TCM for Insomnia

Do you struggle to fall asleep no matter how tired you are? Or do you wake up in the middle of the night and stay awake for hours, anxiously waiting to fall asleep?

What is Insomnia?

The word “insomnia’ originates from the Latin “in” (no) and “somnus” (sleep). Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterised as having difficulty falling and/or staying asleep.

Insomnia is defined by the quality of your sleep and how you feel after sleeping, therefore having chronic insomnia might contribute to health problems. If you feel drowsy and tired during the day even though you slept for 8 hours, you may be experiencing insomnia.

4 Common Types of Insomnia

  1. Difficulty falling asleep. Some may experience an endless stream of thoughts, making it hard to fall asleep.
  2. Time spent staying asleep is short, waking up often in the middle of the night and having difficulty falling asleep again.
  3. Frequent transients of being asleep and awake. One may be easily awaken by sounds.
  4. Excessive dreaming, such as vivid dreams or nightmares, resulting in unrefreshing sleep.

How can TCM help with getting a good night’s rest?

Depending on the cause, symptoms, duration and body constitution diagnosed by the TCM practitioner, the following combination of methods can be used to treat insomnia.

  • TCM medication
  • Acupuncture
  • Cupping
  • Acupressure massage

According to TCM principles, problems such as waking up between 1am to 3am, frequent fearful awakening, timidity, irritability and sighing are associated with disorders in the liver and/or gallbladder. Personalised TCM treatment to balance the yin and yang of the body will be recommended accordingly.

Acupoint Massages to Relieve Symptoms of Insomnia

  • GV20, 百会 “Baihui”

Massage Bai Hui Point for 2 minutes.

Location: Apex of the ears, in line with the middle of the eyes and back of the head.

  • EX-HN20, 安眠 “Anmian”

Massage An Mian point for 2 minutes.

Location: Either side of the neck, a little bit under the lobe of the neck.

  • EX, 失眠 “Shimian”

Massage Shi Mian Point with a thumb for 100 times.

Location: The point at the middle of the heel.

  • HT7, 神门 “Shenmen”

For individuals who experience dream-disturbed insomnia, use your right hand’s Shen Men Point to rub your left hand’s Shen Men Point for 2 minutes and vice versa.

Location: Located on the inner side of the wrist crease, towards the little finger (ulnar) side, about one-fifth of the distance across the wrist. Feel for a hollow at the base of the pisiform bone.

  • PC8, 劳宫 “Laogong” and KD1, 涌泉 “Yongquan”

For individuals that experience irritability, dizziness, heart palpitations, hot and sweaty palms, tinnitus, aching knees and lower back, and/or night sweats, there may be a disharmony between your heart and kidney.

Use your right hand’s Lao Gong Point to rub against your left foot’s Yong Quan Point clockwise and anticlockwise for 100 times each. Repeat using your left hand’s Lao Gong Point to rub against your right foot’s Yong Quan Point.

Lao Gong Point: Located where the tip of the middle finger lands when we make a fist (between the 2nd and 3rd metacarpal bone).

Yong Quan Point: A slight depression is created when the foot is pointed (plantar flexion). It is located about 1/3 the distance from the toes to heel.

Don’ts before sleeping

  • Know your body habits.
    If you are someone who can’t fall asleep after drinking caffeinated drinks, avoid consuming coffee, chocolate, alcohol or any other stimulants late in the day.
  • Do not eat heavy meals or food that is difficult to digest late at night.
    The last meal and sleeping time should be spaced at least 3 hours apart. TCM has a saying “胃不和则卧不安”, which means that a poor stomach leads to unrestful sleep. Sometimes, when we eat too much or too little before bed, our tummies will feel uncomfortable (bloated or ache), making it difficult to have good quality sleep.
  • Avoid using phone or tablets before sleeping.
    Electronic devices emit blue light that interferes with the melatonin production and disrupts the sleep cycle. Exposure to blue light close to bed may trick the brain to think that it’s still daylight.

Article by Physician Tan Kang Ting

Note: Information provided is not a substitute for a physician or any form of medical care. Individual symptoms differ due to different body constitutions and diagnosis. One should consult a licensed TCM practitioner for accurate diagnosis and treatment.


Physician Tan Kang Ting

TCM Physician,

Lead (Platform Development and Training)

View more posts by Physician Tan Kang Ting

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