Insomnia is such a common complaint that it provides a good example of how Chinese Medicine takes account of different factors when deciding how to approach treatment. It is never a case of just using one or more acupuncture points that are good for insomnia. We have to take into account things like the constitution of the patient, where the insomnia is originating from and what time of day the treatment is given.

As a first example, consider someone in their mid twenties who is living a busy lifestyle in London. They are having trouble falling asleep and staying asleep, so are exhausted in spite of continuing to do all the things they enjoy doing. This person is active, goes to the gym regularly and is competitive by nature. They have started a new job in London recently so are working 60 or more hours a week and taking work home with them. In addition, they have projects out of work that they also approach with the same intensity.

Once they finally crash out, they find their sleep is either disturbed so that they wake up exhausted and not refreshed, or alternatively they wake up after a few hours and can’t get back to sleep until just before the alarm has to go off then have a hard time having to get up. Caffeine plays a big role in keeping this person going. This kind of person might have habitually cold hands, or get sweaty and overheated easily.

From a diagnostic point of view, this person has a lot of yang energy that is raised up and keeps spiking them awake during the night. Our treatment approach would be to bring this excess energy down and then anchor their awareness to the core to engender a deep feeling of relaxation. This patient’s constitution is strong, so the acupuncture treatment can be quite strong to leave the person feeling a little drained so that the normal energy spike they get in the night doesn’t happen. If the acupuncture has been successful, they will hopefully be in bed early and sleep hard all through the night.

Contrast this with a second example, someone in their late forties feeling a bit run down, experiencing a few small ongoing health problems and has had a few personal difficulties over the last few years so that their overall spirit seems a little low.

This person tends to have no energy left by the evening to go out, go to the gym or anything else. They may not feel like they have enough energy to cook properly so satisfy themselves with a takeaway or snack on the way home from central London so as to avoid having to cook. Once in bed, they fall asleep fairly easily but tend to sleep light and have trouble getting back to sleep if anything disturbs them. They often wake up at the same time every night after a few light and restless hours of sleep.

In this case, effective treatment could take longer than our first patient. The focus here should be on nourishing the person’s spirit, which could appear reactive, jumpy and up on the surface, or hidden deep inside needing to be enlivened. The more reactive, jumpy patient will need some relaxing bodywork to settle the spirit before gentle acupuncture needling and then lots more deep and relaxing bodywork. The patient whose spirit seems hidden deep inside needs some work to help bring their energy to the surface, and acupressure on some points can be helpful here, followed by slightly stronger acupuncture needling to tonify and strengthen before settling with some more gentle bodywork to finish.

Friday, May 22nd, 2015


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