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March 1, 2011

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Insomnia can be a health risk

ONE out of three adults suffers from insomnia. Lack of sleep appears in many forms, such as difficulty falling asleep, waking up early or at specific times or disturbed sleep by dreams and nightmares.

As a consequence of not sleeping well, people feel tired and erratic, they have a decreased aptitude for problem solving and decision making. They also suffer from muscle stiffness and headaches.

Good sleep is a sign of good health - insomnia is an indication that there is something wrong inside the body. Additionally, lack of sleep can also cause serious health problems - depression, anxiety disorders, immune deficiency - when it has long been ignored.

In Western medicine, sleeplessness is associated with emotional distress. Doctors often recommend reducing stress and prescribe sleeping pills or anti-depressants.

According to TCM, insomnia tells of a dysfunction or imbalance in the body. It is often connected to a yin/yang interchange disorder if it is a long time problem.

Some simplified patterns of insomnia are:

Difficulty falling asleep

Many patients who have problems falling asleep have a liver fire or heart fire which make them restless, overexcited and overactive.

Waking up early

Usually, a cause for waking up early is a heart/spleen deficiency. This deficiency is often accompanied by the symptoms of feeling tired, having poor concentration, being overly worried or even depressive.

Waking up at specific times

The body's energy circulates through the organs on a 24-hour rhythm. The time at which a person wakes up regularly indicates the organ related to the sleeplessness.

Sleep disturbed by dreams

Having nightmares often points to a disorder in the gall bladder. The reoccurrence of the same dream indicates an imbalance in the heart and/or spleen.

An individual's specific insomnia pattern needs to be examined. Please consult a TCM practitioner to identify your insomnia pattern and the right treatment (acupuncture and/or herbal remedies) to cure your inability to sleep.

Here are some general tips to improve sleep quality:

? Stick to fixed bed times and wake up times (average sleep duration is eight hours).

? Exercise regularly.

? Avoid stimulation before bedtime (ie. TV, coffee).

? Avoid trying too hard to fall asleep and learn to relax.

? If you wake up at night, stay in bed and don't get up.

(Doris Rathgeber is the founder of Body & Soul Medical Clinics.)

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