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Insomnia is a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or experiencing non-restorative sleep despite having the opportunity to sleep. It is a common condition that can be short-term (acute) or long-lasting (chronic). Insomnia can lead to daytime fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and impaired daytime functioning.

There are various types of Insomnia, including sleep-onset insomnia (difficulty falling asleep at the beginning of the night), sleep maintenance insomnia (difficulty staying asleep and waking up frequently during the night), early morning awakening (waking up too early and being unable to fall back asleep), and non-restorative sleep (feeling unrefreshed and tired upon waking despite getting adequate sleep).

Causes of Insomnia can have various factors, including stress, anxiety, depression, lifestyle habits (such as irregular sleep schedules, excessive caffeine or alcohol intake, and excessive electronic device use before bedtime), medical conditions, medications, and environmental factors (such as noise or uncomfortable sleeping conditions).

What does Chinese Medicine say

In Chinese medicine, insomnia is often viewed as an imbalance in the body’s vital energies, particularly affecting the Heart, Liver, Spleen, and Kidneys. The causes of insomnia in Chinese medicine are multifactorial and may include both internal imbalances and external influences. Here is how Chinese medicine approaches insomnia:

  • Imbalances in Organs: The Heart is considered the residence of the Mind (Shen) in Chinese medicine, and the Liver is responsible for the smooth flow of Qi (vital energy) and blood, and its stagnation or heat may lead to difficulty falling asleep. The Spleen, responsible for transforming and transporting food, can lead to insomnia when its Qi is weakened, affecting digestion and causing worry or overthinking. The Kidneys, which store Jing (essence) and govern Yin and Yang, can be involved in insomnia due to Kidney Yin or Yang deficiency.
  • Disruption of Circadian Rhythms: In Chinese medicine, the body’s internal clock is associated with the natural flow of Yin and Yang throughout the day. External factors such as irregular sleep schedules, excessive exposure to electronic devices, or environmental disturbances may disrupt this balance and lead to insomnia.
  • Emotional Factors: Emotional imbalances, such as excessive worry, anxiety, or stress, can disturb the Mind and lead to difficulties in falling asleep or staying asleep.
  • Blood Deficiency or Stagnation: Inadequate nourishment of the Heart and Liver by the blood can lead to insomnia, as blood is considered the material basis for the Mind.

Acupuncture has been studied as a potential treatment for insomnia, and some research suggests that it may offer benefits in improving sleep quality and may result in better sleep efficiency, reduced sleep disturbances, and increased total sleep time. Acupuncture has been found to promote relaxation and reduce stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms and  influence the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which play essential roles in regulating sleep-wake cycles and mood.

Nutrition plays as well a significant role in managing insomnia and promoting better sleep as certain foods and dietary habits can influence sleep quality and help regulate sleep-wake cycles. But it’s important to note that nutrition alone may not be a comprehensive solution for treating insomnia.


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