By Andrea Rivera
I'm going to talk about sleep and insomnia from the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) point of view. I’m using what I’ve learned from a very successful sleep specialist, Damiana Corca, and the leader of sleep studies in TCM, Hamid Montakab.
It wasn’t until I started talking regularly about people’s sleep patterns (via asking detailed health history information before acupuncture sessions and herbal consults), that I realized just how many people don’t experience healthy sleep, or don’t realize that their sleep patterns are troubled and a larger problem than they think. Did you know that insomnia is considered CHRONIC when a person suffers from some type of insomnia for at least three nights a week for over a month? That’s not a very long time. I think that many people continue on with disturbed sleep this often for months, even years, without addressing it.
So what is healthy sleep? These are a few of the basics on what TCM considers healthy sleep:
To contrast, any kind of insomnia may present like this:
From this we gather that healthy sleep is achieved by reaching the proper depth and length of sleep.
In TCM, insomnia is a symptom, not a disease. Certain patterns of disharmony will result in disturbed sleep. Chinese medicine diagnoses the underlying patterns causing insomnia. When sleep issues are present without any obvious environmental cause, TCM can target the body’s imbalances to harmonize energies and create the internal environment necessary to achieve healthy sleep.
The standard approach to treating insomnia is with medications. Unfortunately, drug therapies present troubling side-effects like dependency. According to Montakab, sleep that is induced by hypnotics is not physiologically normal:
Your practitioner can also provide council on achieving proper sleep hygiene and making lifestyle changes geared toward better sleep. I’ve started treating sleep with almost every patient I see, no matter what their chief complaint is, and have seen it improve other areas of their health simultaneously. Healthy sleep is the cornerstone of healing.
Andrea is a licensed Acupuncturist, Massage Therapist and Chinese Herbalist living and practicing in the beautiful city of Missoula, Montana.