Insomnia In Chinese Medicine
Oriental medicine regards sleep problems as a very serious issue. Deprivation of sleep, according to Oriental medicine, is far more than a mere inconvenience. Certain night time activities of the body can only be achieved while we are asleep. Certain processes can only take place while our body and mind are in a state of rest. These processes allow us to replenish shortages both mental and of material substances, to digest events that happened throughout the day and to achieve both mental and physical growth. In fact, according to Chinese medicine a person who does not sleep enough is consuming a mysterious substance called jing, which once consumed makes us wear off and get older faster.
Unfortunately, many of the people I see in the clinic often regard sleep deprivation a minor nuisance, and so do some medical Doctors. Some even regard it as inevitable, or as something not worth treatment. Other simply “resolve” the problem by taking sleeping pills, which though don’t treat the cause of the sleep deprivation, give some sleeping hours under the direct influence of the drug.
Needless to say that these pills are unhealthy, and in many cases work only for a short while before the body becomes resistant to their effect, thus forcing the patient to either switch medications, or worse, increase the dosage.
Sleep deprivation has both a short and long term effects. In the short term a person who either doesn’t get enough sleep, or his sleep is not of good quality will suffer from fatigue and nervousness, but over time will also suffer from reduced immune capacity, reduced capacity to absorb essential nutrients, diminished cognitive skills and faster overall wear off.
Sleep is perceived in Chinese medicine as as a fragile balance that can easily be broken. To Achieve proper rest all systems in the body need to function reasonably well. Therefore the type of sleep difficulties we experience indicate which systems in our body are out of alignment, and often by fine tuning these systems sleep can be restored.
So as we can see, in order to find a solution for the sleep problem at hand we need to some detective work, to find out which systems are involved. This process, which we call a differential diagnosis is conducted after all the clues are gathered.
Naturally one of the things the Chinese Doctor will carefully inquire about is the nature of our sleep and our sleep problems. Simple questions can help guide us towards treatment strategies:
How many hours do we sleep every night?
In what time do we fall asleep and wake up?
Do we find it easy to fall asleep? Do we wake up fresh after our sleep?
Do we wake up during the night? And if so, are there specific times when we do so?
How are our dreams? Do they wake us up?
The Chinese physician is very interested in the time of occurrences since Chinese medicine identifies an intricate biological clock that is based on the time of the time of the day or night. The hour in which we experience the disturbance often has to do with the functionality of a specific system.
The nature of our dreams, and the emotions we experience as we dream is also indicative of specific function in our body: Obsessive, repetitive dreams often result of digestive difficulties which pertain to the Spleen and the Stomach organs. Dreams that indicate anger or frustration often have to do with problems in the flow of energy in the body, and are under the influence of the liver and gallbladder and so on.