Insomnia: A Holistic View From A Chinese Medicine Perspective

Insomnia can be defined as difficulty falling asleep, and or staying asleep, restless sleep, waking throughout the night, dream-­disturbed sleep and/or waking in the early morning with the inability to go back to sleep.

Chronic insomnia is defined as that which continues over a few months.


The Yin And Yang Of Sleep

There is a delicate balance between Yin and Yang in our bodies and how it correlates to such important activities as sleep, alertness, thought process, decision making, emotional balance as well as its overall impact on our physical capabilities.

The Yin aspect is the densest, most solid and substantial parts of us. These include our bones and muscles on a physical level, and our sense of groundedness and peace and calmness on a more emotional level.


The Yang aspect is the activity and energy that allow our body to function. In Chinese medicine it is referred to as the “Qi” or “Chi“. It is what helps our organs function at a healthy or unhealthy level depending on the health of our chi. It is the thoughts and emotions we have.

Yin and Yang are interdependent; we need both to survive. When certain symptoms such as insomnia arise it can be from a variety of different reasons, but each goes back to the balance or rather imbalance of the Yin and Yang in the body.


More specifically, insomnia, according to Chinese Medicine, correlates to the agitation of our minds and our spirit – referred to as Shen.

Shen is very light, very Yang in nature, and needs to be anchored by the blood (a Yin fluid) and rest in the heart (a Yin organ).


Understanding Different Types Of Insomnia

There are about 5 different patterns that could result in insomnia, but I will chunk them into three categories.

Sleep-Onset Insomnia

The first category stems from repressed emotions, including frustration, anger and resentment. This leads to stagnation of our energy/chi, which leads to heat, which agitates the shen and does not allow it to settle down.


Some signs of this type of pattern are – difficulty falling asleep, waking up around 2­-4 am, lack of sleep that is aggravated by stress.

Secondary signs can also be depression, headaches, moodiness, grinding teeth, heart palpitations.


Sleep-Maintenance Or Dream-Disturbed Insomnia

The second category involves over work, physical and mental exhaustion, worry, inadequate rest and irregular eating. These habits will again overtime interrupt the shen’s ability to settle in the heart.

Signs associated with this type of pattern are – difficulty turning off the mind to fall asleep, dream-­disturbed sleep, listlessness, loss of appetite, dull complexion, and or irritability, dizziness, vertigo, dry mouth, and warm hands and feet.


Early-Awakening Insomnia

The third category has to do with shock, even shock which could have occurred within the womb. These individuals are often timid, fearful and suffer from anxiety and worry.

Some signs associated with this pattern are – frequent awakenings, startled awakenings and recurring nightmares.

In all three categories, Chinese Medicine is a great alternative to help strengthen and re­balance the weak links disrupting the balance of Yin and Yang in the body.

4 Lifestyle Changes For Insomnia That Really Works!

Lifestyle changes are also vitally important such as:

  1. Maintaining a regular schedule of going to bed and waking.
  2. Avoiding heavy foods or stimulants (including TV or anything on the computer) right before bed.
  3. Staying active throughout the week, but avoiding exercise right before bedtime.
  4. Giving yourself the necessary amount of rest time to recuperate your body and avoid physical exhaustion.

Getting the appropriate amount of restful and nourishing sleep help our bodies, minds and emotions. In turn this will help the work you do, improve the overall health of your body, and help you to be more patient and considerate with the people you come in contact with.

If you are experiencing insomnia, do not delay in seeking natural and safe relief that can help improve the overall quality of your life!