Chinese Medicine for Chronic and Severe Insomnia

Treating chronic insomnia can be a daunting task.  Insomnia is a common complaint, affecting about 15~20% of the general population.  Strictly speaking, insomnia is defined as poor sleep for three or more nights in a week resulting in decline in daytime functioning.  There are a number of prescription drugs available, as well as dietary supplements that can be purchased on the internet or vitamin stores.  It is well known that prescription drugs (such as melatonin, chamomile, hops, or Valerian) do not work well for chronic insomnia, and over the counter sleep aids may only work for mild insomnias.

Treating Insomnia with Traditional Chinese Medicine

How does Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) handle this issue differently?  TCM approach is based on logical thinking and a personalized and tailored therapy.  Simply put, TCM practitioners care if you are too hot or too cold, or if mouth is too dry at night, or your stomach is too full.  By treating and harmonizing the whole body, your sleep may improve.  In other words, it is holistic medicine at work as different parts of the body are connected and we need to get down to the root cause, not just trying to raise the calming (GABA) or happy (Serotonin) neurotransmitters in the brain.  TCM takes care the macroenvironment of the body!

Let me list a few common types of insomnia according to TCM perspectives:

1. Kidney Yin Deficiency:

  • thirsty sensation
  • able to fall asleep but wake up early
  • sometimes sweating at night with difficulty falling asleep again
  • usually blood pressure is low and pulse on the more rapid side

2. Kidney Yang Deficiency:

  • poor sleep with cold intolerance
  • low back pain and frequent urination
  • loss of libido
  • etc.

3. Liver Fire/Liver Wind:

  • emotional stress
  • frequent awakening during sleep

4. Heart Fire:

  • very active mind with flight of ideas
  • difficult falling asleep
  • hot and red facial complexion

5. Stomach Energy Stagnation:

  • indigestion
  • abdominal distention

TCM practitioners use tongue and pulse diagnosis in addition to taking a good history to determine your energy disharmony pattern.  I have helped many insomnias in the past with a combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbs.  A proper diagnosis first is key to success.

Consult an experienced TCM doctor in your community.

Dr. Peter Sheng
Cincinnati Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Therapy, Integrative Medicine & Holistic Health Care