Getting to Sleep Naturally, Help from Chinese Medicine

Posted on Jan 31, 2011 in Health and Wellness, Uncategorized | 5 comments

Getting to Sleep Naturally, Help from Chinese Medicine
Alaina Speraw, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac., B.A.

Nearly two out of three Americans are experiencing sleep deprivation, not surprising that so many turn to high octane caffeine beverages to get through their day!

Traditional Chinese medical view on sleep

Nightime is considered the Yin Time, when your body takes care of itself, does routine repair and maintenance.  Proper sleep is essential to allow this restorative work to take place.  Especially critical to the function of organs such as the Liver, which performs most of its’ detoxification work at night.

Insomnia is one of the most common conditions we see and is often part of larger imbalances.  Excess worry, anxiety and depression all negatively impact sleep by disturbing the Spirit and over-stimulating the Mind.  In Chinese medical terms they create imbalances in the Liver, Heart and Spleen networks.  When the mind is excessively active it is difficult to fall asleep.  So it is important to calm the Mind prior to retiring.  Simple steps such as creating a bedtime ritual like not watching television in the evening, drinking a cup of herbal tea, gentle exercises like stretching, meditation and aromatherapy can all be helpful in promoting sleep.

Four traditional time tested ways to reach deep, restorative sleep

Acupressure – Ancient healing art based on the Acupuncture meridian system in which you use gentle fingertip pressure on key points on the body to stimulate natural healing.
Here are two acupressure points you can press to induce restorative sleep:

*Inner Gate – or Pericardium 6 – located 3 finger widths above your wrist crease between the tendons on the inside of your left forearm.  Apply moderate pressure with right thumb, holding for 3-5 minutes while breathing deeply.  Repeat on the opposite arm.

*Bubbling Spring – or Kidney 1 is on the bottom of your foot at the center of the indentation below the ball of the your foot.  Press down with your thumb and hold of 30 seconds, relax for five and continue for five minutes.

A traditional sedative -Jujube Seed – In Chinese medicine the heart houses the spirit.  When the heart is weak the spirit becomes restless and cannot properly rest at night, which you experience as insomnia or interrupted sleep.  Jujube or Chinese date calms the spirit, strengthens the heart and supports restful sleep.  Research has shown it is rich in saponins that promote sleep, relaxation and reduce irritability and anxiety.  A typical dose is 500 mg daily and can be found in health food stores, Chinese herb stores, online or from your Acupuncturist or Chinese Herbalist, it is often combined with other Chinese herbs.

Empty Your Mind before Sleep

Rumination, the emotion of the Spleen network concentrates energy in the brain, if one constantly ponders problems a frequent outcome is insomnia.  In this case the energy stays in the brain at night instead of following its normal course of descending to the lower part of the body, which allows one to sleep peacefully.  Journaling at the end of the day or making a list can relieve the mind of excessive mental worries.  Another effective time proven method is Meditation which can help clear the mind of the thinking by releasing thoughts and emotions to attain deeper states of relaxations.

Four Exercises that help Insomnia

The famous physician Ge Hong, who lived during the Han dynasty during the 3rd century promoted this set of exercises to prevent and treat insomnia.  Chinese studies indicate these exercises effectively improved the sleep quality of chronic insomniacs who practiced them nightly for 2-4 weeks.
Lie on your back with your knees bent.  Use your hands to pull your knees toward your chest and breathe naturally.  Hold the position for 1 minute, then relax, straighten your legs and rest your arms and hands at your sides.
Remain on your back, inhale, and stretch both arms up above your body from your chest to your abdomen, then rest your hands at your sides.  As you exhale bring your hands down and massage your body from your chest to your abdomen, then rest you hands at your sides.  Repeat with every breath for 1 minute.
Still on your back, make fists with both hands.  Place them under your back as high as possible toward the shoulder blades, one fist on either side of your spine.  Take three complete breaths, then reposition your fists downward on notch and repeat, moving downward every third breath until your fists are at waist level.  Take five  breaths here.  Now put your fists on either side of the tailbone and take five more breaths.
Lie face down and place your hands under your abdomen.  Slowly inhale, filling your abdomen and chest and feel the energy permeate your whole body.  Then slowly exhale and visualize negativity leaving your body.  Pause after each exhalation and relax every muscle.  Do this for one minute.

The Deer Posture (Taoist sleep position)
Ge Hong recommended this position following the four anti-insomnia exercises.
Lay on your right side.  Bend your right arm at the elbow with palm facing up in front of your face.  Rest your left arm with your elbow on the hip, hand dropped down in front of your abdomen.  The right leg is straight and the left knee is bent resting on the mattress in front of your thigh.  (you may find a pillow between your legs helpful.)

May you have sweet dreams and peaceful sleep.

Source for herbal teas online:

Emotional Tranquility or Ancient Treasures


  1. Your blog is really unique. Thanks for that.

    • Thanks for the encouragement. Will be writing more frequently now.

      • Hope you will find many useful ideas.

    • Thank you.

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