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Chinese and Functional Medicine Solutions for Sleep and Insomnia

Insomnia is one of the most prevalent issues when it comes to overall health and wellness. When people don’t get enough sleep they can become irritable, confused, and can experience safety hazards at work or while driving. We’ve all had nights when we could use a little more sleep, but chronic insomnia has an even greater impact on health and needs to be addressed as quickly as possible. Without sleep, the body and mental functioning deteriorate rapidly and can lead to a variety of issues in daily life.

When facing insomnia, many people choose to turn to Chinese Medicine, which can treat almost any disorder or disease in the body by balancing the system overall. Chinese Medicine uses a methodology called treating the roots and branches of disease. This method allows a practitioner to determine how to best treat both the cause and the outcomes of the disease. In some acute instances, the branch symptom needs to be treated immediately to provide relief to the patient from pain, infection, or other illness. But for some more chronic cases, a practitioner must dive deeper to treat and improve conditions at the foundational levels of the body. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine have gained popularity as holistic health treatments for insomnia and other chronic health conditions that impact overall immunity. Insomnia is a common condition in modern society, yet it is not always easily addressed at the root level and is rather often masked with sleeping aids or other medicines. Yet, by taking a slow and steady approach to health, insomnia can be cured or improved in many cases.

What Is Insomnia?

Some indicators for insomnia include trouble initiating sleep, difficulty staying asleep, frequent awakening or difficulty falling back asleep, waking early in the morning and being unable to fall back asleep, or trouble sleeping at least 3 nights per week. This lack of sleep has huge impacts on health, productivity, and performance. Insomnia can also be dangerous if people are trying to power through their drowsiness while working, driving, or performing other tasks. Being alert and aware is essential in today’s fast-paced world. Chinese Medicine can help people who are having trouble getting deep and restful sleep to find solutions including treatment, lifestyle modifications, and any other contributing factors that are sometimes overlooked in Western medical care.

Types of Insomnia

Various types of insomnia can impact people in different ways. Insomnia can include the inability to fall asleep, being easily awakened, inability to fall back asleep after waking in the early morning, or restlessness and anxiety that keeps one awake. This lack of rest affects a person’s ability to function at their best during the day due to tiredness. According to research, about 10% of people experience insomnia that lasts for more than 3 months, while 15-20% of people experience insomnia lasting for less than 3 months. Insomnia can be primary, meaning it cannot be attributed to another disease or condition, or secondary, meaning the insomnia is caused by another present condition. This helps the practitioner determine the best way to treat both the roots and branches of insomnia.

Addressing Insomnia

While Western Medicine solutions often include sleep aids that force people to fall asleep and stay asleep, Chinese and Functional Medicine uses a more gentle approach. Western Medicines can create a dependency in the body that will lead to greater imbalance overall as reliance on pharmaceuticals becomes commonplace. Instead of seeking temporary solutions, Chinese Medicine focuses on treating at the deepest level of nourishment while also bringing fast relief to patients.

Acupuncture for Insomnia

Chinese Medicine diagnosis utilizes an overall assessment of the current health of the patient and their underlying foundational constitution to determine the best course of treatment. This includes a thorough intake of current and past medical history, as well as observation. Tongue and pulse diagnosis are unique diagnostic assessments used in Chinese Medicine to determine the health of the organ systems and account for any imbalances.

One of the most popular ways to treat insomnia is using acupuncture. In acupuncture, very thin needles are inserted into the body at shallow and safe depths to stimulate endorphins and initiate an immune response. Acupuncture has been used safely for thousands of years in China and has been researched and demonstrated to be an effective treatment for insomnia.

Some of the best-known acupuncture points for treating insomnia include:

  • PC 6 (Neiguan) is the master point of the Yin Linking Channel and nourishes the heart’s blood.
  • SJ 3 (Zhong zhu) as an internal and external linking point to the Pericardium meridian. This point balances the yin and yang. Often used with PC 6.
  • GB 34 (Yanglingquan) is a gallbladder point used to spread the liver and gallbladder qi. This moves stagnated Qi allowing the body energy to flow freely.
  • LR 3 (Taichong) moves liver qi in the body
  • LI 4 (Hegu) is a large intestine point that treats headaches. It is often combined with LR 3 to dispel Qi stasis in the body.

Functional Medicine Solutions for Better Sleep

Additional functional medicine tips for combatting insomnia include:

  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule: going to sleep and waking up at the same time creates a pattern for the body. It is best to keep the TV out of the bedroom and sleep in a dark room if possible.
  • Spend time outdoors in natural sunlight: try to get at least 20 minutes of sunshine per day, preferably in the morning, to regulate the circadian clock. Avoid artificial blue light after the sun has gone down, or for about 3 hours before bed.
  • Try lying on an acupressure mat: acupressure stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system and creates a sense of relaxation in the body. Try laying on the mat for 30 minutes before bed.
  • Ground yourself: grounding is a practice of releasing and neutralizing electromagnetic frequencies which can disrupt sleep. These frequencies, known as EMFs, come from electronic devices like computers, tablets, and phones. Try to turn as many devices as possible off before bed.
  • Wind down with meditation for sleep. Need help with meditation? There are so many great meditation apps to choose from. Some of our favorites are Insight Timer or Calm.
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals before bed. What you eat or drink and when you do it matters. Eating a heavy meal within 3 hours of bedtime may make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep while drinking caffeinated drinks within six hours of bed can also negatively affect your sleep. Alcohol, on the other hand, may help you fall asleep easier, but will likely cause fragmented sleep.

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