How to sleep better with TCM

Do you find yourself tossing and turning in bed unable to fall asleep? I guess we all have experienced bad sleep once in a while. You’re one of the few lucky ones if you haven’t! For the past few days, I have been having trouble sleeping and while watching “Sleepless in Seattle” on Netflix, I thought I’d share my “Sleepless in Singapore” with you.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia is the inability to have sufficient sleep, difficulty falling asleep or unable to sleep throughout the night. This will usually lead to fatigue, low energy, less mental alertness and concentration during the daytime.

Usually insomnia is just temporary, it can be due to jet lag, stress, overthinking, drinking too much caffeine or just too excited about something. But when it starts occurring every night and lasts for months, perhaps it’s time to get it checked out.


Deep sleep with Sleep Spindles?


Imagine Sleeping Beauty pricking her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and… sleeping forever.

A small study, published in 2010 in Current Biology, suggests that differences in how sleeping people respond to noise may be related to levels of brain activity called sleep spindles. The researchers found that people whose brains produced the most of these high-frequency sleep spindles were more likely to sleep through loud noises. But more research is needed to confirm the results. (Huffington Post, 2013)

Seems like my brain is not producing these spindles because I tend to wake up with the slightest noise and worse, I can’t go back to sleep after that.


Do you have Short Sleeper Syndrome?

Short Sleeper Syndrome (SSS) is a sleep condition characterized by sleeping for less than 6 hours each night. Most of us need 7 or more hours of sleep  to feel rejuvenated in the morning. But those with SSS, they can function like superman throughout the day despite only taking a few hours of sleep. No power naps, no paying off of sleeping debts during weekends or even during holidays. I guess you can call them “Efficient Sleepers”?

These “Efficient Sleepers” develop this sleeping pattern since childhood or adolescence and continues into adulthood. Researchers believe it may develop due to a gene mutation- which allows them to function without much sleep.

Super early rises are mutants! 😮

These early risers have a gene mutation. It’s  DEC2, a gene that codes for a protein that is involved in controlling circadian rhythm, the internal clock that regulates a person’s sleep-wake cycle. These people can function normally with just a few hours of sleep.

I also read about another a gene called  Per2 can cause familial advanced sleep-phase syndrome (FASPS). These people sleep a normal 8 hours, but go to bed at 6 or 7 pm and wake up at 3 or 4 am.

Of course these genetic mutations are not the whole story because there are many other factors that come into play. But! Just imagine if there is a DEC2 pill, you wouldn’t have to pull all nighters anymore.


What causes insomnia according to TCM?

TCM sees insomnia differently, no gene mutation or anything like that.
But first, let’s look at the definition of insomnia. Not being able to sleep yesterday only is not something you should be worried about.

Acute insomnia: Difficulty getting to sleep or waking up easily or unable to sleep once awake for more than 3 weeks.

Chronic insomnia:  Unable to sleep at all and affect daily activities and health.

When you go to sleep, it is because the Yin increases and Yang decreases. However, when there is an imbalance of Yin and Yang, where Yang is too much and Yin is too little, you may experience sleeping problems.  Just like when the sun goes down and darkness occurs, your brain starts to release melatonin into the blood (usually around 9pm). This is when the melatonin levels in the blood rise sharply and you begin to feel sleepy. Without melatonin or Yin production, you are always alert and thus unable to sleep.

In TCM, the root cause of insomnia is also a dysfunction or imbalance within the organs.

They key organs involved are the:Heart,Spleen, Liver and Kidney.

Gallbladder (Liver’s partner) and Stomach (Spleen’s partner) are also involved.

Here’s some examples:

  1. Nightmares that keep you awake : Gall bladder meridian disorder.
  2. Difficulty in falling asleep: Excess condition of the Liver (and or Gallbladder).
  3. Irritated and keep tossing and turning: Phlegm heat disturbing the Heart.
  4. Waking up easily: Deficiency in Blood and or Qi.


6 TCM acupoints for better sleep

Not sure how to press the points? Here’s some tips on how to maximise acupressure effects.

3 points on the head

  1. Yin Tang
  2. GV20 Bai Hui
  3. An Mian

3 points on the body

  1. HT 7 Shen Men
  2. KI 6 Zhao Hai
  3. BL 62 Shen Mai


6 acupoints to sleeping better

6 acupoints to sleeping better


5 TCM herbs for better sleep

These herbs can help with calming the mind and Shen (spirit) hence helping you to sleep better. Each individual herbs also have their own characteristics to help with other conditions. To find out the root cause, do ask your TCM physician.
5 TCM herbs to sleeping better

  1. Suan Zao Ren
    Sour Jujube seed. Helps to nourish the Liver blood and stops excess sweating.

  2. Bai Zi Ren
    Pine nuts. High in good fats, good for constipation too.

  3. Yuan Zhi
    Bye bye brooding and bottled up emotions! This is good, especially when you have a lot of phlegm. Helps to clear the lungs to stop coughing and reduces abscesses and dissipates swellings too.

  4. He Huan Pi (bark) or Hua (flower)
    Mimosa tree bark or flower. Best for those who are stressed out, have palpitation, forgetfulness. Helps to soothe your irritability, like a chill pill flower.

  5. Shou Wu Teng
    Nourishes the blood. Unblocks the meridians to relief pain the muscles. Stops itching of rashes. 

That’s all for my Sleepless in Singapore.

Dim your lights, no phone 30 minutes before sleep and press those acupoints every night ok?

Goodnight! 😴

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