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Chinese Medicine for Sleep Disorders

Herbs to Improve Sleep

TCM doctors don't use 'sleeping pills', and that's a good thing.

We believe that taking pills that knock you out is no way to solve anyone's chronic sleep issues.  That's because 'sleeping pills' don't address the underlying causes of anyone's sleeping issues.

Chinese medicine doctors, on the other hand, diagnose the causes of the insomnia and then prescribe herbs that address the specific causes.  Here's a look at some of the patterns of disharmony that underlie most sleep problems.

Liver Qi Stagnation

When we become stressed or frustrated and we fail to express or let go of these thoughts, we experience tension in the chest.  Rather than feeling tightness in the chest, we feel this constraint as depression, restlessness, agitation, and sometimes difficulty sleeping. This is called Liver Qi Stagnation.  The most popular formula used to relieve it is Free & Easy Pill (XIAO YAO WAN)


Disturbed Shen

Life traumas and other sudden shocking experiences can cause the "Spirit (Shen) to become "disturbed".  This can lead to many symptoms including:

  • Sadness with an urge to cry
  • Uncontrollable emotions
  • Depression
  • Restless sleep
  • Poor Concentration
  • Irritability

GAN MAI DA ZAO TANG is often prescribed for this kind of condition.


YIN or Blood Deficiency 

When the fluids that circulate throughout our body to cool and lubricate us, begin to diminish, we experience not only heat and dryness, but difficulty sleeping as well. This deficiency, common during menopause, but also prevalent with women of childbearing age, causes us to awaken at night and makes it difficult to get back to sleep.  Sometimes this is experienced as 'night sweats' but more often we experience it as agitating thoughts or a busy mind.  Formulas to address this combine herbs that build blood and YIN with herbs that Nourish the Heart and Calm the Spirit like. Good Sleep & No Worries Pill (SHUI DE AN)


Heart Blood Deficiency

This insomnia often has a nutritional root and causes quality of the blood to be poor. In these cases the poor blood fails to properly nourish the Heart (Mind).
If you have this type insomnia, you may have difficulty falling asleep. You may also have fatigue during the day and possibly digestive complaints as well.

Remedies for sleep issues caused by Heart Blood Deficiency include Good Sleep & No Worries Pill (SHUI DE AN),  GUI PI WAN  and SUAN ZAO REN WAN.


Disharmony Between Heart and Kidneys

This insomnia is caused by low "Kidney Qi'. The Kidneys are like the batteries of the body). Weakened Kidney energy can lead to a pattern known as disturbed Shen (Spirit). This is where the spirit, residing in the heart, is uncomfortable due to thoughts and emotions. can be marked by symptoms of vivid dreams or nightmares, heart palpitations or anxiety. Medicines used to treat this conditions may contain heavy mineral substances to Anchor the Spirit. However, long term use of these substances is not generally recommended

The most frequently used formula to strengthen the Heart and Kidneys and that does not usually contain minerals is Emperor's Tea, TIAN WANG BU XIN DAN


Shen Clinic TCM Advice

Insomnia and Acupuncture

Many people who have experienced acupuncture are familiar with its sleep inducing properties and find it difficult to stay awake during treatment, or find themselves sleeping exceptionally well the night after treatment.

However, to be effective in the long run, acupuncture must be done with regularity and treatment must conform to the pattern of each individual. Points are commonly selected on the heart or pericardium channels, as sleep conditions usually reflect disturbances in these organ systems. Note that TCM 'Heart' or 'Kidney' patterns in no way implies heart or kidney disease in any conventional Western sense.



Information on this site is provided for educational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice of your own physician or another medical professional. We make no claim as to efficacy or safety of herbs or herbal medicine appearing on this site. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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