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What is Insomnia?

The term "insomnia" covers a number of different problems such as inability to fall asleep easily, waking up during the night, sleeping restlessly, waking up early in the morning and dream-disturbed sleep. Infrequent insomnia can be caused by external or temporary causes, such as a sudden change in the weather, drinking a lot of tea or coffee, an emotional upset or worry. Once the cause is removed, the person usually sleeps well again.

For chronic insomnia, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) differentiates and develops specific acupuncture treatments to alleviate the symptoms and underlying causes. The following are some of the manifestations of insomnia which acupressure can address:

  • Restless sleep; tossing and turning, unpleasant dreams
  • Waking up during the night, mental restlessness, cannot lie down or sit
  • Waking up during the night, dreaming a lot, often with nightmares, talking in one's sleep
  • Difficulty falling asleep, palpitations, tiredness, poor appetite
  • Waking up very early in the morning and being unable to fall asleep again, light sleep, dreaming a lot
  • Difficulty in falling asleep, waking up during the night

A note about dreaming: "Excessive" dreaming may be defined as dreaming which causes restless sleep or nightmares, resulting in the person feeling very tired the following morning. Dreaming which does not make sleep restless, is not frightening, does not disturb the mind the morning after, and does not leave the person very tired in the morning, can be described as normal.

Re-Train Yourself to Sleep

Some tips from the West Park Healthcare Centre Sleep Lab, Toronto:

  • Schedule a relaxing period before going to sleep. Read a book or take a warm bath. This signals to your body it's time to wind down for the day.
  • Use your bedroom primarily for sleep, not for watching television or doing work.
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable, the room is dark and quiet, and the is temperature suitable for you.
  • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day if you can.
  • Be consistent about taking naps - take one regularly or not at all.
  • Try to get some natural light in the afternoon each day.
  • Exercise regularly, but avoid strenuous activity late in the evening.
  • Avoid caffeine within eight hours of bedtime.
  • Avoid nicotine close to bedtime.
  • Don't use alcohol as a sedative.
  • Avoid heavy meals before bed. If you have to eat, make it a light snack.

Don't try too hard. If you can't fall asleep after 15 minutes, get out of bed, read or do something else for a while until you feel sleepy again. Then go back and try again.

The Importance of Sleep

Sleep is vital to replenish Yin. It is not merely rest in terms of cessation of activity, it is a different form of being. It is an entry into the world of Yin, which nourishes feeling and intuition. The daytime world is the Yang domain of physical activity and the analytical mind.

One of the main causes of insomnia is nervous tension, anxiety, worry, and the projection of these daytime stresses into the world of sleep. It is not simply a matter of turning off the rational mind at the end of the day, it is also necessary to nourish and develop the intuitive mind and the realm of imagination and feelings.

It is difficult for most people not to carry their daytime mental activity into the world of sleep. This creates a great imbalance between Yin and Yang, with Yang increased and Yin greatly reduced. During an Acupressure session, specific points are held to rebalance Yin and Yang.

(Adapted from The Practice of Chinese Medicine by Giovanni Maciocia, p. 281-303)

Insomnia Resources