Are you having difficulty getting to sleep or keep waking up intermittently in the night? Has this been happening every night? Then you may be suffering with insomnia

Insomnia also includes quality of sleep. Not getting the quality of sleep you need has an effect on other areas of your day to day life. Feeling tired during the day due to lack of sleep means we go into work lacking energy and concentration to complete tasks to our full potential ,tiredness resulting from insomnia affects our moods making relationships suffer too.

Traditional Chinese Medical look at Insomnia

The following list of patterns are intended to give the reader an insight into some of the different ways insomnia can occur from a TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine) perspective, this is not intended to be a definite form of self diagnosis or treatment. Here are just some examples of  patterns that can cause insomnia.

Liver qi stagnation

Clinical symptoms

Moodiness, depression, feeling agitated

Feeling of lump in throat and/or chest

Dry, bitty stools

PMS, irregular periods



TCM sees that the liver is linked in with the emotion of anger/frustration. Feeling angry over a sustained period of time interferes with the livers function to keep moving qi (energy).

Eating late at night

Eating late at night makes the liver work during it’s time of rest interfering with its function. Eating late at night can make us feel uncomfortable while trying to digest food.  During this time of total rest we are using energy digesting food and wondering why we still feel unrested when we wake up.

Prolonged qi stagnation can lead to heat causing similar symptoms to the above along with feeling hot, red face, thirst, and angry outbursts. Heat forming foods like spices, red meat, and alcohol contribute to this condition.


Liver blood deficiency

Clinical symptoms

Brittle nails

Numbness down arms


Dry hair and skin




A diet low in nutrients affects the blood producing function and limits the amount of blood supply to the liver. In TCM the spleen is responsible for digestion and blood making, if this is the cause then some spleen patterns can be found. A lack of liver blood will also affect the amount of blood to the heart shen (mind) making sleep difficult.

Blood loss

A serious injury losing blood or childbirth are some examples.


Anger and frustration over a period of time affects yin and if continued will affect blood

Liver Yin Deficiency

Night sweating



Floaters in eyes

Scanty or heavy  periods

Red cheeks


Similar to liver blood deficiency







Heart Blood Deficiency

Clinical symptoms


Disturbed sleep

Poor memory


Dull complexion

Pale lips


Blood loss

Childbirth and blood loss through an operation are examples

Emotional stress

Each emotion in TCM is linked to an organ but it is the heart that feels all these emotions. Over time negative emotions have a negative effect on the heart causing heart blood deficiency.


Lack of nourishment affects blood producing function and  a lack of blood to the heart will result.

Heart yin Deficiency

Clinical symptoms

Night sweating


Hot in the 5 hearts



Disturbed sleep


Emotional stress

Negative emotions tend to affect the heart blood before moving on to heart yin.


Exposed to heat

Sweating for long periods causes us to lose yin as sweat in yin in nature.

Other patterns

liver yin and kidney yin deficiency can contribute to heart yin deficiency


Kidney yin Deficiency

Clinical symptoms

Back pain going down to heel

Night sweating

Nocturnal emission

Premature ejaculation




Excessive sex

Too much sex causes a loss of jing (essence) which is yin in nature

Loss of blood

Blood is yin in nature and over a period of time with consistent blood loss comes yin deficiency

Spleen qi deficiency


Loose stools

Pale complexion

Puts weight on easily



A diet that is nutrient low affects the spleens digestive function along with  too much cold, and raw food. Eating too much or too little and irregularly all affects the spleen’s ability to function. The spleen makes the blood and a lack of it means causing a deficiency in the liver and heart.


In TCM the spleen in linked to the emotion of worry. Too much worry affects the spleens ability to carry out its digestive function making the job of making  blood more difficult.


Being exposed to damp conditions will affect the spleens function.


Self Care

The above patterns are designed to help the reader understand how lifestyle can affect our health and how one symptom like insomnia is interlinked with many others.

Here are some ways we can look after ourselves to help the quality of our sleep and perhaps help with other aspects of our health:-

Meditative practices

As we have seen from the above patterns negative emotions like anger, worry, and fear have an affect on our sleep. Twenty first century living  makes it difficult to avoid those emotions but what we can do is to work towards developing a way that we don’t allow these emotions to get the better of us. Practices such as meditation, tai chi, qigong, and yin yoga help to bring our minds back to equilibrium and a chance to take a break from our daily stress. Find a practice that you can stick to and make it a daily routine.


Vigorous exercise gets our circulation going and helps improve our fitness levels. During times when we feel tense, angry, “wound up” and can’t get to sleep sometimes practices  like meditation and tai chi can be too difficult to get into as we might struggle to relax enough to get into this practice.  Practices such as running, martial arts, weight training , calisthenics helps us to release our feelings of anger and frustration. This will help our liver patterns. Stretching exercises found in yoga, dance, pilates, and martial arts all help to reverse feelings of tension in the muscles.


In TCM how you eat is just as important as what you eat. Eating when stressed, standing up when eating, overeating, and eating irregularly puts a strain on the spleen and increasing the chance of spleen qi deficiency. Eating late at night eg after 7pm affects the liver contributing to  liver disharmony patterns. A lack of good nutrition means that the spleen is not able to make blood and blood deficiency patterns have an affect on our sleep. I’m not a nutritionist so I won’t go into exactly what we should be eating however here are a few guidelines I feel we can all benefit from:-

Avoid smoking- We are all aware of the negative effects of smoking and can very easily look that up on google. In TCM smoking consumes yin in the lungs and kidneys leading to heat conditions that make us find sleeping difficult.

Control alcohol consumption- Limit alcohol consumption and stay within the government and medical guidelines. Alcohol is heat forming and can make us uncomfortable when trying to fall asleep.

Limit high sugar/junk food consumption- These foods are damp forming in TCM causing us to feel heavy, tired, and sluggish. These foods affect the spleen’s blood producing ability and need to be limited in case it causes  blood deficiency patterns in other organs.

Bed time tips

So now it’s time to sleep! You’ve just had a 15 minute seated meditation session to help you relax or you might have just come back from a run around the block to work out some frustration. The following techniques are intended to be used as a finishing touch to meditation, diet, and exercise and is not intended to be used to replace medical advice or diagnosis.


The following points are used to clear heat, boost digestive function, and manage emotions like anger and worry.

Kidney 1

Located on the sole of, 2/3 of the way from the heel to the second toe. This point is used to clear heat.

Spleen 6

4 finger widths from medial tip of malleolus between the tibis and gastrocnemius muscle. This point is to boost yin function. massage 3 minutes

liver 3

This point is located on the dorsum (back) of foot, in the depresion felt distal from the 1st and 2nd metatarsal. Great for various liver patterns and helps with feeling of anger.

Pericardium 6- tranquilizes the mind

Include the following face massage and gua sha routine to relax the muscles in the face and to help clear wind and heat resulting from anger and yin deficiency



Give this a go and feel free to like comment and book a session for when you need that extra push.

1 thought on “insomnia”


Very interesting… will give it all a try – thank you

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