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In the previous post, we defined the most common causes of insomnia according to Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture. Today, we will talk about possible Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnosis based on HOW insomnia manifest itself.

Is it difficult for you to fall asleep? Do you tend to wake up frequently at night? Do you wake up early in the morning without being able to go back to sleep or does it take you a while to do so? Do you dream a lot and wake up tired as if you’ve run all night long?

All patterns are related to different imbalances that we will identify in this article. Here is a list of the most frequently found in clinical practice, as well as the specific characteristics of each.

Elderly woman suffers from insomnia
  • Difficulty falling asleep indicates hyperactivity of fire due to yin deficiency or liver-qi stagnation transforming into fire.
  • Waking up frequently during the night indicates a Yin Deficiency.
  • If you’re waking up between 11 pm and 1 am it means you need to take care of the gallbladder. Try reducing fat intake or consuming healthier fats since the gallbladder is responsible for breaking them down. On an emotional level, this signifies that you’re holding onto heavy feelings of bitterness and resentment. It will be beneficial to reflect on your relationships and release any negativity blocking energy in your system.
  • If you wake up between 1 am and 3 am it means your liver was overloaded. The liver is responsible for detoxifying our bodies and processing emotions each night. You may be suffering from an unhealthy diet, excess alcohol consumption, and/or unresolved anger or high levels of stress.
  • If you wake up between 3 am and 5 am it could be due to an imbalance in your lungs, specifically breathing. Therefore, any disruption to your sleep during this time means that there is something blocking your ability to take deep, proper breaths. It is also linked to emotional factors, such as grief as a result of dealing with loss. Try to practice abdominal deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga to improve your lung health and grief release.
  • If you wake up between 5 am and 7 am then your large intestine is trying to tell you something. You need to pay attention to getting proper hydration and fiber since the large intestine is responsible for releasing digestive waste from your system. Emotionally, you’re likely to be feeling “stuck” in a certain circumstance, relationship, job, etc. Try to release the lingering negative emotions that overwhelm you and move forward, both physically and emotionally.
Insomnia based on body position
Body Position
  • An inability to sleep on the back usually indicates an excess (Qi or Heat) of the Heart or Lungs, which is common in asthmatic patients when lungs are clogged with mucus.
  • Sleeping on the back with the arms above the head means a heat condition.
  • Sleeping systematically on the belly is usually indicative of a Stomach Deficiency.
  • Feeling the need to sleep on a specific side of the body is often associated with a Qi and Blood Deficiency of this specific side or excess on the opposite side.
Scared man in the bed
  • Excessive dreaming indicates either a Deficiency of Blood or Liver Yin, or too much heat in the Liver or Heart.
  • Nightmares that suddenly wake you up are linked to a weakness in the Heart and Gall Bladder.
  • Very agitated dreams can also indicate mucus and heat that disturb the Stomach.
insonnia due to snoring

Snoring is usually due to mucus that interferes with the Stomach Meridian or it may be a rebellious Qi, which affects the Yang Meridians of the lower body (the Qi rises up when it should come down).

waking up in middle of night

Here is an overview of imbalances that can create sleep problems according to Chinese Medicine. In our next article of the insomnia, we will focus on learning a few useful points to stimulate and improve sleep in a simple way and without medication. Until then, sleep well!


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Central New Jersey Acupuncture & Wellness Clinic will not be treating any known, or suspected, cases of Covid-19 in the office.  If you are sick, please wait for 2 weeks until you are symptom free before making an appointment.

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