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Overcoming Insomnia Through Traditional Chinese Medicine Treatments

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Insomnia is defined as difficulty to either fall or stay asleep. Almost all people get affected by this problem at one time or another. The effects of insomnia can be an occasional annoyance or it can potentially be damaging to health especially if it’s chronic. Chronic insomnia can leave sufferers irritable, exhausted, and unable to cope with the emotional and physical stresses of everyday living.

Insomnia can manifest in various forms. For Individuals suffering from mild insomnia, dropping off to sleep may be a problem. People with this type of insomnia are able to go to sleep, but wake up deep into the night and cannot return to sleep for the duration of the night. Severe insomnia sufferers are unable to sleep all through the night.

Insomnia, from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), is seen as an imbalance between Yin and Yang. The Yang that represents daytime does not transform into Yin of the evening and night.

Yin and Yang can be best understood through Chinese characters representing them. Yang’s Chinese character pictograph represents the sunny side of the hill. The pictograph shows the radicals for the sun above the horizon, mound, and sun’s rays of light shining down. Yin’s pictograph, on the other hand, depicts the radicals for the presence of clouds and mound, implying the shady side of the hill.

The Yin and Yang pictographs tell us a lot about the nature of these two opposing forces. Yang shown as the sunny side of the hill is brighter and warmer than the shady side, Yin, which is darker, moister, and cooler. Yang symbolizes activity and fire and moves outward and upward. Yin designates calm, water and moves inward and downward. Yang represents the active and bright hours while Yin represents the darker, quieter night time hours which is most crucial to this discussion of sleep.

Yang energy is strong during daytime, keeping us alert and awake and it provides us the energy to perform activities necessary for each day. As evening comes, the energy of Yang starts to wane and turn inward, giving us the chance to slow down and relax. The Yang energy of the day needs to totally enter into the Yin aspect of the evening and night in order for the person to sleep. So, the energy of Yin and Yang needs to be in balance for normal sleep to occur. Insomnia develops when this balance is disrupted.

Our ability to sleep also depends on our Heart. The Heart, from the viewpoint of TCM, is where the spirit is housed. Spirit comprises our emotions, thought processes and our ability to sleep. The spirit also moves into the Yin during the night, which makes us quieter, calmer, and sleepy. Insomnia occurs when the spirit cannot go forward into the Yin, or when the spirit moves into Yin but cannot quietly stay there all night.

The spirit has to be bothered in some way for insomnia to occur. A disruption of the spirit can come about due to a variety of imbalances. These imbalances have a causality that is often associated with lifestyle. This implies that we can make certain changes to help ourselves get better sleep. In TCM, the typical reasons for insomnia include a weak constitution, overwork, diet, and emotions.

A common factor in insomnia is body heat. Essentially, heat is Yang energy, which is active. Excess Yang or too much Heat affects the spirit and Heart, making it hard for Yang to change into Yin at day’s end, resulting in irritability and restlessness.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine there are several conditions or patterns that can cause heat. Excess heat produced from external factors, such as the flu or fever is one form. But an occasional flu attack or fever is short-lived, and is not sufficient enough to bring about chronic (long term) insomnia. Only when heat stays in the body for a long time long will it be able to disturb the spirit Heart ultimately enough to disrupt sleep.

A deficiency of Yin energy can cause Heat. Since we know that Yin is nourishing, moist, and cool, when it is in short supply in the body, Yang tends to become dominant causing restlessness and heat, disrupting the spirit and disturbing sleep. A fine example of this imbalance is during menopause, when excess heat in the form of night sweats and hot flashes accompany sleeplessness.

Qi or chi stagnation can also be accountable for insomnia. Insomnia of this nature is usually related to the emotions. Normally, Qi travels throughout the body in a smooth uninterrupted manner. Strong emotions, however such as stress, depression, anxiety, or anger can slow down the flow of Qi causing it to stagnate. Over time this stagnation transforms into heat, disturbing the spirit and Heart resulting in insomnia. Qi stagnation is usually diagnosed on people who are unable to sleep because their “mind is running” all night.

The Traditional Chinese Medicine treatment of insomnia may entail the use of herbs, acupuncture, herbs, Chinese bodywork (Tui Na), and possibly diet therapy. However you can make some changes that may help you get a good night’s sleep if you are unable to sleep.

• Try to shift from Yang to Yin activities during the evening hours. This may mean doing physical work, studying, or exercising earlier in the day. Do quieter activities during the evening like relaxing or reading. This will help you more easily move into Yin energy.

• If you cannot sleep, several hours before bedtime, refrain from eating foods and drinks that have caffeine. Regular eating of very greasy, spicy, or heavy foods can also cause insomnia.

• Before going to sleep wait a few hours after a large meal. Your sleep can be affected when you’ve eaten too much food before bedtime.

• If your insomnia is due to your emotions, try visualizing yourself in a calming or favorite place. You can also relax your muscles in each part of your body. Doing stress-relieving activities can help calm your mind which will help you sleep better.

De’Qi Health
594 Broadway #905
New York, NY 10012
(212) 219-9536
http://bestnycacupuncturist.com

Written by Valerie

March 14th, 2017 at 4:52 am

Posted in Acupuncture

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