A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.”  ~Irish Proverb

Sleep is one of the most important aspects of life and it is something that the average person spends about a third of their life doing.  Just as every person differs, sleep is a highly individualized affair as well.  Everyone can agree however that one feels awful if they do not get enough of it.  Even if for some people 5 hours is sufficient and for others 10 hours is required to feel “normal.

The Perfect Sleep: In Traditional Chinese Medicine the “perfect sleep” is likened to a mini death.  One should enter sleep easily and wake 7-8 hours later completely rested and refreshed having absolutely no recollection of any dreams.  Highly fantastical dreams like flying, slaying dragons, etc relate to the HEART and the KIDNEY.  Rote, life-like dreams are usually related to the SPLEEN.  I’ve had people tell me that they dream about alphabetizing files at work or going about their day as usual busily performing tasks in their sleep as if the day never ended.  Usually dreaming leaves people feeling groggy in the morning.

Blood Volume and Heat: In Traditional Chinese Medicine sleep is dependent the balance of one’s Kidney, Liver and Heart Qi and Blood.  Blood gives volume to the body and helps ground the shen or spirit whilst Qi directs blood throughout the body.  The organs work in tandem so if one organ is out of balance the rest will follow suit. Generally speaking insomnia falls into two categories; those who have difficulty falling asleep and those who have trouble staying asleep.

Difficulty Falling Asleep: Generally speaking people who have trouble falling asleep may be blood deficient and experience some of the following symptoms:
  • Bruising easily
  • Fatigue
  • Dry or Brittle hair and nails
  • Bloating, digestive issues
  • Weight gain
  • Excessive dreaming (usually an extension of the days activities)
  • Sugar, caffeine cravings
  • Foggy thinking
  • Overthinking, ruminating
  • Tendency to become obsessive
Difficulty Staying Asleep: Those who have trouble staying asleep often are suffering from too much heat and may manifest some of the following symptoms:
  • Waking between the hours of 1-3am
  • Early rising
  • PMS
  • Irritability
  • Need to exercise
  • Night sweats
  • Teeth grinding
  • Anxiety
  • Palpitations
Ways to treat insomnia: Traditional Chinese Medicine uses acupuncture, herbal therapy and dietary therapy to treat both the underlying cause (root) and the symptoms (branch) of insomnia.  A practitioner will evaluate each individual’s symptoms and create a hand-tailored treatment plan.  I usually recommend one month of treatment for every year that one has been suffering from an issue.

Some general suggestions: Difficulty falling asleep:
  • Getting regular acupuncture treatments
  • Eliminating wheat, sugar and/or dairy
  • Adding organic, free range red meat to your diet
  • Adding dark, green leafy vegetables
  • Molasses
  • Floradix
  • Getting in bed before 10pm
  • Avoid TV, computer stimulation after 8pm
  • Soak your feet in warm water before bed
  • Gogi berries
Difficulty staying asleep:
  • Getting regular acupuncture treatments
  • Meditation, Yoga, Qi Gong
  • Avoid spicy, greasy foods
  • Castor oil packs over the liver
  • Fresh lemon and/or apple cider vinegar in water before breakfast
  • Make sure you aren’t taking too many over the counter supplements as this can be difficult for your liver to process
  • Hydrating with coconut water
  • Chamomile tea
  • Avoiding too much stimulation before bedtime
  • Try to get in bed before you feel exhausted
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