Everyone experiences poor sleep from time to time. Often it is occurs when the mind is overly preoccupied by a stressful situation and the insomnia can resolve itself when the stressor is removed or circumstantial conditions improve. However, some people suffer insomnia that persists regardless of major lifestyle and evening routine changes, and the goal to achieve deep, uninterrupted sleep seems to be an unending challenge.
How does TCM approach insomnia?
From a TCM perspective, insomnia is seen as a condition stemming from internal imbalances that affect the body’s ability to sleep soundly. In fact, TCM categorizes insomnia into 5 groups and identifies the heart, liver, spleen, stomach, kidneys, and gallbladder as the possible organs affected. The heart is the governing organ for the body’s spirit and mind, so not surprisingly, it is responsible for the more common forms of insomnia.
Each type of insomnia has its own set of distinctive symptoms that allows the TCM practitioner to determine which organs are affected and need balance restored.
1. Heart blood deficiency
For this type of insomnia, it is difficult to fall asleep, the person wakes up easily throughout the night, and frequently has many dreams. Physical symptoms may include heart palpitations, forgetfulness, weak limbs, pale complexion, dizziness, blurred vision, and/or sweating easily with minimal exertion.
2. Heart and Gallbladder qi deficiency
This type of insomnia is distinctive with the occurrence of many dreams while sleeping, being easily startled awake, and generally being easily frightened or timid. Physical symptoms may include heart palpitations throughout the day or night.
3. Heart and Kidneys miscommunication
This type of imbalance, aka water-fire disharmony, is understood as the heart and kidneys not working properly in tandem to balance the fire and water elements of the body. This form of insomnia manifests with irritability, brief periods of sleep but easily woken up, and heart palpitations with a sense of uneasiness. Physical symptoms may include dizziness, tinnitus, nocturnal emissions, night sweating, sore waist and knees, feverish chest, palms and feet, and/or dry mouth/throat.
4. Spleen and Stomach disharmony
This form of insomnia is typically seen as general poor sleep with a feeling of chest fullness, and/or focal distention (below the sternum). This disharmony between the spleen and stomach is usually linked to irregular/excessive eating.
5. Liver yang uprising
This form of insomnia exhibits itself as difficulty to fall asleep, with irritability, and tendency to get angry. Physical symptoms may include dizziness, rib pain, reddish eyes, bitter taste in the mouth, constipation, and/or reddish urine.
Acupuncture can be an effective method to help correct the internal imbalances and help the body achieve better sleep. Different points are selected to address the specific type of insomnia and to help the body achieve normal sleep. Sometimes herbal formulas are also used to assist the body to normalize and calm the mind and spirit.
If you are experiencing insomnia, acupuncture and herbal formula may be suitable for you to help you achieve sound and restful sleep.
Good night and sweet dreams!
Clarissa Low, RTCMP