese medicine.

To find out how you can treat your insomnia with our natural, holistic approach, contact us.

Written by

Dr Scott Ling
Dr. Scott Ling is the Chief Chinese Medicine Practitioner and Acupuncturist and the founder of Sustain Health. He holds a PHD Doctorate Degree in Chinese medicine from Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine. Dr Ling’s extensive qualifications also include a Master of Reproductive Medicine (western medicine). Due to his unique medical background, Dr Ling’s approach stresses on the integration of Chinese and Western medicine to ensure patients get the greatest benefits from the best of both medical systems.

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