How to get a better night’s sleep
Sleeping disorder is a common syndrome with a prevalence of 9-15% in the population worldwide. It is commonly due to factors such as stress, chronic disease, medications, and consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. The sleeping disorder may lead to fatigue, poor performance in daytime activities, and mood swings. Although it is not a critical illness, it can significantly impact people’s life, work, studies, and health.
Patients who have the sleeping disorder may experience:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up frequently during the night with difficulty falling asleep again
- Waking up early in the morning
- Non-refreshing sleep
- Dream-disturbed sleep
Patients who suffer from long term sleeping disorder may also have the potential for dependence and adverse effects due to long term consumption of sleeping pills when using a pharmacological approach to treatment. Thus, there is an increasing demand for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) to treat sleeping disorders due to the natural approach with few adverse effects. A survey conducted in the United States in 2002 indicated 4.5% of adults used CAM for their sleeping disorder.
How does TCM define sleeping disorder?
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the sleeping disorder is called “bu mei ”(不寐). TCM as an ancient oriental medicine has been used for thousands of years to treat the symptoms caused by insufficient sleep. Throughout history, our ancestors have proved the efficacy of various kinds of prescriptions and acupuncture points to promote better sleep.
According to TCM theory, the heart is the main organ that stores the “Shen” (Spirit). A healthy sleeping cycle can harmonize the yin & yang and qi regulation as well as the spirit in our bodies. Thus, when the body has an imbalance of qi, xue and yin & yang, the stability of the spirit inside the heart is affected and causes the sleeping disorder.
TCM Evaluation and Treatment for the Sleeping disorder
In TCM, a sleeping disorder is classified into either:
- Excessive heart fire
- Fire syndrome caused by liver stagnation
- Internal disturbance of phlegm-heat
- The excess fire caused by yin deficiency
- Deficiency of heart and spleen
- Deficiency of gallbladder and heart
When a patient presents with a sleeping disorder, doctors will need to evaluate the symptoms, take the pulse and do a tongue reading to identify the patient’s condition and possible deficiencies.
For example, a patient who has a sleeping disorder due to the excessive fire caused by yin deficiency may experience the following symptoms:
- Restless sleep
- Night sweating
- Hot flush
- Ear ringing
- Soreness in the waist and knees
- Nocturnal emission
- Menstrual problems
- Mouth dryness
- Red tongue and thready pulse
The treatment principle for this patient will be to nourish the heart and kidney yin, eliminate the fire and calm the spirit. The classic prescription for these symptoms is Huang Lian e jiao tang. No patient has exactly the same symptoms when they come to us. So, the doctor will need to add some specific herbs into the prescription to eliminate the patient’s specific symptoms, customizing the prescription to their body’s condition.
Besides the herbal prescription, acupuncture points such as Shen Men (HT7), Nei Guan (PC6), An Mian (EX-HN22) are commonly chosen by the acupuncturist as part of their treatment protocol for these patients.
Patients will benefit from herbal medicine combined with acupuncture to address both symptoms and the underlying deficiencies.
Joe Teh offers TCM evaluation and treatment, including herbal medicine and acupuncture, at the Downtown (Xintiandi) and Hongmei Road (Minhang) clinics. If you’re tired of suffering from poor sleep or other symptoms, click here to make an appointment with him.
Ohayon MM.Epidemiology of insomnia: what we know and what we still need to learn[J].Sleep medicine reviews,2002,6(2):97-111.
Pearson NJ, Johnson LL, Nahin RL.Insomnia, trouble sleeping, and complementary and alternative medicine: analysis of the 2002 national health interview survey data[J].Archives of internal medicine,2006,166(16):1775-82.