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Chinese Medicine for Insomnia

Why Can’t I Sleep?

Chinese medicine seeks to address the root cause of insomnia and sleep disorders. Some of the symptoms of sleep disorders are:

  • Trouble falling asleep

  • Waking up frequently throughout the night

  • Waking up early and not being able to go back to sleep

  • Feeling worried, anxious, or having racing thoughts before bed or when waking

  • Irritability or depression that affects sleep


Common Reasons for Having Trouble Sleeping

  • Stress and anxiety (work, family, etc.)

  • Side effects of medications and using caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol

  • Inconsistent sleep schedule

  • Poor sleep hygiene (eating right before bed, excessive screen time at night)

  • Other medical conditions like restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea


Side Effects of Poor Sleep


Whatever the cause of poor sleep is, there are many negative consequences related to not getting a good night’s rest. Some of the more common side effects include:

  • Feeling tired even after a full night of sleep

  • Drowsiness and tiredness during the day

  • Increased irritability or anxiety

  • Trouble concentrating or memory loss

  • Headaches and digestive issues

  • Increased muscle tension and tightness


How Chinese Medicine Can Help


From the point of view of Chinese Medicine, sleep problems are mostly related to dysfunction of the Heart, Spleen, Stomach, Liver, and Kidneys. Blood is made from food essence and controlled by the Spleen to produce essence which will be stored in the kidneys. Blood is stored in the liver and soothes the liver. Blood also transports essence from the kidneys to the heart to nourish it. If these organs are in disharmony, excessive fire and Qi (the body’s essential energy) stagnation will occur and disturb the mind, which leads to insomnia.

Irregular food intake can damage the spleen and stomach and cause problems in blood and essence production, which will disturb sleep. Anxiety and overwork result in blood exhaustion, making the blood unable to nourish the heart. Thus, insomnia follows. Congenital deficiency, sexual activity or a prolonged illness can give rise to a failure of essence transportation between the kidneys and the heart, causing heart fire that disturbs the mind. Emotional depression can lead to liver Qi stagnation (the liver’s essential energy) which will be transformed into the fire over time, thus insomnia occurs.

According to Chinese Medicine theory, Chinese herbs can be prescribed to treat the various syndromes that cause insomnia. Often treatment is aimed to regulate the movement of Qi and restore harmony within the key internal organs (including the Heart) as well as the balance between the cooling and the warming energies (the Yin and Yang) in the body in order to calm the mind and relieve insomnia.


Many patients are looking for non-drug alternatives to treating insomnia and sleep disorders since sleep drugs often come with their own side effects. Chinese herbs provide a natural way to treat sleep issues and can have more lasting effects than other alternatives.

Some of the benefits include:

  • Promoting more restful sleep by regulating the nervous system

  • Increasing energy and reducing fatigue

  • Improving memory and concentration

  • Decreasing anxiety and stress levels

  • Improving digestion and reducing headaches


Many studies have shown that Chinese herbs can be effective in treating insomnia. It can replace drugs used for insomnia or help reduce the need for sleep medication.

A meta-analysis that looked at the effectiveness of Chinese herbs for insomnia found that Chinese herbs were significantly better at improving various sleep parameters related to sleep quality and duration when compared with no treatment, sham Chinese herbs, or medications. Additionally, the combination of Chinese herbs and other treatment modalities appeared more effective than those other treatments alone.

Chinese herbs help balance the nervous system and activate various neurotransmitters in the brain. It has also been found to help increase specific hormones that promote sleep

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