You’ve tried it all: OTC remedies, prescription pills, counting sheep, drinking a warm glass of milk, white noise machines, New Age music, hypnotherapy … but for you, none of these have helped you sleep more soundly
Sleeping pills might help from time to time, but you don’t like their addictive properties. Is all hope lost? Are you destined to feel like a zombie for the rest of your life?
Are you supposed to just deal with it and power through your day the best you can, relying on coffee and energy drinks to work and deal with other responsibilities?
If only humans had an off switch to make sleeping a joyful, easy, rejuvenative 8-hour period of bliss…
Alas, unfortunately, not even with the latest technological advancements (driverless cars), a good night’s sleep for millions of people — an estimated 1 in 3 people have occasional sleeplessness — remains an elusive fantasy.
Furthermore, not getting good sleep comes with steep costs, and not just to financial markets, (it costs the U.S. economy over $100 billion per year), but in several other ways.
For instance, poor sleep quality may lead to cases of domestic violence. In addition, it not only leads to obvious side effects such as fatigue, exhaustion, and foggy brain, but also other health problems, such as depression.
TCM Formulas That Support Sleep: Not The Same Solution for All
Perhaps because of the addictive nature of pharmaceutical drugs and concern about their potential negative side effects, natural herbal remedies for sleep are becoming more popular. Especially those that have been time-tested in traditional Chinese medicine applications.
If you’ve never tried Chinese medicine, there’s one thing that you have to realize right away. And that’s that Chinese medicine isn’t a one-pill-for-all solution.
It’s not like going to a doctor and getting a prescription. Sure, you can go online and search for “TCM sleep formula” and buy one on your own and see if it works.
But before doing so, you must realize that there are different patterns of sleep troubles, according to TCM theory. And it’s critical that you first relate to which pattern you have before purchasing a corresponding formula (which an acupuncturist or herbalist can do for you, if you wish to get a professional diagnosis).
Taking a Long Time to Fall Asleep
On one hand, it would seem like sleep problems in ancient China had different root causes than those of today. For example, a traditional Chinese peasant didn’t have a hectic commute and a high-pressure all-day office job to deal with.
However, stress is stress, and the overworked laborer of ancient times could have benefitted from the same formula as the type-A executive of the modern era.
If you can relate to a lifestyle of chronic stress, here’s how TCM theory explains your particular pattern and what can be done to overcome it.
Constant stress affects the nervous system. This leads to excess heat in the Liver and Heart organ systems.
The manifestation of this is anxiety, irritability, or anger and tossing and turning in bed and having a really difficult time falling asleep.
And when that alarm clock cacophonously wakes you up in the morning, you feel very tired and may have trouble concentrating and remembering things during the day.
According to TCM theory, stress prevents blood and Qi from circulating throughout the body. High stress is indicative of Qi stagnation, particularly Liver Qi stagnation, since Liver, in TCM theory, is the chief organ for promoting smooth Qi flow.
Interestingly, if you frequently experience anger and occasional sleeplessness, consider that the emotion associated with Liver is … you guessed it, anger.
Moreover, if you feel anxious, this also affects the Heart organ system.
For this type of pattern, our signature formula Sleepeace may help.
Based on a classic formula that contains Suan Zao Ren (Sour Jujube seed), one of the most commonly used herbs for sleep support, Sleepeace nourishes the Blood and calms the spirit (shen).
Falling Asleep Not A Problem; But Staying Asleep Is
For all types of sleeplessness, according to TCM theory, the imbalance of both Heart and Liver cause the spirit to drift, disrupting your sleep cycle.
There is a difference between imbalances of the Heart and Liver, however, when it comes to sleep quality.
Excess heat in the Liver is more characteristic of those who have trouble falling asleep.
Whereas, if you are someone who doesn’t really have problems falling asleep but aren’t able to stay asleep, or sleep too lightly, it’s usually an indication of Yin deficiency.
If you think of your body as a car, Yin is your engine’s coolant. You may have the finest engine ever made, but if your radiator is out of coolant, your engine overheats.
In TCM diagnosis, this hyperactive fire caused by yin deficiency is very common. And what causes a Yin deficiency? Specifically, it’s an imbalance in the Kidney organ system.
The Kidneys are similar to your car’s radiator, in that they store your body’s cooling fluids. (It’s a subject for another blog post about why your Yin energy is insufficient.)
But what’s important to know is that Yin deficiency perturbs both the Heart and Shen spirit, which in turn, results in light or restless sleep quality as well as night sweats.
Are you a light sleeper? If so, a remedy that might benefit you for yin deficiency-type poor sleep is our signature formula, HeartVigor.
It’s based on the traditional formula, Tian Wang Bu Xin, which has been indicated in China Pharmacopoeia for nourishing Yin and blood, and tonifying the heart to calm the mind.
Poor Sleep Caused By Fear & Worry
For some people, brief periods of bad sleep are normal if there’s an obvious factor in preventing a good night’s sleep.
Take for instance, jet lag. But if tossing and turning isn’t caused by something temporary and obvious, but more from chronic pessimistic thoughts marked by fear and worry, this is characterized by Heart and Gallbladder Qi deficiency.
And it’s this deficiency that can produce nightmares and unpleasant repetitive dreams.
If you can relate, our formula SpiritSoothe may help. It expels Phlegm and clears Heat to harmonize the gallbladder in case of fear and anxiety.
Poor Appetite Caused By Stress
The Spleen organ system is directly responsible for transforming food into usable energy.
But the Qi flowing through Spleen organ system will be deficient if you don’t do anything to manage your stress. Especially if it reaches the point that you barely have any appetite.
Let’s say you’ve just gone through an unexpected breakup with a significant other. Or, you’re studying for the bar exam. In both these examples, stress consumes you to the point that you really can’t put any food down, let alone have the desire to.
Moreover, Spleen organ system gives rise to Blood production. In light of this, if you have weakness in your Spleen, you’ll likely have Blood deficiency. And consequently, with this trio of weak appetite, and sluggish Spleen Qi and blood deficiency, you may experience dream-disturbed sleep.
If you can relate, consider our signature formula, SpleenVive, which in China, is prescribed by doctors for sleep, forgetfulness, palpitations, fatigue, and poor appetite.
TCM & Sleep: Conclusion
There are additional patterns in TCM theory related to sleep. But these are some of the most common.
The important takeaway is this…
If you want a natural solution to help you sleep better, in TCM, not all “sleeping pills” are the same.
Ideally, an acupuncturist, or other professional trained in TCM can help diagnose your pattern, and recommend the proper herbs or formula so you can get a good night’s sleep, again and again.