Getting Better Sleep with Chinese Medicine
When you can’t sleep, in medical terms it’s called Insomnia. Sleep quality can be improved with Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine and helped with Chinese diet therapy. Research supports the treatment of Insomnia with acupuncture and herbs.
As with all conditions, the way a Chinese Medicine practitioner approaches the treatment of insomnia and sleep issues is to first establish the Chinese medicine diagnosis. Once a diagnosis has been made, the treatment is based on re-balancing the body.
Sleep is a vital aspect of your body for longevity, health and healing. Chinese herbalists and acupuncturists are usually pretty concerned to know about your sleep, as it will influence how your body recovers from illness and injury.
There can be lots of types of poor sleep according to Chinese Medicine:
- Trouble getting to sleep
- Dream disturbed sleep
- Waking up at night
- waking up to urinate
- waking up hot and sweaty
- waking up at a certain time (usually the 3am time is common) but easy to get back to sleep
- waking up frequently but able to go back to sleep
- able to fall asleep ok, but waking up and cant fall back to sleep – lying awake at night.
- waking up too early and can’t fall back to sleep
Improving in any one of these will help you get better sleep. The aim for an Acupuncture or Chinese herbal practitioner is for their patients to have solid, sound uninterrupted sleep.
Your practitioner will be able to work out what’s wrong, formulate a strategy with you to use a one or a combination of Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Moxibustion and Chinese Diet Therapy to treat sleep problems according to the Chinese Medicine diagnosis.
The beauty of Chinese Medicine is that it recognises so many internal imbalances that Western medicine does not really care about, so a as a practitioner I see a lot of patients that have various sleep problems but after a whole load of biomedical tests (blood tests, MRI, CT etc) there is “nothing wrong with them”. Chinese Medicine is always able to make a diagnosis so we can treat these cases.
Another difference of Chinese Medicine is that it’s believed people need different amounts of sleep in different seasons. There is a whole article about sleeping according to the season here. Overall, aim for 8 hours of sleep.
Modern research points towards the effectiveness and safety of Chinese herbal medicine for insomnia.
Recently a large scale analysis of past studies (known as a meta-analsysis) was conducted. Ni, et al (2015) concluded “Overall, oral Chinese Herbal Medicine alone or when combined with routine care can safely improve subjective sleep in people with insomnia.”. The reviews and meta-analysis included seventy-nine trials (7886 participants) in the research paper.
While its great that research shows a general positive outcome like this, it is important to remember the individualized approach of Chinese Herbal Medicine. There is no one magic “Sleep Herbal formula” for instance. Herbal formulas are prescribed based on the pulse diagnosis as the main part indicator as to what disharmony has occurred and therefore how to address that disharmony and get the function of your body back on track, which would then improve sleep.
Chinese herbal medicine isn’t like a sleeping tablet where you take the herbs and immediately feel sleepy. Its very rare to use formulas/herbs in that way. The primary concern in addressing sleep issues is to restore the body’s function. Some common imbalances are things like feeling too hot at night, sweating at night and a lot of dreams would mean there is too much yang (weak yang) floating away from the yin (dense, heavy substances of your body). Kind of like a hot air balloon – think of yin as the basket and yang as the balloon. When the ropes are tying the balloon on, everything is fine it works perfectly well. If the ropes of the balloon get loose, the basket will start to separate from the balloon and the balooon part would start to float away. Restoring the yin and yang – we call it returning the yang to the yin, is a major part of treating sleep in Chinese Medicine.
There are lots of other disharmonies that can occur with sleep problems, see your practitioner for your specific assessment.
ARTICLE WRITTEN BY: Marie Hopkinson
Marie Hopkinson is a Chinese Medicine Practitioner, Practicing from her clinic in North Perth, WA- METRO HEALTH AND MEDICINE. Marie can be consulted for appointments, while in-person is preferred, Email /phone consultations can be arranged. Marie has been practicing since 2000, completing initial 3-year course in Chinese Medicine at the Perth Academy of Natural Therapies in WA. Marie has been to China for additional training in the Hangzhou Traditional Chinese Medicine Hospital (Hangzhou Shi Zhong Yi Yuan) twice as well as completing a Master of International Health at Curtin University in 2006. Marie is passionate about the effective practice and understanding of Chinese Medicine and enjoys the opportunity to educate patients about the benefits of self-help aspects such as diet therapy, as well as teaching Chinese Medicine at the Endeavour College of Natural Health.
For more info about booking an appointment with Marie CLICK HERE.
For more info about conditions treated with Acupuncture, and Chinese Herbal Medicine CLICK HERE.
As with any health problem, we recommend seeking appropriate medical attention, professional diagnosis and immediate emergency help if you have undiagnosed pain or symptoms particularly if the symptoms are escalating (getting worse and worse). If you see a practitioner at Metro health and Medicine they may also refer you to a western medicine doctor (GP or hospital) as appropriate. This blog is not intended to replace a medical treatment or consultation.
- Ni X, Shergis JL, Guo X, Zhang AL, Li Y, Lu C, et al. Updated clinical evidence of Chinese herbal medicine for insomnia: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Sleep Medicine. 2015;16(12):1462-81.