What is Insomnia?

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia means different things to everyone but mainly means you regularly have problems sleeping (NHS).   Here is a list of symptoms you may experience which will indicate that you are suffering from Insomnia: 

 * find it hard to go to sleep
 * wake up several times during the night
 * lie awake at night 
 * wake up early and can’t go back to sleep 
 * still feel tired after waking up 
 * find it hard to nap during the day even though you’re tired 
 * feel tired and irritable during the day 
 * find it difficult to concentrate during the day because you’re tired 
(NHS 2018) 


There are many reasons why someone suffers from Insomnia, see the list below but there are also medical conditions that can trigger this too: 

 * stress, anxiety or depression
 * noise
 * a room that’s too hot or cold 
 * uncomfortable beds 
 * alcohol, caffeine or nicotine 
 * recreational drugs like cocaine or ecstasy 
 * jet lag  
 * shift work 


Health conditions:

 * mental health conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder
 * Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease
 * restless legs syndrome 
 * overactive thyroid (NHS 2018) 
 * Nasal/sinus allergies 
 * Gastrointestinal problems such as reflux 
 * Arthritis 
 * Asthma 
 * Chronic pain 
 * Low back pain (sleep foundation 2018) 


Usually advised to avoid the following before bed and during the day:

 * No heavy meals, caffeine, alcohol, Nicotine (the last Stimulants: caffeine, alcohol, nicotine, don’t have at least 6 hours before you go to bed  watching TV or laptop, phone will again stimulate so you need to ditch these prior to bedtime.

 * Try not to nap during the day, have a regular sleeping time and wake up time, no matter what to try and get your body into a routine. 

* Ensure you room is dark, black out blinds, ear plugs which will block out the noise and make sure your bed is comfortable. 



Sleeping pills can be administered but they are not the answer to the problem. Sometimes CBT can help. 


Chinese Medicine and Insomnia: 

Before you read please remember that when organs are mentioned the context is within Chinese Medicine and not Western. Each organ has a different function and then there is a whole new language to understand! 

In Chinese medicine there can be many reasons as to why someone suffers from Insomnia, here are a few examples:

 * Worry: which can be caused by the Lungs, Heart and Spleen
 * Anger: affected by the liver
 * Overwork: influences the kidneys 
 * Irregular diet: greasy food, overeating can give phlegm and heat in the stomach. 
 * Childbirth: losing a lot of blood during childbirth can cause blood deficiency.  
 * Excessive sexual activity: can lead to depletion of kidney essence. (Giovanni 2008) 


To help decide what is affecting you, a consultation is taken. The consultation is there to get as much information as possible that tells a story as to why you are suffering with this problem. Questions that you may wonder why are being asked can be very relevant. Here are a few examples of what you may be asked that are directly involving your sleep patterns:

 * Can you get to sleep?
 * Do you wake up a lot in the night?
 * Do you dream and remember your dreams? 
 * How do you sleep, on your side, back, front? 
 * Do you snore? 


The answer you give will be very important to diagnose how to treat:

 * If you dream about swimming, it indicates the Kidneys. Fires coincide with the Heart.
 * Lying on your back with your arms outstretched is a heat condition
 * Snoring indicates Phelgm. Which is from the stomach channel. 

Once all the information is collated then your tongue and pulse will be looked at. Both these tools are very useful to support your diagnosis. 



There are many different types of patterns that can affect someone’s sleep.  Here are two examples: 

Spleen and Heart Blood Deficiency: Can’t get to sleep. Loss of appetite. Palpitations. Poor memory, dizziness, Liver Fire Blazing: Restless sleep, unpleasant dreams, nightmares, dreaming of fires, headaches, anger.

Once your diagnosis has been made, acupuncture will begin. Inserting into particular points within the body that will influence the pattern you have been diagnosed with. Needles are retained between 20 to 30 mins and regular treatments are recommended.  Naturopathic advice is given and also an ear seed is placed on the point: shen men, which is near the triangular fossa on the ear. This can be retained until the next session and is there to aid calmness for sleeping. 

I hope this has given you an insight to acupuncture for Insomnia.  As acupuncturists we are focusing on why your body has decided not to sleep.  With a little bit of investigating, taking all your information into account, a full picture can be understood and then balance is put back into the body. 


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Have a great day, 


Sara Packard Dip. Ac, Dip. NA, Dip. Sp. MSMA, MBAcC 
Acupuncturist, Fascial Manipulation Therapy, Sports Massage Therapist & Naturopath 





  • Insomnia. (2018). Available at: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/insomnia/ (Accessed 28th March 2018) 
  • Maciocia, G.(2008). The practise of Chinese Medicine. 2nd edn. UK: Elsevier. p408-440 
  • What Causes Insomnia (2018) Available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/insomnia/content/what-causes-insomnia (Accessed 28th March 2018) 

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