Insomnia & Fatigue

Chinese medicine and acupuncture research has shown positive results in improving insomnia & fatigue, improving energy levels, decreasing stress and increasing feelings of well-being. Insomnia and fatigue is a common consequence of fast paced living, irregular eating and poor lifestyle choices.

Insomnia and TCM

Heart-Liver Imbalances | Trouble Falling Asleep

In Chinese medicine, the Heart plays a central role in emotional disorders and sleep pattern problems. The Heart is said to ‘house the mind’ during sleep.

Typically in Chinese medicine, trouble falling asleep points to a Heart Qi Deficiency or Heart Shen disorder. Often, herbs that nourish the Heart Shen (calming nervine herbs) are able to help people get to sleep. Another disorder that is common with sleep patterns where there is trouble getting to sleep is Liver Qi Stagnation. When Liver Qi becomes congested it tends to heat up. Heat always rises, and in this case the Liver Heat attacks the Heart and prevents a person from being able to fall asleep easily. Liver Qi Stagnation would also have other signs presenting to look for such as stress, frustration, and anger to name a few..

Heart Blood Deficiency | Trouble Staying Asleep

There are several patterns that can be related to problems staying asleep, but the most common reason people wake through the night is Heart Blood and Yin Deficiency. Blood is a dense substance that helps to ground the mind; without sufficient Blood, the Heart is unable to contain, or ground, the mind at night. Those who suffer with more severe Heart Blood Deficiency may often find themselves waking startled and frightened. Someone who is Blood Deficient is not necessarily anemic; it simply indicates that there is not enough enriched Blood to nourish all of the organs properly. This pattern may also include palpitations, a racing heart, or a sensation of the heart. Consider Blood Mansion formula.

Waking between 1-3 AM

Many people fall in to a pattern of waking between the hours of 1 AM and 3 AM, almost like clockwork. This is typically an indication of Liver Qi Stagnation. A pattern of Liver Qi Stagnation will include several of the common indications seen with Liver Qi Stagnation or Wood Imbalances..

Dream Disturbed Sleep

Dreams are normal, but when dreams are so active that you wake un-rested it indicates an imbalance typically due to Heart Heat. This can be produced from Liver Qi Stagnation causing Liver Fire to rise, often consuming Heart Blood and Yin.. Frightening dreams are often attributed to an imbalance of the Wood Element and the Heart. With this type of insomnia, there may also be signs of Liver Qi Stagnation such as stress, frustration, anger, PMS, acid reflux, arthritis, or lack of motivation. Acid reflux in itself can often disturb sleep pattern.

Worrying and Over-thinking Preventing Sleep

Often, the mind is over active and does not allow for sound sleep. When over thinking and mulling over issues prevents sleep, Spleen imbalances and Heart Shen disturbances would be indicated. This type of insomnia may also contain signs of Spleen Deficiency and Dampness, such as having trouble waking up in the morning and a feeling of heaviness.

Sleep Apnea and TCM

While sleep apnea is not one of those conditions that you would want to exclusively treat on your own, it is a condition that indicates a Heart Shen disorder most often complicated by Internal Dampness.

RLS Restless Leg Syndrome and Insomnia

Many people lose sleep because of the jerking motion that is caused with RLS. In Chinese medicine, Restless Leg Syndrome is typically due to Internal Wind caused by Liver Qi Stagnation.

Waking from 3-5 AM

Typically, sleeplessness during the hours of 3 AM to 5 AM indicates an imbalance in the Metal Element and could relate to unresolved grief or a sense of loss.

Stress Leading to Insomnia

One contributor to insomnia, stress, weakens the function of the Liver, which in turn affects the health of your nerves. According to the 5 Element Theory, the relationship between the Liver and nervous system flows both ways, causing the function of the Liver to be weakened from the accumulation of things that “get on your nerves.” Stress-related insomnia can also be accompanied by another nerve-induced problem; restless leg syndrome. This can make bedtime even more of a battle for sleep. When your Liver is unbalanced and being asked to deliver energy it does not have, uncomfortable symptoms are your body’s way of signaling the need to get things back into harmony. Herbs can have a calming effect on the nervous system..

Fatigue and TCM

Chinese Herbs for Low Energy

According to Chinese medicine, we must live ‘correctly’ in order to maintain good health and vitality. This righteous path leading to good fortune includes eating correctly, sleeping through the night, and meditating daily. These practices seem obvious, but are often ignored in our fast paced culture as we push ahead to attain monetary success or fame. Here are some of the common patterns that can lead to feeling chronically tired:

Qi Deficiency Fatigue

Qi (pronounced Chee) is the vital energy which is used by the body for animation, for food digestion, and for transformation according to Chinese medicine. Qi is formed by the food we eat, and by the air we breathe. Therefore, a healthy diverse diet including adequate protein is necessary in producing our daily energy. Qi can be consumed through physical labor and exercise. Qi is our more immediate source of vitality and in the early stages can be restored rather quickly.

Internal Dampness Fatigue

With ongoing Qi Deficiency, especially due to poor eating habits, Spleen Qi Deficiency can develop. The Spleen energetic organ system is in charge of the transformation of foods and fluids. Its active time is in the early morning, so eating breakfast is pivotal in the formation of Qi for the body to utilize. If the Spleen becomes congested by too much food, inappropriate foods, or foods and drinks that are ‘Cold’, the Spleen function according to TCM will be damaged. When this happens, Internal Dampness develops because the Spleen is unable to perform its duty in transforming fluids throughout the body. Fatigue with Internal Dampness will be marked by a feeling of heaviness in the body, a heavy head with brain fog, and trouble getting going in the morning.

Kidney Deficient Fatigue

The Kidneys store the Essence according to Chinese medicine; while Qi provides our daily energy needs, Essence is a dense substance that is utilized sparingly throughout our life. When all Essence is depleted we die, so it is important to preserve our Essence; additionally, Essence is very difficult to restore. Ongoing stress and pushing yourself too hard for too long depletes Essence. Adrenal Fatigue is a classic example of Kidney Deficient exhaustion. After burning the candle at both ends for many years, those who develop adrenal exhaustion find that their health is compromised for many years, or for the rest of their lives. Herbal tonic therapy is one of the few effective options with this level of depletion, but takes time to work. Consider Sage Mountain formula and Yin Valley formula used together.

Lung Qi Deficient Fatigue

As mentioned earlier, Qi is produced from both the food we consume and the air that we breathe. When there is a constriction of air flow to our lungs due to asthma, COPD, or emphysema, the body is unable to produce vital energy needed to get through the day effectively.

Heart Qi Deficiency Fatigue

In order for oxygen and nutrients to reach our organs and tissue, abundant Blood must be flowing throughout our vessels. Poor circulation of Blood may be the result of the Heart not pumping Blood effectively. Heart Qi Deficiency would be marked by palpitations, poor sleep, shortness of breath, poor cognitive skills, or numbness in the extremities.


The body requires adequate rest in order to have abundant energy throughout the day. If chronic stress and frustration lead to Liver Qi Stagnation, the Liver can attack the Heart and disrupt sleep.