Do you toss and turn every night, have vivid disturbing dreams or are unable to either fall asleep or stay asleep? It could be that you are suffering from a Chi energy imbalance.
Restful sleep is a sign of internal Chi balance. Sleep, like healthy eating and exercise is a vital and important part of well-being. Regularly disturbed sleep reduces your energy levels and your mental abilities, it negatively affects your moods, increases the time it takes to recover from illnesses and makes you more susceptible to anxiety and depression.
Types of Insomnia
When looking at insomnia, TCM believes that there are four main types and each one has a different cause and therefore a different treatment approach.
Dream-disturbed sleep: Do you dream constantly? Do your dreams affect the quality of your sleep? If you find that you have nightmares, then you could have a gall-bladder meridian imbalance. If you find that you can’t sleep because your mind is constantly on overdrive, then you may have a spleen meridian imbalance.
Difficulty falling asleep: Do you lie awake, tossing and turning for hours? You may have a liver meridian imbalance.
Waking up easily: Do you fall asleep easily, but then wake up and find it difficult to go back to sleep again? This may indicate a spleen imbalance.
Waking up at a specific time every night: Do you find that no matter what time you go to sleep, you wake up at the same time during the night? In TCM theory, the body’s Chi circulates through the twelve main meridians at a specific time of day and spends 2 hours in each one. Each meridian relates to an internal organ and each organ relates to specific emotions.
* 11pm – 1am: represents gallbladder imbalance
* 1am – 3am: represents liver imbalance
* 3am – 5am: represents lung imbalance
* 5am – 7am: represents large intestine imbalance
Causes of Insomnia
From a TCM perspective, insomnia originates as a disharmony of the heart meridian and the Shen. The Shen (a type of Chi) can be thought of as your spirit or psych while the heart is responsible for ‘housing the Shen.’ A disruption in the ability of the heart to hold the Shen or an aggravation of the Shen itself can lead to insomnia.
The following meridian systems and Chi imbalances can affect the ability of the heart to house the Shen or disrupt the Shen directly:
Insufficient tranquility (deficient Yin energy) or excess stimulation (excess Yang energy) can aggravate the Shen. This yin/yang imbalance can be addressed by increasing Yin energy through meditation, ChiYo, breathing exercises or listening to relaxing music and decreasing Yang energy through avoiding excess mental stimulation especially before sleeping.
Spleen Meridian Imbalance
Overwork, physical or mental exhaustion, excessive worry and over-thinking, irregular diet, excessive intake of cold and raw food can all damage your spleen Chi. As the spleen is responsible for blood production, if the spleen is weak it the heart and Shen.
Kidney Meridian Imbalance
The kidneys, like all the body’s organs, store energy. When the kidney’s ability to store energy is compromised, by anxiety and fear, traumatic experiences, ageing, major illnesses, the cold and overworking, and it’s Yin energy is depleted, it will not be able to nourish or support the heart, so the Shen cannot rest.
Liver Meridian Imbalance
Anxiety, anger, irritability, frustration, resentment, repressed emotions, excessive stress, fatty foods and alcohol impair the normal functions of the liver meridian, resulting in liver Chi stagnation. This liver Chi stagnation results in reduced blood flow to the heart, reducing the ability of the heart to house the Shen. Overtime, this stagnation causes heat which rises up and disrupts the heart and the Shen.
Stomach Meridian Imbalance
Overindulgence in greasy or sweet foods can result in the retention of fluids and phlegm in the stomach, causing heat which disrupts the Shen.