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Treatment of Insomnia from a Chinese medicine perspective  (May 24th, 2005)

Insomnia is the 3rd most common reason people seek help from a doctor after the common cold, stomach disorders and headaches. According to some statistics, about 1/3rd of Americans suffer from insomnia at least some of the time. Insomnia can contribute to depression, anxiety, accidents, productivity problems at work and family problems at home. Sleep is critical to our biology as much as breathing and eating, and so when we don't sleep well, all other functions of our body and mind suffer.

Western medicine has little to offer for insomnia. Drugs can numb the nervous system to mimic sleep, but in reality they only mask the symptoms and can do little more than provide short-term relief as drug induced sleep sometimes causes the insomnia to rebound with a vengeance once the drug is withdrawn.

I have experienced insomnia myself off and on for the past 10 years. I know first hand how debilitating it can become and how much it impacts on one's life, mood, family and work. The time awake at night is not productive time, but a netherworld of drowsy, foggy-mindedness where neither true sleep or wakefulness seem possible. Relief is possible however through stress management, lifestyle changes, dietary changes and Chinese medicine.

Chinese medicine is based on the premise of two opposite yet interdependent forces called yin and yang. Yin is passive, solid, cool, grounding and still. Yang is active, energetic, hot and moving. During the night, yin becomes dominant and our physiology normally follows this trend and we become still, relaxed and sleep. During the day, yang is dominant and again our physiology normally follows suit. Insomnia is the result of these forces being out of harmony and out of balance. 

Chinese medicine differentiates several different types of insomnia and can effectively treat the root cause of most of them. Some insomnia is the inability to fall asleep, while other insomnia is the waking in the middle of the night and then not being able to fall asleep. Sometimes the sleep is very shallow or we are easily awakened. Western medicine treats all these types of insomnia the same, i.e. with sedatives. Chinese medicine differentiates them into different patterns with different treatment approaches.

Acupuncture has a powerful calming effect on the body and mind, and can bring yin and yang into balance. Acupuncture calms the mind and settles the restless free-floating yang at night. The energy within the body is directed back towards a place of harmony, contentment and health. Chinese herbs can tonify the yin of the body while anchoring the yang at night promoting a natural and restful sleep. Chinese medicine is remarkably effective in the treatment of insomnia as central to its philosophy is that of balance and harmony within the body as well as with nature.

Copyright 2005 Oasis Acupuncture


Christopher Vedeler is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Clinical Hypnotherapist in Scottsdale, Arizona, with a Master of Science degree in Oriental Medicine.  He is the owner of Oasis Acupuncture, an Oriental medicine clinic where he operates a general family practice that specializes in treating psychological and emotional disorders including stress, anxiety and depression from the Chinese medicine perspective.  Visit www.oasisacupuncture.com or call Chris at 480-991-3650 for more information.