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About Insomnia

Sleep problems characterized by difficulty falling asleep, frequent wakings during the night, or waking up earlier than desired. Insomnia can result in getting up in the morning feeling unrested and experiencing drowsiness during the day.

Western Medicine View

Insomnia can be caused by many factors. Common factors include: physical conditions like illnesses (cough, arthritis, etc.); involuntary movement (ie. snoring) which causes discomfort or pain; psychological factors such as anxieties about being unable to sleep or stress; physiological factors like noise or exercise before bedtime; mental health problems; and pharmacological factors like alcohol, cocaine or caffeine.

Chinese Medicine View

Insomnia can be successfully treated with acupuncture according to the World Health Organisation*.

From the point of view of Chinese Medicine, sleep problems are mostly related to dysfunction of the Heart, Spleen, Stomach, Liver and Kidneys. Blood is made from food essence and controlled by the Spleen to produce essence which will be stored in the kidneys. Blood is stored in the liver and soothes the liver. Blood also transports essence from kidneys to the heart to nourish it. If these organs are in disharmony, excessive fire and Qi (the body’s essential energy) stagnation will occur and disturb the mind, which leads to insomnia.

Irregular food intake can damage the spleen and stomach and cause problems in blood and essence production, which will disturb sleep. Anxiety and overwork result in blood exhaustion, making the blood unable to nourish the heart. Thus, insomnia follows. Congenital deficiency, sexual activity or a prolonged illness can give rise to failure of essence transportation between the kidneys and the heart, causing heart fire that disturbs the mind. Emotional depression can lead to liver Qi stagnation (the liver’s essential energy) which will be transformed into fire over time, thus insomnia occurs.

According to Chinese Medicine theory acupuncture and Chinese herbs can be prescribed to treat the various syndromes that cause insomnia. Often treatment is aimed to regulate the movement of Qi and restore harmony within the key internal organs (including the Heart) as well as the balance between the cooling and the warming energies (the Yin and Yang) in the body in order to calm the mind and relieve insomnia.

Lifestyle Advice

We sell a selection of teas and tonics for helping with insomnia. Please read our Stress Guide if you feel that stress is keeping you awake.

For personalised advice on diet and lifestyle, please ask the doctor during your consultation. Please be reminded that we offer free online health advice.


Luo ZP et al. [Clinical observation of ear-acupressure treatment of insomnia.] Heilongjiang Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, 1993, (1):45-48 [in Chinese].

Zhang XF. [Ear acupressure in the treatment of insomnia]. Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, 1993, 13(6):297-298 [in Chinese].