To Western doctors, insomnia is the inability to sleep soundly. If there is no obvious physical reason, it will usually be seen as an emotional problem such as stress, anxiety, or depression. For chronic insomnia the usual treatment is sleeping pills.
In Oriental Medicine the term Insomnia covers a number of different problems such as inability to fall asleep easily, waking up during the night, restless sleep, waking up early in the morning and dream-disturbed sleep.
Oriental medicine relates insomnia to the Heart. According to Maciocia, a well-known educator and practitioner, the amount and quality of sleep depends on the state of the Mind. “The Mind is rooted in the Heart; if the Heart is healthy and the Blood abundant, the Mind is properly rooted and sleep will be sound.”
Diagnosing the cause of one’s insomnia is very complicated. There is not just one generic acupuncture point for insomnia that will cure the condition. Your practitioner of Oriental Medicine should check your tongue, your pulse on both wrists, check your body for scars, moles and broken capillaries whose existence and location are indicative of certain problems. One of my teachers is a great believer in Gua Sha which is diagnostic as well as a treatment.
Once a diagnosis has been arrived at it is still a process; I often compare it to the peeling of an onion. Treating certain organ and channel imbalances must be constantly reevaluated and the treatment adjusted. Often Herbs are called for. Make sure that your practitioner has been trained in Oriental Herbs. I have heard people say that they are taking herbs to harmonize them. Of course everything one does is to achieve balance and harmony but there is only one category of herbal formulas that harmonizes; this involves complex processes in different levels of the body as well as hot and cold. These formulas rarely relate to insomnia.
The commonest types of insomnia are as follows:
Dream-disturbed sleep: Nightmares normally indicate a disorder
of the Gall Bladder meridian. Courage is a function of a healthy
Gallbladder. One of my teachers would say that his dog, who was afraid
of thunderstorms, had a tiny Gallbladder.
What if you’ve had your Gallbladder removed? ~ a future article.
Difficulty falling asleep: This is usually related to an excess condition of the Liver or Liver and Gall Bladder. People will lie awake, tossing and turning for hours.
Waking up easily:
Many people can fall asleep easily, but then they wake up later and
find it difficult to go back to sleep again. They may be awake for an
hour or so, or may not go back to sleep at all. These people have a deficiency pattern, often a Heart / Spleen deficiency. In Chinese Medicine the Spleen refers to the Pancreas ~ not the Spleen in Western Medicine.
Waking up at a specific time every night: If a person wakes or has some unusual symptoms at the same time every
day, it is probable that there is an imbalance in the organ system that
rules that time of day.
According to Chinese tradition; the best sleeping position
is lying on the right side, with the legs slightly bent, the right arm
bent and resting in front of the pillow and the left arm resting on the
left thigh. In this position the Heart is in a high position so that
the Blood can circulate freely. The Liver is in a low position so that
Blood can collect there – relaxing the Qi of the Liver and
promoting sleep. Also in this position the stomach is in a position
that facilitates the downward movement of food. And you thought that chewing gum and walking was difficult?
Again this is the Cliff Notes version of Insomnia. Insomnia is the branch of a disease ~ not the disease itself. There is a lot written about insomnia in classical Chinese medicine textbooks. Insomnia is a complicated disorder affecting between 10 and 34 percent of the U.S. population. From my experience it seems like that number is low.
acupuncturist may say that something is wrong with your Heart Qi ~ that
does not mean that there is immediate tissue damage but I guarantee
that if the condition is left untreated that eventually there will be
The media continues to dwell on Michael Jackson’s chronic insomnia -~ perhaps
if he had been treated by an experienced practitioner of Oriental
Medicine an underlying heart weakness would have been discovered and
treated and he might be alive today. If you suffer from insomnia, be
sure to get a thorough examination by a qualified practitioner of
Oriental Medicine as well as a thorough examination from your family