Insomnia is often not used to refer to a disease or condition, but rather a symptom of several sleep disorders. According to Western medicine, there are two types of insomnia, primary and secondary. Primary insomnia is not directly related to any other health problems whereas secondary insomnia is difficulty sleeping due to another issue such as asthma, pain, arthritis, cancer, depression or due to a side effect of a medication.
Common symptoms associated with insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking too early in the morning and feeling tired upon waking. Insomnia is also categorized based on the duration of the symptoms.
Episodes of insomnia may occur naturally from time to time, but when the condition continues for some time it can become pathological and sets off a whole cascade of events. Acute insomnia is short term and may last for a few nights to several weeks. Chronic insomnia is defined as having symptoms at least three nights per week for one month.
How Is Insomnia Treated with Chinese Medicine (TCM)?
Chinese medicine and acupuncture have been used to treat insomnia for thousands of years. TCM recognizes the proper flow of Qi of the body to be influential in healthy sleep. We look at the underlying issues causing sleep disturbances such as pain, stress and anxiety or night sweats and work to eliminate these issues.
An ancient Chinese physician, Zhang Jing-Yue, wrote: “Sleep is yin and ruled by the spirit. If the spirit is quiet there will be sleep. If the spirit is not quiet there is no sleep.” TCM theory begins with the theory of yin yang. Most basically, Yang is associated with day, activity and wakeful hours. Yin is associated with night, stillness and sleep. The spirit, or ‘Shen’ in Chinese, is a combination of the heart and mind; the two are inseparable in Chinese medicine.
Insomnia, often associated with disturbances of the psyche, will affect the state of the heart. The spirit is quiet when anchored by the yin. When the yin is deficient, or the yang energy overactive, the spirit has nowhere to rest. Yin is the energy responsible for night time and sleep and if our bodies are depleted in yin energy we experience insomnia, often with night sweats and a host of other symptoms. With the TCM treatment of insomnia, there is also a strong focus on the health of the kidneys and the balance of the fluids of the body.
Practitioners of Chinese Medicine treat insomnia by taking into consideration your overall balance of mind, body, and spirit. The condition may be treated using acupuncture, herbal remedies, diet and lifestyle changes, and relaxation techniques. Treatment will be highly individualized and will depend on the underlying cause of the insomnia, which will be differentiated by your practitioner. A proper diagnosis is key to successfully treating insomnia, which may be caused by a number of factors including physical strain, mental and emotional stress, or improper diet. All these things must be examined in the patient’s life and adjusted to increase their state of balance. This will be different for each person and tailored to fit their specific needs. Patients with insomnia often have deeply relaxing treatments and fall asleep during their sessions.
Western science has recognized acupuncture's effects on insomnia and attributes it to the natural release of melatonin and dopamine with acupuncture. Read an article about curing insomnia with acupuncture here: http://www.bulletproofexec.com/how-to-cure-insomnia-with-acupuncture/.
If you are suffering from insomnia you can start by working to eliminate stress and worry from your life. Acupuncture can help you begin to do this by identifying factors that trigger these emotions and take steps to reduce these triggers. Chinese medicine practitioners can also help you manage and reduce your emotional stress and reduce your dependence on sleeping pills or stimulants like smoking, alcohol, coffee or tea, all of which can affect your sleeping patterns. A bit of physical activity each day will help further reduce stress and regulate the flow of blood throughout the body. Practices such as taiji, qigong, and meditation can also help to calm the mind.
For a complete consultation, individual diagnosis and treatment for insomnia, visit our request an appointment page to schedule with a licensed practitioner.