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Getting a Good Night's Sleep: The Traditional Chinese Medicine Approach

Occasional nights of sleeplessness can be inconvenient and lead to minor cognitive deficit the next morning. However, the long term effects of lack of sleep can strongly impact one’s well-being. Less than 7 hours of sleep a night can be harmful to your health, contributing to heart disease, depression, obesity and diabetes type II. With our current modern lifestyle, it can be difficult to wind down at night, but it is important to understand how good sleep hygiene plays a big role in maintaining health and happiness.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Yin and Yang theory, most everything can be classified into Yin or Yang. Daytime is Yang, a time of action and activity, and Nighttime is Yin, a time of rest and repose. Day and Night transform into one another in a cyclical nature. Traditional Chinese Medicine stresses that a life well lived is in harmony with nature’s patterns. A key to a good life is getting an adequate night’s rest each evening to have enough energy for the following day’s activities.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine theory, there are many reasons one may not be able to sleep at night, and during an appointment to address this issue, your acupuncturist will be asking you questions about your sleep patterns and your general constitution and lifestyle to determine how to treat your insomnia.

Insomnia is usually a problem related to the Heart as well as the Spirit, and there may be other patterns involved. There may be issues with too much heat in the body, marked by afternoon or evening heat or hot flashes. For this person, we would treat by clearing empty heat and nourishing Kidney Yin and fluids. Or, there may be indigestion preventing sleep and a feeling of rebellious qi rising up upon laying down, indicating heat in the Stomach or poor digestive function. There also may be waking up frequently through the night without deep rest, with paleness in the complexion and overall vitamin and mineral deficiency, revealing blood deficiency. Most sleep concerns also have an added component of stress from a hectic lifestyle or emotional turmoil, so we may also address the liver to help you better unwind at night.

A course of acupuncture appointments, possibly combined with Chinese herbs, can correct the body’s pattern to encourage easier rest at night. Research on acupuncture's effect on sleep is ongoing. Several small randomized controlled studies have been conducted that indicate acupuncture is indeed effective for sleeplessness and leads to greater relaxation and cognition through the day. However, larger-scale studies are also currently being done to further establish a stronger claim on the subject.

If you are interested in seeing if Chinese Medicine can help you with your sleep concerns, please contact NaturalStart Medicine to schedule an appointment or a free



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Effect of acupuncture on sleep quality and hyperarousal state in patients with primary insomnia: study protocol for a randomised controlled trial

BMJ Open 2016;6:e009594. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2015-009594

Guo J, Wang L, Liu C, Zhang J, Wang G, Yi J & Cheng J. Efficacy of Acupuncture for Primary Insomnia: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Vol 2013.

Shergis JL, Ni X, Jackson ML, Zhang AL, Guo X, Li Y, Lu C, Xue CC. A systematic review of acupuncture for sleep quality in people with insomnia. Complement Ther Med 2016 (26) 11-20.

Can Acupuncture help you sleep? (2018, March 27), Retrieved from

TCM Treatment Principles for Insomnia, Retrieved from, tcmrole_sleep_treatment.html

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