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How does acupuncture help for insonmia?

Insomnia is a form of sleep disorder where a person experiences difficulty in falling asleep or waking up often during the night and having trouble going back to sleep. The most common western medical treatments of insomnia consist of over-the-counter and prescribed medication such as benzodiazepine hypnotics, non-benzodiazepine hypnotics, and melatonin receptor agonists. However, their effectiveness and side effects may vary and be undesirable. Also, long term reliance on medications may impair your ability to fall and stay asleep naturally.

So, how does traditional Chinese medicine treat insomnia?

From the TCM’s perspective, day is governed by Yang and night is Yin. During daytime Yang takes charge and Yin would be playing just a supportive role, while at night Yang has to be submissive and Yin will be dominating. This mechanism guides our body’s activities and rest. However, an imbalance in internal organ systems may lead to excessive of Yang and insufficient Yin which often result in insomnia. You may have symptoms such as troubles getting to sleep, waking up in the middle of the night, dream-disturbed sleep, and also fatigue, dizziness, headache and forgetfulness during daytimes.

Factors that contribute to the imbalance of Yin and Yang in different internal organ systems include:

  • Liver fire

  • Heart fire

  • Blood deficiency in Heart system

  • Liver and Gallbladder dampness and inner-heat


Chinese medicine focuses on identifying the root causes, and based on individual conditions to customize a WS-TCM (Whole System-traditional Chinese Medicine) treatment plan which helps you to regain the balance of Yin and Yang in. It allows your body to revert to a natural sleep pattern once again. By applying needles to various acupoints, acupuncture activates your parasympathetic system, the part of your nervous system that encourages your body to rest and digest.

Clinical studies have shown that acupuncture have a beneficial effect on insomnia by lessening anxiety, stimulating the release of melatonin, and reducing sleep disruption and arousal during the night.

To make the experience more enjoyable, I often combine the Tibetan Singing Bowl sound therapy with acupuncture. The needles will catch the subtle sound vibration which gently enhance the Qi-flow. It will calm your mind and gives you a sense of tranquillity and harmony.

Besides, acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicines are also frequently used in the treatment of insomnia in China and Hong Kong. The most commonly prescribed Chinese herbs are Polygonum multiflorum (Shou-wu-teng首乌藤), Ziziphus spinosa (Suan-zao-ren酸枣仁), Poria cocos (Fu-shen 茯神), Albizia julibrissin (He-huan-pi合欢皮), Ostrea gigas (Mu-li牡蛎), Polygala tenuifolia (Yuan-zhi远志), Saliva miltiorrhiza (Dan-shen丹参),  Coptis chinensis (Huang-lian黄连) and Lilium brownii (Bai-he百合)。To ensure the best result, you are recommended to ask a licensed TCM practitioner or herbalist to customize a prescription according to the root cause of your condition.

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