Cure Insomnia Permanently With Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine

Its very possible to cure Insomnia permanently with Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Mindfulness Practice, Body Scanning, and the development of what specialists call Sleep Hygiene or Sleep Culture.

Importance of Quality Sleep in Chinese Medicine.

Adequate deep Sleep is vital for health. It has such enormous restorative value.  Chinese Medicine emphasizes the importance of good sleep with this adage, “Good Sleep, Good Digestion, Good Prognosis.” Whatever disease you have, especially chronic diseases, your chance of recovery is so much better if you sleep well.

Sleep in Winter versus Summer

The ancient classic’s view of sleep is also informative. In the Summer months, when most peoples energy is higher, it says you can stay up late and rise early.

But in Winter, the dangerous season of colds and flus it says to go to be early and rise late. This is also because we conceive of Winter as the time to store energy, and sleep is understood as an energy source like food and air.

Sleep in BioMedicine

Even BioMedicine recognizes the importance of adequate deep sleep. Sleep scientist Matthew Walker of UC Berkeley’s Center for Human Sleep Science documents in this report and  this book  the hows and whys lack of sleep is so detrimental to our health. He goes on to point out that insufficient quality sleep is “associated with elevated risk for all manner of diseases from Cancer and Heart Attack to Alzheimers.”

The Relationship Between Anxiety and Insomnia

The Fight of Flight Response

One of the reasons Dr. Walker gives for lack of sleep in our culture is anxiety. This makes sense. If we look at the fight or flight response, flight creates the need to run away. You escape predators in nature, whether wild animals or wild men, by either fighting or fleeing.

The Effects of Fight on the Body

In the case of fighting, the reptilian brain mobilizes all your resources to the muscles your arms and teeth. They become tight so you can grasp weapons hard and so you can bite and punch hard.

Think: chronic neck tension and headaches with stress and frustration. Think an aggressive impatient person stuck in traffic. Think of the muscles of facial expression people have when angry.

The Effects of Flight on the Body

But in the case of flight, you escape with rapid bursts of movement. Your heart pumps blood to the legs so you can run as fast as you can. In the Grand Canyon I jumped backwards 7 feet to escape a coiled rattle snake. That is not something I could normally do. But fear based adrenalin can.

Anxiety, Fear, Flight, and Movement Where There Should Be Calm

But let’s be a little bit blunt now. What is anxiety? Its the word we use for the physical, emotional, and intellectual symptoms associated with fear. And fear creates the need to escape, to move.

This is why anxiety has so many symptoms involving movement where there should be calm. The body wants to flee, but it cannot, because the danger can be intangible, or is in the future, like the Bar Exam next week.

Anxiety symptoms involving movement range from physical movement like shaking, sweating, diarrhea, tossing and turning in bed, to unwanted thoughts and a mind that won’t stop.

Worry is a form of fear. Indeed, when someone says in English, for example, “I am worried you will get lost without a map…”, or “I was worried you might not come back….” what they are saying is, they are afraid you X, Y, or Z.

Vata Dosha in Ayurveda: Fear Creates Movement Where There Should Be Calm.

Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda both describe how fear makes the energy move. In the case of Ayurveda, fear elevates Vata dosha, the expression in a human of the properties of Wind in nature.

One of the properties of wind is that it moves. Wind is the movement of air. And indeed, Vata types are fast movers and fast talkers, and they are much more prone to anxiety and nervous ailments like IBS, ADHD, and insomnia.

The kind of insomnia associated with anxiety is when there is abnormal movement of the body, tossing and turning, and when there is abnormal movement of the mind, constant thinking.

Its normal to have trouble sleeping before a big exam, even a first date. But you are not lieing there in bed worrying the date will go fantastically, or that you will get 100% on the test. Your body and or mind are restless because of worry that things wont go well.

Indeed, if you have to run away from some danger adrenalin makes your heaA nervous person taps their feet or drums their fingers. An inability to be still. The people who clean house when uncomfortable feelings arise.

More specifically, anxiety can be associated with abnormal movement of the sweat glands, sweating,  the gut; diarrhea, and in bed; tossing and turning. Physical symptoms of anxiety include abnormal sweating, diarrhea, and tossing and turning. The movement of fear is the desire to flee. But when the real or perceived danger is not concrete and immediate, there is nothing to physically run from, so we internalize the desire to flee.

Overwork, Insomnia, Poor Sleep Hygeine

Sleep scientist Matthew Walker, in his book, Why We Sleep, describes the ways in which the relentless pace of work in the developed world, in particular the USA, leads to poor Sleep Culture, and the inability to separate the daytime from the night, or, in Chinese terms, Yang from Yin.

A classic example are the people who take their work phone into the bedroom and keep it on the night table near their head. How can we turn our minds off from the day, and enter the world of sleep, if a metaphoric big red blinking light is on the table next to your mind.

Sleep Disorders in Chinese Medicine: The Conscious Mind and Unconscious Mind

In my 24 years of treating insomnia and sleep disorders in San Diego, I have noticed that all systems of medicine, from Western BioMedicine to Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine, treat sleep disorders the very same way they treat anxiety–with medicines that are calming and relaxing. This is true whether the patient is feeling noticabley anxious or not.

How does Chinese medicine explain the link between insomnia and anxiety, worry, overthinking, and that non-specific term, stress?

Chinese Medicine understand that during the normal waking state our conscious mind, the Shen, Hun, and Po, is interacting, constantly, with both the outer world, via the 6 senses, and our inner world, via our memory, thoughts, feelings, and sense of self. This is what being awake is.

The Cave of the Heart

Chinese Medicine understands that for sleep to occur this very same conscious mind that rambles about during waking hours has to make itself scarce.  Being asleep and being conscious are the exact opposite in normal life. (Lucid dreaming is an exception..and to be sure we can retain a sense of self in our dreams). To be exact, our conscious mind that pings back and forth between inner and outer worlds at night  has to return to its home, the cave of the heart, or Shen, and “go to sleep.” But in order to do that, in order to go to sleep, the cave of the heart has to be empty. If our Shen-Heart-Mind is full, whether with fear, anger, worry, tension, wind, heat, fire, or cold, there is no place for our conscious mind in that cave to lie down. It remains standing and we remain awake.

But if our heart is empty,  another words peaceful and calm, then the conscious mind goes on hiatus. And that is when the subconscious and unconscious minds take over.That is why we can have weird colorful dreams that range from pleasurable wish fulfillment (eating ice cream and having sex) to terrifying nightmares (giving a speech and your pants fall down, being caught in a tsunami).

It is also why people with certain kinds of physical, sexual, and emotional trauma are afraid of sleep. If the trauma remains unprocessed then the idea of losing control and opening to the unconscious is really scary. Its also why some people have chronic night terrors and nightmares.

How Chinese Medicine Explains Sleep Disorders

The Heart is the seat of consciousness. It is likened to a cave. We can only fall asleep when the cave is empty, that is, when the mind is calm.

In Chinese medicine the seat of consciousness is the Heart. This is not the physical heart only. Its an elegant paradigm that describes what consciousness is. It collects thinking, feeling, sensing, dreaming, remembering, all under a single rubric, Shen, the Chinese word for consciousness, and also the physical heart.

We know of course that all cognitive function and memory is a function of the neurons in our brain. Yet, we don’t feel emotions in our brain, but in our body.

We feel our emotions in the area of our heart far more than anywhere else, though we do feel various emotions in specific locations–anger makes our jaw, neck, and shoulders tighten, and causes us to lose our appetite if severe enough, for example.

When the cave of our Heart becomes filled by a gamut of emotions, from anxiety and fear (lying awake all night before an exam) to frustration and anger (tossing and turning all night after a fight with your spouse) there is no place for Shen, or Consciousness, that has been moving about while awake, to return to and turn off.

You can’t fall asleep when your mind is busy thinking of what you have to do tomorrow, what you will do in three weeks, or what happened last year. This is why we sometimes get insomnia right before an exciting trip.

Indeed, the Chinese character for Heart includes the image of a Cave. We can only fall asleep when the cave is empty, that is, when the mind is calm.

 

Treatment of Insomnia and Sleep Disorders with Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine

 

Acupuncture for Insomnia and Sleep Disorders

 

Acupuncture Treatment and Its Effect on the Nervous System

Acupuncture helps cure insomnia and sleep disorders because Acupuncture takes your nervous system out of the Fight, Flight, Flee response , and puts it into the Relaxation Response. This is important because chronic insomnia and sleep disorders are caused by the Fight/Flight system being over-activated.  This is also called “sympathetic drive” in biology. Its when your brain conscious or subconscious perceives danger, actual or imagined.

This is what happens when you can’t sleep the night before an exam, or due to stress at work, or when your teenager is out late and has not called.  In broad strokes we use Acupuncture to calm the nervous system.

 

How Do I Choose Which Acupuncture Points to Use When Curing Insomnia and Sleep Disorders?

Your acupuncture treatment is very specific to the type of insomnia or sleep disorder you come in with. The general principle in Classical Chinese Acupuncture is to diagnosis a specific pattern in a particular person in a particular point in time.

For example, a madly in love teenager who is a very emotional type and is skinny, cold all the time, with dry skin and low energy is going to get a very different treatment than a stoic and very physically strong hot type Navy seal with PTSD from the war will get.

 

The Heart or Shen in Treatment of Insomnia with Acupuncture

When trying to cure your insomnia with Acupuncture we always choose acupuncture points from the Heart and Pericardium channels. These are the most important points for unblocking Qi Stagnation in the most important internal organs whose Qi energy is involved with good sleep. We say in Chinese Acupuncture theory that these points  Calm the Shen.

The word Shen in Chinese is used for both the physical heart and for what we would call the Mind, or Consciousness in English. The Mind or Consciousness includes ALL of our emotions, memories, future plans, and sensations; from what we see and touch to what we imagine we see. It includes the ways we interpret reality and what would be called our personality type. This is all Shen or Mind, and is related to the Heart.

And the Heart, and here think Consciousness as well as the physical heart, is the emperor of all the organs. You can live with half a lung, half a liver, no gall bladder, part of your intestines or stomach, with one lung, but you cannot live without a heart or with half of a heart. On the emotional level all emotions affect that heart. And we see the same thing in biology. Every emotion has a nervous system that effects blood pressure and heart beat rate. And we see this in language as well. So many metaphors about emotion relate to the heart. We speak of warm hearted people and cold hearted people. We plead for compassion, saying “..have a heart.” We refer to a stone cold killer as “heartless.”  We describe someone who shows no emotion as being “like a machine” or “cold blooded.”

. But we also have to evaluate underlying factors. Is there Liver Depression Qi Stagnation such as we see with insomnia related to frustration and anger at work or home? Is there Liver Depression with Heart Blood Stasis as you see in broken heartedness and certain emotional presentations such as with Borderline Personality Disorder. Is there Depressed Lung Qi as we see with insomnia related to unprocessed grief? Is the Kidney Yang weakness failing to restrain the Heart as we see with certain types of ADHD type insomnia, bedwetting,  BiPolar disorder, or even simply anxious nervous types?

Each of the above Patterns of Disharmony has particular acupuncture point combinations that your acupuncturist chooses based on her experience, education,  and style of practice. No two patients are the same, and no two cases of insomnia are identical. There are no single acupuncture points for insomnia and sleep disorder, there are acupuncture patterns of points, point combinations that work as a team to treat the complexity of each individual case.

Chinese Herbal Medicine for Insomnia and Sleep Disorders

Chinese medicine always looks for patterns. Patterns of behavior, patterns of pathology, patterns that promote good health. In treating disease we have to establish the unique pattern of disharmony causing your disease. As explained in the above paragraph on the acupuncture treatment of insomnia, there are a variety of patterns of disharmony that Chinese Medicine uses to describe insomnia.

Likewise, Chinese Herbal Medicine involves complex herbal prescriptions that address both the “chief complaint” in this case insomnia or sleep disorder, while at the same time addressing the causes of the chief complaint.

For example,

  • Insomnia and Sleep Disorder due to Menopause might include herbs that calm the spirit, stabilize the yin of the heart, astringe essence, nourish the yang of the kidney, and reverse energetic counterflow.
  • Insomnia and Sleep Disorders due to Anxiety might include herbs that calm the spirit, clear heat, nourish the yin and blood of the heart, remove blood stasis from the heart, and nourish kidney Qi
  • Insomnia due to Fever will involve herbs that clear heat, clear toxic heat,  and address and issues affecting the Lung such as drying phlegm from the lng
  • Insomnia with Sleep Disorders like Nightmares and Bedwetting will include herbs that Calm the Spirit, Astringe Essence, Nourish the Kidney Yang, and Restore the connection between Shen and Jing

Classical Pearls Chinese Herbs

 

One of my favorite Chinese Herbal Formulas for treating Insomnia and Sleep disorders due to a common pattern of  menopause and anxiety involving emptyness of the Heart Yin is Spirit Pearls, an updated Classical Chinese Herbal Medicine formula developed by Heiner Fruehaf, Ph.D. Besides really liking the herbal prescription itself, the great thing about Spirit Pearls and the rest of the Classical Pearls product line, is that this company

  1. Sources the highest quality botanically accurate Chinese Herbs. This ensures if it says Ginseng, you get Ginseng. Unscrupulous growers will sometimes plant a similar plant with a higher yield that looks like the correct herb but is not.
  2. Rigorously tests their formulas for heavy metal contamination and pesticide residue. Guaranteed free of pesticide, heavy metal, bacteria, and yeast.
  3. Ensures that all herbs are processed according to traditional methods–e.g. herbs are roasted, soaked, wine or vinegar fried according to classical methods. No chemical extraction, soaking in lye, no dyes.
  4. Manages all stages of the process, from growing to processing to production–

 

If you have any questions about your condition, please call me at 619-296-7591 or email eyton@bodymindwellnesscenter.com

Thanks,

 

copyright eyton shalom san diego, ca september 2017 all rights reserved use with permission

 

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