Treating Insomnia and Anxiety with Traditional Chinese Medicine

I have encountered many people lately who are having trouble sleeping. These are stressful times, so insomnia and anxiety are not an unusual occurrence.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, one theory on anxiety is that it is caused by excessive energy (chi) in the head. This overabundance of energy presents as heat. Symptoms of this type of anxiety are racing thoughts, difficulty sleeping, and excessive worry. In contrast, energy blockage or stagnation can result in depression. Symptoms of depression are sadness, inability to focus, anger, and fatigue.

In TCM there are different treatments for anxiety. At the beginning of each session, the practitioner takes the client’s pulses to assess their energy flow. Treatment is always directed toward balancing the individual’s energy, bringing the body back to homeostasis so that it can heal itself.

Some energy pathways that would need balancing when a person is experiencing insomnia are spleen, which is associated with worry, and its partner stomach, which is associated with grounding and balance. I would also look at gallbladder and liver meridians, which are associated with everyday stress and anger/frustration, respectively. The heart meridian would also be important since it is associated with restful sleep.

There is no cookie-cutter treatment since each person is unique with different constitutions, emotions, health history, experiences, and body-mind connection. Treatment is always based on the present moment and balancing the energy flow. When a person’s energy is flowing freely, they are better able to manage their stress and emotions.