What is Insomnia?
Insomnia includes inability to fall asleep, waking up at night, restless sleep. Also included, waking up early and dream disturbed sleep as well as being unrefreshed by sleep. Sleep is vital to us as it is the way the body and mind to restore and refresh itself. Sleep helps to restore the immune, nervous, skeletal, and muscular systems. These are vital processes that maintain mood, memory, and cognitive function, and also plays a large role in the function of the endocrine and immune system. In TCM terms, good quality sleep as well as a properly functioning digestive system is the way to restore Qi. Insomnia can be caused by psychiatric and medical conditions, unhealthy sleep habits, specific substances, and/or certain biological factors. It’s important to first understand what could be causing your sleep difficulties.
There are many medical conditions (some mild and others more serious) that can lead to sleeplessness. In some cases, a medical condition itself can be the cause. While in other cases, symptoms of the condition cause discomfort that can make it difficult for a person to sleep.
Medications such as those taken for the common cold and nasal allergies, high blood pressure, heart disease, thyroid disease, birth control, asthma, and depression can also cause insomnia.
In addition, insomnia may be a symptom of underlying sleep disorders. For example, restless legs syndrome-a neurological condition in which a person has an uncomfortable sensation of needing to move his or her legs-can lead to insomnia. Sleep apnea is another sleep disorder linked to insomnia. With sleep apnea, a person’s airway becomes partially or completely obstructed during sleep, leading to pauses in breathing and a drop in oxygen levels. This causes a person to wake up briefly but repeatedly throughout the night. People with sleep apnea sometimes report experiencing insomnia.
If you have trouble sleeping on a regular basis, it’s a good idea to review your health as a whole and think about whether any underlying medical issues or sleep disorders could be contributing to your sleep problems. In some cases, there are simple steps that can be taken to improve sleep. Like avoiding bright lighting while winding down and trying to limit possible distractions, such as a TV, computer, or pets. Some people experience insomnia when light levels in the bedroom are too high, especially during the period of the full moon. In that case installing black out blinds can help. You should not simply accept poor sleep as a way of life.
Insomnia can be caused by psychiatric conditions such as depression. Psychological struggles can make it hard to sleep. Insomnia itself can bring on changes in mood, and shifts in hormones and physiology can lead to both psychiatric issues and sleep issues at the same time.
Sleep problems may represent a symptom of depression, and the risk of severe insomnia is much higher in patients with major depressive disorders. Studies show that insomnia can also trigger or worsen depression.
It’s important to know that symptoms of depression, such as low energy, loss of interest or motivation, feelings of sadness or hopelessness, and insomnia can be linked, and one can make the other worse. The good news is that both are treatable with acupuncture and herbal medicine regardless of which came first. Exercise systems like Qigong are a mind/body exercise system and can help with insomnia.
Most adults have had some trouble sleeping because they feel worried or nervous, but for some it’s a pattern that interferes with sleep on a regular basis. Anxiety symptoms that can lead to insomnia include:
It’s not hard to see why these symptoms of general anxiety can make it difficult to sleep. Anxiety may be associated with onset insomnia (trouble falling asleep), or maintenance insomnia (waking up during the night and not being able to return to sleep). In either case, the quiet and inactivity of the night often brings on stressful thoughts or even fears that keep a person awake.
Increasing work loads can lead to insomnia as the mind begins to process the days work during sleep leading to wakefulness.
Insomnia can be triggered or perpetuated by your behaviors and sleep patterns. Unhealthy lifestyles and sleep habits can create insomnia on their own (without any underlying psychiatric or medical problem), or they can make insomnia caused by another problem worse.
Examples of how specific lifestyles and sleep habits can lead to insomnia are:
Some cases of insomnia start out with an acute episode but turn into a longer-term problem. For example, let’s say a person can’t sleep for a night or two after receiving bad news. In this case, if the person starts to adopt unhealthy sleep habits such as getting up in the middle of the night to work, or drinking alcohol before bed to compensate. The insomnia can continue and potentially turn into a more serious problem. Instead of passing, it can become chronic.
Once this happens, worry and thoughts such as, “I’ll never sleep,” become associated with bedtime, and every time the person can’t sleep, it reinforces the pattern.
This is why it’s important to address insomnia instead of letting it become the norm.
This varies from person to person. Some people need as little as 4-5 hours of sleep a night while others need 9-10 to function normally. As a general rule look to how much sleep you used to have in the past.
Certain substances and activities, including eating patterns, can contribute to insomnia. If you can’t sleep, review the following lifestyle factors to see if one or more could be affecting you:
Alcohol is a sedative. It can make you fall asleep initially, but may disrupt your sleep later in the night.
Caffeine is a stimulant. Most people understand the alerting power of caffeine and use it in the morning to help them start the day and feel productive. Caffeine in moderation is fine for most people, but excessive caffeine can cause insomnia. Caffeine can stay in your system for as long as eight hours, so the effects are long lasting. If you have insomnia, do not consume food or drinks with caffeine too close to bedtime.
Nicotine is also a stimulant and can cause insomnia. Smoking cigarettes or tobacco products close to bedtime can make it hard to fall asleep and to sleep well through the night. Smoking is damaging to your health. If you smoke, you should stop.
Heavy meals close to bedtime can disrupt your sleep. The best practice is to eat lightly before bedtime. When you eat too much in the evening, it can cause discomfort and make it hard for your body to settle and relax. Spicy foods can also cause heartburn and interfere with your sleep.
In some cases, insomnia may be caused by certain neurotransmitters in the brain that are known to be involved with sleep and wakefulness.
There are many possible chemical interactions in the brain that could interfere with sleep and may explain why some people are biologically prone to insomnia and seem to struggle with sleep for many years without any identifiable cause—even when they follow healthy sleep advice.
A customised combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal formulas can offer fast and lasting results.
Acupuncture – A TCM practitioner would select specific acupoints depending on the type of disharmony and use stimulating hand techniques to stimulate Qi.
Herbal Medicine –Chinese herbs for insomnia are a very effective treatment for insomnia.
Gui pi wan, for example, is herbal formula in pill form is particularly effective for overworked patients especially if they have digestive issues.
Suan Zao Ren/Sour Jujube Seeds is a herb, which when included in a formula, will help with insomnia, palpitations, anxiety as well as night sweats. Jujubes contain a wide array of different trace elements, including magnesium, potassium, copper, niacin, calcium, manganese, phosphorus, and iron. They contain 20 times more vitamin C than any citrus fruit, strengthening the immune system and fighting infections, which may be why they’ve been used medicinally for millennia in many cultures, as a tea for sore throat, for example.
Medical studies have found that jujube fruits and extracts have the capacity help lower blood pressure, reverse liver disease, treat anemia, and inhibit the growth of tumor cells that can lead to leukemia. Jujube extracts are also used in skin care products used to diminish wrinkles, relieve dry skin, and treat sunburn pain.
Getting enough sleep is one of the best things we can do for good health. If you find yourself short of sleep, TCM can help trace the roots of your insomnia and design an effective treatment for you. In TCM, there is no one solution which cures all for everyone. Rather, each patient receives an individualised formula for them to address the symptoms presented. There are a variety of herbal formulae that have been shown to help those with insomnia, that is, to sleep more deeply and achieve a full night’s sleep and wake up refreshed. Pairing a herbal formula with regular acupuncture treatments helps. Also, mindfulness exercises/Qigong, will help. As a result, TCM can be used to improve the quality of sleep without the sluggish side effects of sleeping tablets.
To make an appointment with David Hankey, call Acupuncture Cork on 087 2744735, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tuesdays 6 – 7.30 pm.
Starting Tuesday 3rd September 2019 in The Teaching Rooms, Cork.
Tel or Text: 087 2744 735 to book a place or for details of classes
Classes will consist of:
Classes will be limited to 9 people, so please book early.
DAVID HANKEY has been practicing Qi Gong, Aikido and Zen meditation for more than 30 years. He has been practicing Tai Chi for more than 25 years and has been teaching for more than 25 years. David has taught in Ireland as well as China. He also received private instruction in Qi Gong from his teacher Prof. Wu Tian Cheng. David is a student of Wudang Europa with Taoist Master Tian Liyang. In addition, David is a practitioner of Acupuncture, Chinese Herbal Medicine, Shiatsu and Tuina
Tel : 087 2744 735 for details of classes
The Wudang Mountains in Hubei, China, are the location of many Taoist monasteries and temples. Taoism focuses on the spiritual aspect of being. The objective of people on the Taoist path is living a long and meaningful life by living in harmony with nature. This can be symbolised as a circle which has no beginning and no end. The aim of the practitioner is to find the still spot within the circle.
Taoist Tai Chi
Tai Chi Chuan is an ancient system of physical exercise that promotes total health: emotional, mental and spiritual. Unlike exercises that use exertion and force to build muscular strength, a strength that inevitably deteriorates with age, the gentle and flowing, yet rigorous, movements of Tai Chi focus on relaxing and straightening the body.
Wudang Tai Chi is a 64 posture form developed by the monks in the Wudang Mountains and is based on the original form of Zhang Sanfeng.
Taoist Qi Gong/Chi Kung
Qi Gong is a traditional system of health exercises where the practitioner focuses on three things – posture, breathing and calming the mind. So, we could say that Qi Gong explores the mind-body relationship. Qi means “life-force energy” and Gong means “skill”, so Qi Gong is the skilled practice of gathering, circulating, and applying life-force energy. “Wild Goose” Qi Gong is a set of 64 movements which blend together.
What are its benefits?
After some practice, students will find their Qi or internal energy flowing and will begin to feel more relaxed.
The practice takes time, so you need to give it time. It takes about a year to learn the full Tai Chi form, on the basis of one class a week and practicing every day for about 15 minutes. As Tai Chi embraces many aspects of movement and stillness, it can be practiced by any age group. Consistent daily practice promotes relaxation, concentration and increased vitality due to improved circulatory and respiratory functions.
Classes, which typically last 60-90 minutes, begin with a series of breathing exercises and move on to slow and precise body movements or “forms” that may take up to twenty minutes to perform.
The first principle of Tai Chi is relaxation, without which there is no Tai Chi; the whole body must be relaxed, loose and open, so that the Chi/Energy can pass through without blockage. Later on in our study, as we begin to relax we realise that relaxation is not simply becoming limp, there should be a quality of vitality about it. Building on that foundation, the practitioner will feel the difference between going limp, which is lifeless, and the relaxation of a cat, which is completely vital and alert. Tai Chi master Cheng Man-Ch’ing described it as like a bale of cotton: soft, but the more compressed it is, the firmer and more substantial it becomes.
Medical Qigong to improve health and immune system
Medical Qigong (pronounced Chi Kung)
What is Medical Qigong? Medical Qigong is another mode of Chinese Medicine alongside acupuncture, herbal medicine and therapeutic massage. Medical Qigong refers either to a practitioner doing Qigong on the patient or to the patient doing a set of mind and body exercises/meditation. Medical Qigong is a set of exercises to improve health and boost the immune system.
When a practitioner does medical Qigong on the patient, he/she is using their hands to open and manipulate the points rather than use acupuncture needles. Just like acupuncture the therapist uses the same diagnostic tools to lead to the point prescription.
The purpose of this blog and accompanying video on YouTube is to show people how to do a set of Qigong exercises for themselves. This will be a very basic model, but that doesn’t mean that it is in any way less effective. Rather, it will be the basic model on which more complicated or specific exercises can be built. Qigong exercises can be very specific to particular complaints, but this one forms the basics.
Medical Qigong exercises also play a part in the patient’s recovery to health and also to improve the immune system and the general health of the patient. Done correctly, these exercises are like doing an acupuncture session on yourself. Medical Qigong exercises can also be done by those wishing to boost their immune systems as well as to improve general health.
All forms of TCM treatment strive to boost, reinforce, strengthen and invigorate the Qi or life-force energy.
The word Qigong is made up of two Chinese words. “Qi” means “life force” or “vital energy” which flows through all things in the universe. “Gong” means “work”. Qigong therefore means “working with Qi”
Qigong is the art and science of using breathing techniques, gentle movement and meditation to cleanse, strengthen and circulate Qi. Qigong practice leads to better health and vitality and a more tranquil state of mind.
Qigong practices involve various postures, either moving or stationery, breathing exercises and exercises to calm and quieten the mind and help focus intention. Some practices increase Qi, others circulate it. Some practices are to cleanse and heal the body, while others store or emit Qi to help heal others.
The gentle rhythmic movements of Qigong reduce stress, build stamina, increase vitality and enhance the immune system. It has been found to improve cardiovascular, respiratory, circulatory, lymphatic and digestive function.
Qigong is an exercise routine which promotes relaxation and increases the blood flow. Also, because the person is focusing on, and following the breath in a smooth flow, it is mindfulness meditation. This reduces stress, which can also exacerbating an illness. One of the most important long term benefits of Qigong is that it re-establishes the mind/body/spirit connection.
Tai Chi is a particular style of Qigong which is graceful, relaxed, slow and fluid. Unlike some Qigong methods which exercise specific systems or parts of the body – nervous system, endocrine system, heart, kidneys – Qigong is a whole body, whole mind exercise.
This blog is to accompany a video I have done to demonstrate the important points when doing these Qigong exercises for yourself. All that is needed is the space where you stand and time. With practice, build up to 30 minutes. Every day is best, twice a day if you can manage. To see any benefit it is best to practice every day for a few months. Then review the situation to see whether the exercises have made any difference.
The accompanying video shows the basic postures and important points when doing these exercises.
The video shows in real time how to perform the exercises so you can do them alongside the video. I have included the basic postures/relaxation and 4 exercises which are good for starting this practice. So, just follow along at your own pace. Sitting or standing is ok.
If you suffer from an illness or would like to use Qigong for prevention, why not give it a go? Please follow the link below and follow along for yourself. Firstly, see if you like this form of exercise. To obtain best results, practice for a half hour every day for a month and see for yourself if you have made an progress.
I can perform Medical Qigong on patients and also show how to do the exercises as well as prescribe specific exercises for different complaints.
If you would like more information, or would like to book a consultation to experience a Qigong treatment, please contact me at:
Acupuncture Cork, David Hankey. Phone 087 2744735
or email email@example.com