Insomnia and chronic sleep deprivation can take its toll, affecting mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.
Do you know what’s at the root of your insomnia? We can help you pinpoint contributing factors and guide you back to a better night’s sleep.
- Main types of insomnia:
- • Unable to fall asleep
• Wake early and can’t go back to sleep
• Interrupted, light or restless sleep
• Nightmares or night terrors
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, we differentiate between various patterns that may compromise the quality of your sleep. We will feel your pulse, look at your tongue, and ask you questions to determine what organ systems are out of balance, then seek to restore that balance with a combination of acupuncture points, herbs, nutrition, and lifestyle recommendations.
Most common TCM patterns contributing to insomnia:
Heart & Liver Blood Deficiency
The blood of the heart is said to “anchor the spirit.” The liver regenerates the blood at night. If the body doesn’t receive sufficient rest, it’s unable to nourish the heart blood, and the spirit will become restless.
People with this type of imbalance usually have difficulty falling asleep but sleep soundly once they finally do relax into sleep.
Kidney Yin Deficiency
Yin energy is quiet, inward-moving, and restorative and reaches its zenith at midnight. In contrast, Yang energy is outward-moving and expansive and peaks midday. When the body’s Yin energy is depleted, it cannot match the natural rhythm of Yin/Yang balance at night, thus the mind and body become restless. We call this a state of “false heat” because there is not enough of the cooling Yin energy to balance out the warming Yang.
Kidney Yin deficient people usually sleep lightly and wake frequently throughout the night.
Liver Fire or Heart Fire
Unlike the prior two, these are excess types of patterns that require a draining approach versus nourishing. Both Liver and Heart Fire can flare upward ( Picture the energy of a flame stirring the air and making ash particles dance). This agitates the body, mind, and spirit. These patterns are most commonly the result of long term stress accumulating in the body or pronounced emotional distress.
People with Liver or Heart Fire patterns usually experience dream-disturbed sleep. The stronger the Fire, the more unsettling the dreams tend to be.
Eating too large a meal too close to bedtime can lead to restless, dream-disturbed sleep as the body is forced to process the excess food instead of directing its resources to the regeneration of tissues, vital fluids, and organ systems.
Gallbladder Qi Deficiency
An organ or system imbalance can influence our personality traits, and vice versa. People with deficient Gallbladder Qi tend to be timid, lack courage, and rarely take initiative for fear of what might go wrong. These people are easily startled, and it may take a while for them to settle again after a fright.
When it comes to sleep, people with this pattern frequently wake early and are unable to fall asleep again.
Qi & Blood Deficiency
Body fluids and vital energy naturally decline with age, hence it is not uncommon for people to wake earlier as they grow older. This is a normal physiological change to a certain degree. Food and lifestyle choices, as well as acupuncture treatments and herbal formulas, can help to counterbalance this natural decline.
There are many other potential contributing factors to insomnia. Stress is at the top of the list, as is pain.
You might be grinding your teeth at night due to stress and require a combination of dental/orthodontic work, mental health support (e.g. from a therapist or life coach), and body work, such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, or massage.
Or you might be experiencing chronic digestive or urinary issues that wake you in the night or early morning.
In some cases, emotional trauma and possibly PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) could be the cause of your sleep difficulties. This may require the support of a trained therapist or psychiatrist if severe, and acupuncture can be a fantastic adjunct treatment to support your body in gently releasing trauma and reset your nervous system, so you can spend more time in rest and relaxation versus fight-flight-freeze.
In any of these cases, insomnia would be considered a secondary issue, and we would target your primary health concern, resolving your sleep problems as a welcome side effect.