fatigue

How to Treat Fatigue With Acupuncture and TCM

By Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

fatigue
Feeling like you can’t get out of bed and face the day?

With so much going on in our lives these days, it is no wonder that many of us feel exhausted and tired all the time. Stress and lack of sleep are so common now that many people are easily tired. But when it gets to the point that a person is always tired, so much that he or she never feels rested and has trouble engaging in normal daily activities, fatigue becomes a serious health concern that requires attention.

Extreme fatigue is a mental and/or physical lack of energy that goes beyond normal tiredness. Physical or muscle fatigue prevents a person from engaging the body in the ways he or she is used to being able to, while being mentally exhausted causes sleepiness and an inability to focus the mind enough to perform one’s usual tasks. Transient or acute fatigue occurs when a person is deprived of sleep over a few days. In general, it is recommended that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. However, a large published report showed that more than a third of Americans regularly sleep less than seven hours per night. Poor sleep habits do more than cause excessive tiredness; they can lead to all kinds of chronic health problems.

Conventional medicine has a limited understanding of fatigue causes, and does not offer much in the way of solutions for fatigue symptoms. Whether fatigue is acute or chronic, acupuncture and TCM offer proven benefits without any negative side effects.

Causes of Chronic Fatigue

Constant fatigue and extreme exhaustion that last for more than three to six months may be signs of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). As a syndrome, CFS/ME is a collection of symptoms that are often seen together, but is not fully understood by the medical community as a disease. CFS symptoms include:

  • Extreme exhaustion that is made worse with physical or mental effort (post-exertional malaise, or PEM), i.e., feeling completely spent after any exercise or mental stress
  • Sleep is not refreshing
  • Foggy head, cognitive impairment
  • Joint pain
  • Constant sore throat
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Severe headaches
  • Extreme sensitivity to lights, noises, smells, foods and chemicals

It can be difficult for doctors to come to a firm diagnosis for different types of fatigue, partly because the symptoms are “invisible” and subjective, but also because there are other health conditions with similar symptoms, in particular fibromyalgia. The causes of chronic fatigue have not been fully identified, but it is believed that CFS can be triggered by infections, immune dysfunction, nutritional deficiencies, extreme stress, or a combination of these factors. Some studies have indicated that people who experienced childhood trauma may have increased risk of developing CFS, and that psychological stress due to post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is linked to CFS.

As of now, conventional medicine has no officially approved treatment protocol for chronic fatigue. Generally, patients are instructed to rest, pace themselves while practicing gentle exercises, and learn to avoid triggers that make their fatigue worse. Doctors may offer medications to help insomnia and antidepressants to help with emotional instability, but these types of drugs can have negative side effects and create dependency. Traditional Chinese Medicine works on a deeper level to address headache, dizziness, fatigue, muscle and joint pain with fatigue, and eye strain symptoms.

Sometimes constant tiredness is attributed to adrenal exhaustion. Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome is not a formally recognized medical diagnosis, but this, too, is a collection of symptoms that is theorized to be related to chronically low levels of the adrenal hormone cortisol. Cortisol is produced in short bursts when we are under stress; this is often called the “fight or flight” response. Going through an extended period of stress might lead to the adrenal glands becoming depleted. People with adrenal fatigue symptoms like tiredness, trouble sleeping, and cravings often rely on caffeine and sugar to help them get that burst of energy. Adrenal fatigue treatment by TCM helps to naturally balance the hormones, while lifestyle modifications implemented over time help resolve feeling so tired all the time.

How Is Fatigue Related to Stress?

daytime fatigue related to insomnia
Fatigue can impair daytime functioning.

Clearly there are links between stress and fatigue. Stress is the body’s reaction to difficulties and situational changes. When stress builds up over time, the body and mind become exhausted. Chronic stress can lead to emotional exhaustion. Lack of focus and motivation leads to poor decision making, and then a person can no longer take proper care of herself and her loved ones. Mental health issues such as anxiety and depression become intrusive and disruptive to daily life. In today’s world, we are all subjected to many stressors every day. Simply processing a constant onslaught of new information on top of all of the other things we are expected to manage is bound to cause mental fatigue. Feeling overwhelmed is the new normal, but in order to prevent it from becoming a serious health problem, we need to address emotional fatigue.

How Is Fatigue Related to Sleep Problems?

We need nourishing food and restful sleep to function optimally. If an individual does not prioritize healthy eating and getting enough sleep, eventually the body becomes seriously depleted. Feeling tired after eating is a sign that one might be eating the wrong foods, or at the wrong times. Extreme fatigue after eating is also an indicator that when a person does sleep, he or she is not getting good quality sleep. Working on behavioral modifications to improve sleep quality is certainly an important part of addressing fatigue, as is finding a physical activity program that improves energy.

How Is Fatigue Related to Hormones and Women’s Health?

Women often experience fatigue as they go through hormone changes. Feeling lethargic due to PMS fatigue or period fatigue is common. Fatigue during pregnancy can cause women to feel weak and tired. Women going through menopause commonly feel over tired. These types of hormone related fatigue can be helped by balancing the hormones with acupuncture and herbs.

How Can Acupuncture Help to Fight Fatigue?

The most fundamental concept of Traditional Chinese Medicine is that of “Qi,” the life force energy that flows through the body. According to TCM, fatigue is related to the quantity and quality of Qi a person is able to maintain. Qi deficiency, then, is the primary cause of fatigue. Deficiencies can show up in different ways:

  • Spleen-pancreas – This is the organ system that directs digestion. When this is weak, people might feel bloated after eating, tend toward loose bowels, feel weak and depressed, and bruise easily. This can be due to erratic eating patterns, especially too many sweets. Worrying or over-thinking can also be part of the problem. Many people go through stressful periods when they exhibit these behaviors and symptoms.
  • Lung – The lungs do the job of extracting Qi from the air we breathe. Sometimes lung Qi is weakened when we do a lot of talking as part of our work without taking enough breaks. Emotions of grief and sadness can also weaken the lungs. This may present as being prone to coughs or colds.
  • Blood Deficiency – This often goes together with Qi deficiency. A heart-related blood deficiency can lead to feelings of anxiety and restless sleep. A liver-related blood deficiency can cause eye strain symptoms.
  • Yang Deficiency – Lack of heat energy in the body causes weakness with body aches and fatigue. This differentiation can cause menopausal fatigue and low back pain.
moxibustion
Moxibustion cultivates heat energy

An acupuncture practitioner will first perform a thorough consultation and exam to identify the specific symptoms of fatigue and the factors potentially causing them. A course of treatment might include not only acupuncture to stimulate points along the meridians, but also moxibustion, a topical therapy used to cultivate warm energy.

One formal study of patients diagnosed with CFS showed significant improvement in both physical and mental fatigue among participants who received daily acupuncture over the course of ten days.

Another study of chronic fatigue patients who were given acupuncture as a complement to conventional treatment showed greater improvement over patients who did not receive acupuncture.

Acupuncture has been shown to increase serotonin levels, which help improve sleep and mood. This means it can be an effective treatment for fatigue and depression, without the side effects and dependence that are often caused by SSRIs (antidepressants that work on serotonin levels in the brain).

Chinese herbs are used in customized combinations to address imbalances in the organ systems. TCM herbal remedies are an integral part of treatment for chronic fatigue, and should be combined with your acupuncturist’s nutritional recommendations to nourish Qi and reverse fatigue.

Top 10 Tips to Beat Fatigue 

While acupuncture treatment and herbal support will go a long way to combat fatigue, it is critical that patients make meaningful lifestyle modifications. New habits will not only improve symptoms of fatigue, but prevent exhaustion in the future.

  1. Timing is everything – The adrenal hormones will be more balanced if you follow natural circadian rhythms. This means, ideally, rising with the sun and going to bed well before midnight. Exercise early in the day rather than stimulating the body with activity in the evening. Stick with the same sleep routine, even on weekends and holidays.
  2. Cut caffeine – Drinking coffee or sodas to stay sharp is actually very detrimental to your health. Think of it as borrowing energy; you’ll have to pay it back later, with interest. If you are used to multiple caffeinated drinks per day, start by reducing them gradually. Then, take at least a few weeks off of caffeine entirely. 
  3. Avoid Alcohol – Even though it may feel like a glass of wine helps you relax in the evening, alcohol has a negative impact on the quality of sleep, often causing you to sleep lightly and wake in the night. Again, start by cutting back, and try to abstain entirely until fatigue has improved.
  4. Drink more water – Dehydration reduces mental alertness and physical stamina. Drinking 8 glasses of water per day ensures that nutrients and oxygen are moving smoothly through the bloodstream and that toxins are being excreted properly. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty; by then, you are already dehydrated. Remind yourself to drink at regular intervals.
  5. Eat more frequently to maintain blood sugar levels and energy. Smaller meals eaten every 3-4 hours throughout the day
    walnuts omega 3
    Walnuts are a great source of Omega-3s

    are better than 2-3 large meals. 

  6. Get enough Omega-3 – Fatty acid supplementation has been shown to reduce symptoms in CFS patients. Good sources of Omega-3 fatty acids include: fish, fish oil, flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts.
  7. Short bouts of exercise – Even when the mildest exertion can be exhausting, it’s vital to establish and maintain regular physical activity. A short 15 minute walk outdoors will help get the blood pumping, and exposure to sunlight is crucial for getting Vitamin D to boost immune function.
  8. Qi Gong – This gentle form of exercise is part of the holistic health care system represented by TCM. The focused breathing and subtle movements of Qi Gong are designed to nurture Qi. Specific exercises will help to bring in more Qi, encourage Yang fire energy, and relieve stress.
  9. Yoga – Another practice that goes beyond physical exercise, yoga encourages specific breathing and meditation techniques that harness “Prana.” Similar to concept of Qi, Prana is life-giving energy that we can take into the body from the environment through deep breathing.
  10. Rest – Prioritizing rest means more than getting enough sleep at night. Change your mindset from one of constant “busyness” and productivity. Give yourself time to rest, read, meditate, listen to music, laugh, and just do nothing. If you have to convince yourself, remember, “doctor’s orders–I have to rest!”

Acupuncture Near Me for Dealing With Fatigue 

Now more than ever, extreme stress, lack of sleep and activity, and constant triggering events can cause chronic fatigue. Fatigue is feeling more than tired; it can become a real health concern if you are so physically and mentally exhausted that you cannot get up and face your day. Do not hesitate to reach out for help. The doctors at Art of Wellness are TCM experts with over 30 years of experience helping patients heal unresolved traumas, restore balance and replenish their energy. Call today to get started with a treatment plan to banish fatigue.

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

How to Treat Anxiety With TCM and Acupuncture

By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. and Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

Anxiety and Stress
It isn’t all in your head

Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety or apprehension at times. Sometimes people suffer from excessive feelings of dread or panic, even when they are not in immediate danger. In some cases, the complex cascade of emotional and physical sensations encompassed by the term Anxiety is so pervasive that it becomes a chronic mental health condition. TCM and Acupuncture offer a natural, highly effective treatment option to reduce anxiety symptoms.

We are currently living in a particularly harsh reality in which human life is filled with setbacks and potential danger. There is always a chance that something bad might happen to you or someone close to you. In recent weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has understandably created a pervasive sense of worry amongst the population, and the numbers of people filling prescriptions for anxiety-related medications, antidepressants and sleep aids has increased dramatically.

Anxiety is clinically defined as a persistent feeling of worry, accompanied by physical sensations such as heart palpitations, dizziness, and sweating. Sometimes people describe it as being similar to the sensations you feel when you’ve tripped and you’re falling, except that the scary feeling persists for a long time; it doesn’t go away even when nothing is happening. Anxiety disorder is a very common mental health condition experienced by people of all ages; every year about 20% of Americans seek medical help for symptoms related to anxiety. 

If you are feeling heightened levels of distress that are affecting your ability to sleep, focus, or care for yourself or others, please be assured that help is available. Acupuncture and other TCM treatment modalities offer a safe alternative to pharmacological drugs that can cause side effects and potentially lead to dependency and withdrawal symptoms. A qualified acupuncturist will conduct an in-depth consultation and create a program designed to specifically address each patient’s individual combination of symptoms and life situation.

What Are the Symptoms of Anxiety?

Doctors classify types of anxiety disorders into several sub-categories, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Social Anxiety, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Phobia-related Disorders, and Separation Anxiety (anxiety in children).

The most common symptoms of various types of Anxiety include:

  • Rapid or labored breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat or tachycardia
  • Feeling “on edge” or irritable
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach upset
  • Anxiety headache 

Each person will present with a unique combination of symptoms and sensations, along with her own “triggers” or things that seem to cause the symptoms to manifest. Most people who seek medical care for their anxiety symptoms are either prescribed psychiatric tranquilizing medications such as Xanax or Atavan, referred for psychotherapy, or both. Some doctors use antidepressants such as Zoloft, Lexapro or Prozac to treat anxiety. These Selective Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) may help reduce symptoms in some cases, but all of these types of medications can cause side effects and lead to dependency. TCM and Acupuncture treatments not only address specific symptoms of anxiety, but address the root causes of the disorder.

TCM Deals With All Types of Anxiety Disorders 

anxiety can cause fatigue
Anxiety can increase feelings of isolation.

Anxiety, like all mental health disorders, carries the disadvantage of being “invisible.” Other people, and even many medical professionals, simply can’t see physical evidence of the problem, and can’t empathize with the suffering involved. Well-meaning family members and friends might offer suggestions to “calm down” or reminders to stay positive, all with the implication that nothing is really wrong or that “it’s all in your head.” Being plagued with constant self-doubt further amplifies the problem. Anxiety is a real health issue, and TCM offers effective modalities to address it.

Modern medicine has only recently begun to make the connection between emotional and physical maladies. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), on the other hand, has acknowledged for centuries that the mental, emotional and physical experiences of human beings are all inextricably linked. Sometimes a physical injury or traumatic experience can set the stage for a mental health problem. For example, a car accident that creates even minor injuries to the body might trigger future panic attacks, phobias, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Other times, a mental health condition like chronic Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) can affect sleep, eating, and other behaviors to such an extent that a person becomes more susceptible to illness and disease. It would not be surprising to see an increase in cases of Agoraphobia (fear of leaving one’s home) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD, which sometimes causes compulsive hand-washing and cleaning as well as hoarding behaviors) as a result of the current coronavirus pandemic. 

Anxiety disorders already tend to lead to feelings of isolation. Now that most people are spending far more time alone or sequestered with family members and roommates, already existing feelings of fear may be exacerbated. People who have never had to cope with anything beyond normal, mild anxiety may suddenly find themselves feeling real panic for the first time. Additionally, some might feel guilty or ashamed about reaching out for help for these problems when there are so many other people hurting for more apparent reasons. But there is real help for anxiety, and getting that help during this time of crisis makes sense. There is no need to suffer. Find acupuncture near me to address anxiety symptoms and the root causes before the problem becomes more severe and chronic.

Acupuncture for Controlling Anxiety

shen men ear point
Shen men ear point for anxiety relief

Conventional medicine generally attributes anxiety disorders to abnormal functioning of the brain and nervous system. The feelings associated with anxiety – the emotional sense of worry, the breathlessness and restlessness of the body, the behavioral instincts to freeze or to run – are all exaggerated responses to stress. Stress is the body’s natural reaction to perceived dangers in the environment. When something threatens us, the sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear, and the adrenal glands pump out the hormones that flood the body with energy–what is often referred to as the “fight or flight” response. Normally, once the threat has passed, adrenaline will take some time to move through the body and then dissipate, and a feeling of relaxation is eventually restored. When a person has an anxiety disorder, this hormone release can be triggered by thoughts, and the fear of the physical response itself becomes a part of the vicious cycle.

Acupuncture treatment has been shown to act upon the nervous system, facilitating the release of serotonin, endorphins and noradrenaline, all of which contribute to relaxation and a sense of well-being. Stimulation of specific points have been clinically proven to reduce perceived feelings of anxiety as well as reducing the heart rate and blood pressure of patients. Auricular acupuncture, which specifically uses points on the ear, has been shown to be effective for anxiety. This method is particularly useful, as patients can be fitted with a tiny needle that can be stimulated with gentle pressure as needed to help alleviate symptoms as they appear.

Auricular acupuncture has been used for thousands of years, not only in China, but all over the world. Modern critical analysis has demonstrated that auricular acupuncture affects the parasympathetic nervous system in ways that help alleviate pain and reduce anxiety symptoms. Electro-stim acupuncture, or electro-acupuncture, is another effective modality used by TCM doctors.

How Does Acupuncture Benefit  Anxiety Relief of Panic Attacks?

One of the great advantages of acupuncture treatment over conventional methods of talk therapy and pharmacological intervention is that it has an immediately discernible effect. Patients often leave an acupuncture session with a deep sense of calm and relaxation. Reports of improved sleep usually follow quickly. In addition, the long-term effects of regular acupuncture sessions are cumulative, and people report a sustained decrease in episodes of anxiety and panic attacks.

One controlled study compared groups of patients treated with a regimen of acupuncture with moxibustion to a group prescribed a type of benzodiazepine medication. The results showed higher efficacy in reducing anxiety symptoms among the patients receiving acupuncture.

TCM Doctors’ Top 10  Suggestions on Self Care for Anxiety 

Dr. Tan meditating
Journey inward with meditation practice.

Here are some natural remedies for anxiety you can utilize at home. With consistent practice, these habits will help alleviate stress and reduce anxiety symptoms. 

  1. Meditation for anxiety– Those struggling with anxiety may well be tired of hearing well-meaning friends suggesting they “Relax!” or “just breathe.” But studies have shown that regular meditation practice can significantly reduce anxiety. There are many methods; it is important to find a method that works for you. This study suggested mindfulness meditation may be especially effective.
  2. Waterfall Meditation –  In this exercise, imagine yourself at the base of a waterfall. As you breathe in and out, picture the water gently raining down on you, trickling down each route until the tension inside you releases, relaxing parts of your body one section at a time. Allow your entire body to enter a peaceful and relaxed state. Let the image of the water wash away any stress or anxiety that burdens you.
  3. Physical Exercise – By now it has been well documented that regular exercise is good for health in every way, lowering the risks of all types of chronic disease. Movement helps reduce anxiety symptoms by reducing adrenal reactivity, increasing the output of endorphins and endogenous (naturally produced in the body) opioids, and even stimulating the growth of new brain cells. It is also suggested that exercise functions as a type of exposure therapy. When people become more used to the sensations of an increased heart rate, heavier breathing, and sweating due to cardiovascular activity, it increases their tolerance for these same symptoms when they appear as part of an episode of anxiety. If you are able to go for a walk or run while following social distancing guidelines, it is especially helpful to get some sun exposure, as well. Put on some music or a favorite workout video; rhythmic movement that engages the large muscle groups provides great benefits.
  4. Tai Chi and Chi Gong –These ancient traditional forms are “moving meditations” that work upon the endocrine circulatory, and nervous systems to balance energies and strengthen Qi.
  5. Good Eating Habits – Caffeine, sugar, processed and spicy foods can trigger anxiety. Complex carbohydrates like brown rice, barley, quinoa and oats are relaxing, as are nuts and chickpeas, which contain tryptophan. Now is a good time to become more intimately involved with preparing dishes at home, and this process can also be soothing: a mindfulness exercise that results in a healthy meal! Your TCM provider will provide more detailed instructions for a nutrition program for your specific situation.
  6. Stress Reduction –Reducing stress goes hand in hand with reducing anxiety. Especially now, carefully manage your daily activities so as not to become overwhelmed. Allot a short period of time for checking the latest news and catching up with friends; then consciously disengage from screens and virtual realities. Social media has already been called into question for its apparent increase of anxiety among teenagers, but it has a real impact on people of all ages. Comparing your situation and surroundings to the carefully curated content you see on sharing platforms can make you feel pressure, shame, a sense of inadequacy. Commit to being grounded in your immediate surroundings and grateful for the blessings that are in your life right now. Recognize that, while it is important to educate yourself about the novel coronavirus, many of the opinions being expressed online are not informed and are designed to provoke an emotional reaction. Avoid reading comments that you know might be triggering. 
  7. Sleep position can affect headaches
    Acupuncture treatments can alleviate sleep anxiety.

    Sleep Better to Combat Sleep Anxiety – Repetitive, OCD intrusive thoughts and restless energy within the body can make sleeping difficult when you are experiencing sleep anxiety. Cortisol–another stress hormone–levels tend to rise in the evening, and many people register this sensation as anxiety at night. Eating simple carbohydrates like sweets or chips suppresses cortisol and offers a temporary feeling of relaxation. But consuming these foods or alcohol to artificially reduce stress leads to less restful sleep later. Dr. Tan and Dr. Cai can offer many suggestions for how to modify your habits to achieve a better night’s sleep.

  8. Learn a Language – Distance learning has quickly become an integral part of our lives. Many people are using their time at home to learn new skills. Now is a great time to learn a new language. Studying and practicing will help you focus your mind and instill a sense of accomplishment to help relieve anxiety.  
  9. Structure Your Days – Even though daily life has taken an unusual turn, maintaining a consistent schedule helps keep hormone and energy levels more consistent. Rise and retire at about the same time each day. Eat regular meals. Set aside hours for work and much-needed time for rest and relaxation. Creating a structure for your life helps you feel that you are controlling what you can.
  10. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 5-4-3-2-1 Grounding Exercise – Use this exercise when feeling anxious or suffering a panic attack. This helps you ground yourself in reality by actively using your five senses. Look for the things, and then name them out loud. 
    1. 5 – Count five things in your immediate environment that you can SEE. 
    2. 4 – Count four things near you that you can TOUCH. 
    3. 3 – Count three things near you that you can HEAR. 
    4. 2 – Count two things you can SMELL. 
    5. 1 – Count one thing you can TASTE.     

How to Use 3 Acupressure Points for Anxiety Relief

shen men acupressure point
Shen Men acupressure point

Acupressure is a technique patients can use anytime for symptom relief. Apply gentle, firm pressure to these points.

  1. Liver 3 is a grounding point that helps redirect rising energy downward. Located between the first and second toes, you will find a very tender spot. Try applying gentle pressure here to alleviate irritability, headaches, TMJ, and anxiety. 
  2. You have probably seen the bands people sometimes wear around their wrists to prevent nausea. These are designed to put pressure on Pericardium 6, which quells queasiness. The point is located between the two tendons on your wrist, two fingers up from the wrist crease. Pressing on it is immediately calming. It helps to open the chest, as well, so if you feel tightness in the chest or shallow breathing, use this point. 
  3. Shen Men, called the “Spiritual gate” point, releases heart fire, excitement, anger, irritation and anxiety.

Look for Acupuncture near me in Los Angeles for Anxiety 

At Art of Wellness, one of the top 20 clinics in greater Los Angeles selected by experts, we are concerned that so many people are feeling the weight of these difficult times and having to go it alone. But we are here, committed to helping people whether they are suffering possible symptoms of COVID-19 or intense anxious feelings related to fear of the virus. Our office is currently open on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday during the pandemic period for acupuncture sessions. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us at 310-451-5522 or email us at myartofwellness@gmail.com if you or someone you love is battling anxiety.

 

*This article is for education from the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine only. The education provided by this article is not approved by FDA to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure human diseases. It should not stop you from consulting with your physician for your medical conditions. Traditional Chinese Medicine is based on Qi, which is an invisible force that usually cannot be observed by modern science. Because science focuses on testing ideas about the natural world with evidence obtained through observation, these aspects of acupuncture can’t be studied by science. Therefore acupuncture and Chinese herbs are often not supported by double-blind, randomized trials, and they are considered alternative medicine therapies in the United States.

How to Sleep Better with Acupuncture and TCM

By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D.

Do you suffer from insomnia or do you have trouble falling asleep and staying asleep? Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) offers many solutions on how to sleep better without sleeping aids. TCM stresses the importance of getting a good night sleep. Chinese medicine has tools such as; exercise, Chinese herbal medicine, acupuncture, and meditation all which can help you get a good sleep so you can function at the highest potential throughout the day. Below you will read about TCM and the history it provides in regards to sleep and the many tips that can help you get the best sleep tonight.

 

History of Sleep with TCM

Sleep is a part of the interplay of yin and yang: yang energy is dominant when we are awake and active, and yin energy rules sleep. Night is yin; daylight is yang. This is all in keeping with the holistic, universal nature of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) theory. Our bodies are designed to work with the movements of the earth, sun, and moon. When a person experiences insomnia, either hard to fall asleep or wake up often then difficult to fall back to sleep, there is a lack of balance. The body is out of sync with its environment. The yang energy is taking over, or not interplaying with yin appropriately.

Sleeping and Chinese Medicine
Sleeping and Chinese Medicine

In TCM terminology, “Shen” is the spirit, the energy which controls our mental activities and thought. During sleep, Shen “hides” in the organs – predominantly the Heart and the Liver – resting, so that it can function with sharpness during our waking hours. Insomnia, in TCM, is often viewed, then, as a problem of the Heart system, or the Liver system. If one of these major organs is unable to “house” the Shen, then the Shen will wander restlessly, causing sleeplessness.

Protective Qi cycles through the body continuously, but it follows different paths along the meridians at different times of the day and night.  During the day, protective Qi, which fights off pathogens, moves through the yang meridians, and during the night, it flows through the yin meridians. If you find yourself waking up at a particular hour in the middle of the night every night – or feeling sluggish at one particular time every day – it is probably related to some deficiency of Qi in that area.

Between the hours between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m. the liver meridian is actively supplying Qi to the liver system so that it can clean toxins from the blood. Then, between 3:00 and 5:00 a.m., the freshly cleaned blood and energy is being delivered to the organ systems. It is especially important to be sleeping soundly during that time.  The liver does all the heavy lifting of cleaning and detoxifying the blood and therefore, the whole body. If the liver is stinted of its full rest and rejuvenation, night after night, we can be left feeling truly sick and tired.

Sleeplessness may be the central problem for some people; for others, it’s just a part of the big picture. Many people have gone so long without restful sleep that they have become used to it and just consider it their new “normal.” When you come in to Art of Wellness for a visit, our doctors will ask many questions to get a sense of what kind of sleep problems you’re having, including other symptoms that may be related to the same root issue.

  •      Having trouble falling asleep may be related to an excess condition of the liver and/or gall bladder.
  •      Waking easily and then having trouble falling back to sleep may point to a deficiency of the Heart Yin or too much internal heat.
  •      Nightmares may indicate a gall bladder meridian problem, while repetitive, literal dreams (about work, for example) might indicate a heart/spleen problem.

Sleep problems can be related to other conditions, such as depression, menopause in women, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.

 

How to Make Winter A Time of Rest and Renewal

Getting a good night  sleep is always important, but in the Wintertime. Nature and our bodies are really asking us to rest more, and more deeply, than we do during other times of the year.  This is a time for the body to store energy. If we go at a frantic pace, and behave the same way we do in the middle of summer, we will become depleted.

Unfortunately, our current culture does not necessarily support this idea. It seems we are asked to do more and be more than ever during the rush of the winter holiday season. It really is vital to prioritize “doing less” in order to preserve good health.

People with sleep problems seek tips for help. The practices in acupuncture and TCM help you to be calm. Visit the link and read some TCM tips for sleep.

 

Handful of nuts and a small glass of milk before bed
Handful of nuts and a small glass of milk before bed

Top 20 Tips For Creating Calm so That You Can Get A Good Sleep

  1. Choose carefully how many social commitments you make. You don’t have to attend every gathering – only the ones that are meaningful to you. If it feels more like an obligation than fun, make a plan to stop in, extend your greetings, and then leave early. This way, you won’t overeat, drink too much, and you can still get to bed a reasonable hour
  2. Don’t exercise too vigorously close to bedtime. An evening walk, or gentle program of Tai Qi or yoga will help you work out excess energy with stimulating you further
  3. Deep breaking techniques: using you lower abdomen, inhale deeply. Hold it for about 5 seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat ten times. Deep breathing exercises not only relax your mind, but they help to dispel negative Qi from the body before bed
  4. Create an oasis of calm in your bedroom, with good ventilation, restful colors and no devices. Set a time, half an hour to hour before going to bed, when you will discontinue watching TV or looking at your computer and phone. The light stimulus from the screen is not helpful for falling asleep. Reading a book, writing in a journal, coloring in a coloring book, are all activities that help you wind down for the night.
  5. Change your eating habits: many people wake up around 3 AM and find it difficult to fall back asleep. This may be cause by low blood sugar level due to the over activity for the adrenal gland. For a better sleep, try to balance your blood sugar level daily by eating small portions of food about every 3 hours and drinking a glass of warm, low fat milk or eating a handful of nuts—such as raw walnuts or almonds, before bedtime. It helps to balance your blood sugar. Waking up in the middle of the night can be caused by fluctuating insulin levels – the result of too much sugar or alcohol in the evening.
  6. Keep your feet warm by soaking them in hot water for 15-20 minutes before bedtime. Also, massaging the bottom of the feet can help to stimulate key kidney points. Give a good, fast rub to the center of your soles for a few minutes to warm them while getting into bed.
  7. Stimulating acupressure points just before bedtime can be helpful. Use your thumb or fingertip to apply moderate pressure and rotate clockwise for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Shen Men, called the “Spiritual gate” point, releases heart fire, excitement, anger, irritation and anxiety.
  9. Tai Chong, a liver point can help alleviate insomnia due to excessive heat or stagnation in the liver, which can cause feelings of depression, stress, sadness.
  10. Take off any constricting clothing (underwear), and wear loose, comfortable pajamas for bedtime.
  11. There is an old saying: “sleep like the crescent moon.” Sleeping in a fetal position on your right side puts your heart above your liver, which helps drain blood, giving the heart some relief and extra nourishment to the liver. It also helps food move through your digestive system properly.
  12. Keep away from interruptions: Turn off your phone after dinner or keep a note book by your bed. If you keep thinking about sometime important to do, write it down.
  13. Listen to calm and relaxing music
  14. Sleep and wake at the same time every day, yes that includes weekends. Do not stay in bed for too long even when you do not have to go to work. Your body needs to have a regular sleep-wake cycle in order to function at its maximum

    Shen Men Point
    Shen Men Point
  15. Reduce the water temperature for baths and showers: when the water temperature is well about body temperature, your body heat increases. Then when you get out of the water, your body heat decreases. Try to avoid such fluctuation of the body temperature.

    Tai Chong Point
    Tai Chong Point
  16. Keep your bedroom simple and clean: limit the number of electronic devices such as TV’s, computers from your bed room
  17. Do not play video games at night
  18. Obey the 20-minute rule: if you do not successfully fall asleep in twenty minutes, get up and do something else until you feel tired and ready to sleep again.
  19. Waterfall Meditation. In this exercise, imagine yourself at the base of a waterfall. As you breathe in and out, picture the water gently raining down on you, trickling down each route until the tension inside you releases, allowing your entire body to enter a peaceful and relaxed state.
  20. Oneness Meditation. Just as in the Waterfall exercise, picture yourself standing beneath a waterfall. This time, however, instead of relaxing parts of your body one section at a time, allow your entire body to relax simultaneously. Let the image of the water wash away any stress or anxiety that burdens you.

 

If you have tried all of these things are still not sleeping well, please come see us to find the underlying problem. Acupuncture and herbs can help address and correct deeper issues that are affecting your ability to find rest and peace. If you find you are experiencing insomnia or any other sleep disturbance, seek out solutions. Left unaddressed, a sleep problem can become chronic and debilitating. Talk to us, so we can help you pinpoint and fix the problem with lifestyle adjustments, acupuncture treatments, and herbal formulae.

Why am I so TIRED…and how to fix

blog-img-why-am-i-so-tiredand-how-to-fix_640A very common complaint that acupuncturists hear from our patients is that they constantly feel tired. Sometimes this fatigue is related to lack of sleep, but sometimes no amount of rest seems to alleviate the sleepiness.

From an acupuncture and Chinese Medicine perspective, there are numerous imbalances in our bodies that can cause the constant fatigue. Here are some of the most common imbalances that can lead to fatigue, lethargy, lack of energy and motivation, and tiredness. continue reading »