The Chinese Medicine Approach to Sleep

The Chinese Medicine Approach to Sleep
A sleeping baby is seen in a file photo. (Courtesy of UCLA/Shutterstock)
If you have experienced insomnia, you know that having sleep problems is miserable. It affects every aspect of your life, especially if it’s chronic. Insomnia may affect you differently than others – some people have trouble falling and/or staying asleep, others experience dream-disturbed sleep. Whatever variation keeps you from feeling rested and sharp, you have my sympathies. But in addition to compassion, you might want some advice from Chinese Medicine. We offer many solutions for sleeplessness, including acupuncture, herbs, diet and lifestyle suggestions. The treatment plan and suggestions will vary depending on your unique symptoms, but most patients can benefit from Chinese Medicine and find some relief.

Here Are 4 Ideas for You:

Acupuncture – Acupuncture is very relaxing and helps calm the mind and body. The World Health Organization (W.H.O.) lists insomnia as a condition for which acupuncture has been shown effective. Also at the prestigious Mayo Clinic, they use acupuncture with many conditions and successfully treat anxiety (one cause for restlessness) and insomnia.
Chinese Herbs – There are many Chinese herbal formulas to effectively help regulate your sleep patterns. Plus, Chinese herbs don’t have the nasty side effects that many medications do. It is best to have a licensed practitioner select the proper formula for you because formulas are specific to each person based on their set of symptoms, constitution, and medical history. Chinese herbs are never ‘one-size-fits-all’.
Lifestyle Suggestions -Try using lavender essential oil in a bath or wear it as a perfume. The scent promotes relaxation which can lead to better sleep. Buy a new pillow. Studies show that pillows with an indent in the center can enhance sleep quality and reduce neck pain. I like the Tempurpedic brand.
Diet – If you are prone to insomnia, avoid coffee, soda or any other caffeinated products after 3 p.m.. Another cause of sleep disturbance is alcohol. It metabolizes quickly and can cause you to wake up multiple times during the night.
Do eat a handful of walnuts before bed. (ALLEKO/iStock)
Do eat a handful of walnuts before bed. (ALLEKO/iStock)

Do eat a handful of walnuts before bed. You’ll be giving yourself a boost of fiber and essential fatty acids along with the amino acid tryptophan, a natural sleep-inducer. Boiled squash is also good for insomnia because it is warming and improves qi circulation. Have some cherries; this yummy fruit is one of the few foods that contains melatonin, a chemical that helps control your body’s internal clock.

Try some of these ideas and let me know how they work for you. Or, send me your sleep tips and I will share them with everyone – the folks reading the blog post at 3 am will be particularly grateful.

This article was originally published on
Jennifer Dubowsky is a licensed acupuncturist with a practice in downtown Chicago, Illinois, since 2002. Jennifer maintains a popular blog about health and Chinese Medicine and In 2013, Jennifer released her first book, Adventures in Chinese Medicine: Acupuncture, Herbs and Ancient Ideas for Today.
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