Insomnia is a common symptom experienced by people all over the world and is regarded as the inability to acquire normal sleep. The term itself covers a number of different problems:

  • Inability to fall asleep easily.
  • Waking during the night.
  • Restless sleeping.
  • Waking up early in the morning.
  • Dream-disturbed sleep.

Common causes include:

  • Stress, anxiety or overwork.
  • Irregular diet.
  • Over consumption of alcohol, caffeine or nicotine.
  • Use of recreation drugs such as cocaine, ecstasy or amphetamines.
  • Childbirth.
  • Excessive sexual acticity.

Insomnia according to Chinese Medicine, is considered to be connected with the Heart, Kidneys, Liver and Stomach, but particularly with the Heart, which houses the Shen, or Spirit. The Chinese medicine view is that the spirit cannot rest, either because there is Heat in the Heart, or as a result of weakness in the Kidneys caused by Fire and water being out of balance. The Heart is the organ of Fire, while the Kidney is the water organ. Water normally subdues Fire, but if the Kidneys are weak there is not enough water to do this and the Fire can get out of control.

Overeating, or indigestion caused by a weak stomach, can also lead to insomnia. In Chinese medicine, patients will never be given tranquillizers or sleeping pills. Instead, the doctor will try to find out the particular cause.

Herbal medicine is regularly used, and some common herbs are Bai Zi Ren, Suan Zao Ren, Fu Ling, Yuan Zhi, Dan Shen and Bai He. In terms of Chinese medicine, the herbs function to calm the  Heart and thus the Shen or Spirit. Well known herbal formulas used in the treatment of insmonia include Gui Pi Tang and Xiao Yao San.

From a Western perspective, these herbs and formulas do not sedate the patient in the same way that pharmacuetical drugs do, although they appear to have a beneficial effect on the nervous system.

Sleeping on a gypsum pillow is a familiar Chinese do-it-yourself remedy for mild cases, and there is an effective do-it-yourself acupressure, massage and exercise routine which a doctor can demonstrate to patients. Acupuncture is widely and often very effectively used in the treatment of insomnia caused by depression and related emotional problems. Understanding the root or causes of the anxiety, depression or other factors will help in coping with insomnia.

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