Insomnia in Traditional Chinese Medicine View by Philip Wu (Registered Acupuncturist)
Updated: Dec 7, 2022
There is no doubt that sleeping is important for a healthy life. Sleep is the time for your body to recover, so that you feel energetic and refreshed in the morning. If not, your immune system will be impacted and evil qi such as viruses will enter. Symptoms of insomnia includes the following:
1. Difficult to fall asleep (more than 30 minutes)
2. Wake up frequently during the night
3. Wake up early
4. Still feeling tired after awakening
In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine), there is a well-known classic, Lingshu, that states
“When yang qi is at its limit and yin qi is abundant, one’s eyes are closed. When yin qi is at its
limit and yang qi is abundant, one is awake.” This means that if yin and yang are in harmony,
one’s sleep is normal.
If you imagine the yang qi is like a flying dragon while the yin qi is like a lake, someone sleeping means the flying dragon is entering the lake. If the yin is much less than yang qi, the flying dragon cannot be anchored and will fly out from the lake - which means a person will wake up during the night.
In TCM, there are different patterns for Insomnia with characteristics below:
1. Liver fire: restless sleep, nightmares with bloodshot eyes, thirst, bitter taste, dark urine,
2. Heart fire: wake up at night, dreams with tongue ulcers, restlessness, palpitations
3. Phlegm fire: restless sleep, tossing and turning, dreams with feeling of heaviness,
oppression in chest, sticky taste, sticky tongue coating
4. Heart and Spleen deficiency: difficult to fall asleep, light sleep + palpitations, poor
memory, tiredness, poor appetite
5. Heart yin deficiency: wake up frequently at night + dryness and empty heat signs
6. Disharmony between heart and kidney: wake up frequently at night, difficult to fall
asleep, irritability, dizziness, vertigo, kidney and heart deficiency signs
7. Liver yin deficiency – wake up at night, dreams, sleep talking with dryness and empty
8. Heart and gallbladder deficiency – wake up very early in morning, light sleep, dreams a
lot, timidity, palpitations
By balancing the yin and yang in a human body, an acupuncturist can help a person to achieve the followings and it has fewer side effects than the medications prescribed for sleep.
1. Fall asleep normally,
2. Not wake up as often during the night,
3. Wake up with a refreshed mind.