Insomnia (Sleeplessness) or what is the sweetest thing in life?
The term insomnia involves the inability to fall asleep, waking up during the night, waking up before the morning, and superficial or restless sleep. The need for sleep also depends on our age: children generally need more sleep (a six-month old baby up to 16 hours, 2-year-old child 13 hours, 12-year-old from 10 to 12 hours); in adulthood the need gradually decreases (at 18 years 9 hours of sleep, young people around 7-8 hours, for people over 60 years just 5-7 hours of sleep is enough). Insomnia is also affected – except for internal factors (see below) – by external factors such as sudden changes in the weather, drinking coffee or strong tea (especially at bedtime), eating at bedtime or “heavy” meals at all, adaptation to different environment, bad mattress, jetlag, too hot or too cold in the bedroom, sudden emotional shocks or excitement, and apprehension with which we fall asleep. Inability to sleep due to pain, skin itching, or asthma, etc., is not considered insomnia!
As you make your bed…
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), the best position for healthy sleep and falling asleep is the so called recovery position – it is lying on the right side with the right arm slightly bent on the pillow and sticking out, the left arm then freely resting on the left side. This position is optimal because the heart is higher than the liver and blood can circulate freely and vice versa – the liver, which is lower than the heart then “gathers” blood and soothes the spirit, thereby promoting healthy sleep. The stomach and bowels are relaxed in this position too and can happily digest food and move it downward. If we cannot fall asleep lying on the shoulder, it is (in terms of TCM) always a condition of SHI excess, if we fall asleep only in this position with our arms sticking out, then it is a condition of heat RE, if we always fall asleep only on the stomach, this is a deficient XU condition (mainly of the stomach meridian WEI), if we always fall asleep on our left side, in this case it is a deficiency of energy QI XU and blood XUE XU in the heart meridian XIN and conversely a SHI excess in the liver meridian SHI GAN.
And bear in mind that sleep is the best meditation in the world!
Actually, why do you not sleep?
- Today Emotional stress is the alpha and omega for the majority of sleep disorders. Too many worries, fears, anxiety, phobias, excessive or constant (obsessive) thinking, tendency towards sadness or weepiness, nostalgic lingering in the past, inner restlessness, anger, irritability, frustration, feeling of guilt or grievance, but also envy, suppressed anger, hatred, animosity, acrimony, or idle gossip – all this leads either to depletion of yin YIN XU or blood XUE XU, which then do not moisten enough the spirit SHEN, or to the stagnation of liver energy GAN QI ZHI, which later changes into liver fire GAN HUO, or allows the rise of liver GAN YANG SHI, which “burns and irritates” the spirit HUN in the liver GAN, thereby making the circuit closed. We should live our life and not think about it constantly!
- Today overwork holds a well-deserved second place in our imaginary chart. Long-lasting work without adequate rest, high-stress work (mainly work with people), work without regular and high quality diet – this all leads again to reaching into the “reserves” of the body, which are deposited in the kidneys SHEN, and subsequently the depletion of kidney yin SHEN YIN XU will occur. Thanks to this, the “fire of emptiness” HUO XIN flames up in the heart XIN. This type of insomnia, when the kidney meridian SHEN does not communicate with the heart meridian XIN, is the most common especially in older people.
- Diet and eating, which is irregular, opulent (overeating in general and mainly before bed), excessive consumption of high-fat meals and food, bringing to the body so called heat RE (red meat, spicy and seasoned meals, fried, grilled, or baked dishes, but also black coffee and alcohol) – all of this results in digestive disorders either by gastric phlegm creation WEI TAN, which then disturbs the spirit SHEN in the heart XIN or by creation of internal heat NEI RE (mainly in the liver GAN). Or it leads to stagnation of food in the stomach WEI SHI JI, which is a common cause of insomnia in childhood.
- Constitutional disposition that indicates a weak gallbladder meridian DAN and heart XIN; in practice it is manifested by timidness, pusillanimity, indecisiveness, low self-esteem, difficulties with asserting themselves, lack of courage – those people are congenitally predisposed to sleep disturbances, and it is mainly demonstrated by waking up in the early hours of the morning (around 4 a.m.) and finding it impossible to fall back to sleep.
- Other factors, such as e.g. persistent hot toxin RE DU after recent febrile illness that disturbs the spirit SHEN (e.g. insomnia in chronic fatigue syndrome), or excessive blood loss in childhood (after injury or surgery) can result in adulthood insomnia as well. Medicinal drugs having been used in the long term act similarly, e.g. hormones including hormonal contraceptives, painkillers, or antibiotics, which from the perspective of TCM weaken blood XUE XU or block blood XUE YU, which then soothes and nourishes the spirit SHEN insufficiently.
When sleeping sweetly does not always go so smoothly
According to traditional Chinese medicine, the inability to fall asleep is caused by a lack of blood XUE XU, waking up at night by lack of yin Yin XU, waking up before the morning then by deficiency in the meridians of the gallbladder and heart DAN/XIN XU, restless sleep by heat RE or fire HUO, or food stagnation JI SHI. All of this is true in general; in practice, the individual images combine with each other in different ways – the way it goes in life.
In principle, however, we can divide the causes of insomnia into lack of XU and excess of SHI – it is like when we have an engine that has been overheated (due to high power and “revving”) and in the evening it takes a long time to cool it down – it is a state of excess SHI. In contrast, in the condition of deficient XU, oil and water lack in the engine, which then easily overheats…Insomnia of lack involves deficiency of blood in the heart and spleen XIN/PI XUE XU, yin lack in the kidney, liver, and heart SHEN/GAN/XIN YIN XU, gallbladder and heart deficiency DAN/XIN XU, or lack of communication between the heart XIN and kidney SHEN. Insomnia of excess represents in turn the fire of liver and heart GAN/XIN HUO, stagnant liver qi GAN QI ZHI and heart XIN QI ZHI, stagnation of food JI SHI, blockage of blood in the heart XIN YU XUE, stagnant phlegm TAN, which disturbs the spirit SHEN, or persistent hot toxin RE DU.
From the perspective of TCM regular and loud snoring mostly represents stagnant phlegm TAN WEI from the stomach, which rises in the opposite direction to QI NI – therapy in this case are 2 herbal mixtures Canopy Chamber (code 036)+ Cultivation of Burned Land (code 015).
The following detailed analysis of particular causes is sorted according to the most frequent occurrence of insomnia in practice:
- Liver fire GAN HUO is manifested by restless sleep, unpleasant dreams and nightmares, as well as irritability, tendency to anger, feeling of bitterness in the mouth, headache, dizziness, red face, thirst, dry stools or constipation, and dark urine.
Herbal mixtures: Pill of Gentian (code 014).
- Heart fire XIN HUO it is manifested by awakening during sleep, nightmares, dreams of flying, as well as mental restlessness, feeling of bitterness in the mouth, especially in the morning, and thirst.
Herbal mixtures: Overcoming of Fire Covern (code 016).
- Stagnation of qi energy in the liver – QI ZHI GAN is manifested by insomnia, restless sleep, dreams full of fear or anger, then pain in the hypochondrium and around the stomach, inflating, moodiness, tendency to depression, premenstrual syndrome in women with tension in the breasts.
Herbal mixtures: Harmony of Magic Change (code 063) or Calming of Rough Water (code 062).
- Kidneys and heart not communicating together – SHEN/XIN YIN XU manifest themselves by insomnia, frequent awakenings during the night, difficulty falling asleep, dryness in the throat, night sweats, heat in the five hearts (on the soles, palms, and chest), pounding heart, memory impairment, dizziness, agitation, by being easily skittish or by twitches during sleep, whistling in the ears or back pain.
Herbal mixtures: Elixir of Heavenly Emperor (code 121).
- Liver yin deficiency – GAN YIN XU manifests itself by awakening, excessive dreaming, sleep talking, in more serious cases even sleep walking (somnambulism), furthermore, dryness in the throat, irritability, blurred vision, feeling hot, dry and sore eyes, dry skin, dry hair and dizziness.
Herbal mixtures: Joy of Coming Sleep (code 127).
- Hot phlegm of disturbing spirit – DAN TAN RE is manifested by restless sleep, jerking movements and tossing and turning while sleeping, unpleasant dreams, nightmares, as well as snoring with feeling of heaviness in the body, dizziness, feeling of pressure in the chest, nausea, loss of appetite, palpitations, feeling hot, phlegm in the throat, sticky taste in the mouth and mental restlessness.
Herbal mixtures: Canopy Chamber (code 036)+ Cultivation of Burned Land (code 015).
- Kidney and liver yin deficiency SHEN/GAN YIN XU is manifested by awakening, abundant dreaming, sleep talking, in more serious cases, sleep walking(somnambulism), then by dryness in the throat, irritability, blurred vision, feeling hot, dry and sore eyes, dry skin, dry hair, dizziness, whistling in the ears, pain in loins, and night sweats.
Herbal mixtures: Fresh Evening Pagoda (code 185).
- Gallbladder and heart deficiency DAN/XIN QI XU manifests itself by typically awakening in the early hours of the morning (around 4 a.m.) with inability to fall back to sleep, shallow sleep, abundant dreaming, and by the tendency to timidness and pusillanimity, shyness, diffidence, indecisiveness, pounding heart, fatigue, depression, and feeling shortness of breath.
Herbal mixtures: Second Wind of Falcon (code 039)+ Joy of Coming Sleep (code 127).
- Deficiency of blood in the heart and spleen – XIN/PI XUE XU is manifested by sleeplessness, difficulty falling asleep, palpitations, fatigue, loss of appetite, mild anxiety, dizziness, blurred vision and pallor of the face.
Herbal mixtures: Peach Grove Harmony (code 192).
- Stagnation of qi energy in the heart – XIN QI ZHI is manifested by sleeplessness (all kinds), as well as pounding heart, feeling of tension or pressure in the chest, depressions, mild feeling of a lump in the throat, mild problem with taking a deep breath, yawning, loss of appetite, cold and tired limbs and slightly mauve lips.
Herbal mixtures: Second Wind of Falcon (code 039+ Harmony of Magic Change (code 063).
- Blockage of blood in the heart – XIN YU XUE manifests itself by sleeplessness (all kinds), jerky movements and tossing and turning while sleeping, as well as pounding heart, chest pain, mental restlessness, anxiety, and fear.
Herbal mixtures: Reinforcement of Undermined Riverbank (code 041).
- Persisting hot toxin – RE DU manifests itself after recent febrile illness by restless sleep, awakening in the night, furthermore, by mental restlessness and inability to remain sitting or lying for a while, feeling of fullness in the chest, digestive problems around the stomach, and heartburn.
Herbal mixtures: Birth of the Phoenix (code 009)or Shade of Brocade Veil (code 012).
We have been given 3 things against the troubles in life:
hope, laughter, and sleep!