“I'm so tired... but I can't sleep!!”
I hear you. Let's start figuring out WHY.
What type of "can't-sleep" is it? Trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or both? Restless? Night sweats? Waking up too early?
I love sleeping. And I love helping other people get good sleep, because it helps everything! Lack of sleep – well, if insomnia is an issue for you, then you know. It makes everything harder.
When I was in Chinese Medicine school, one day some of my overworked classmates were sharing (complaining?) about how sleepy they were. My herbal medicine professor chided them never to resent their sleepiness, because that was something many people wished they could have.
Now, 10 years later, having worked with countless patients struggling with insomnia, I understand what he meant. Everybody gets tired. But to really be sleepy, and be able to fall into a deep, restorative sleep, is nothing to take for granted.
So what's keeping YOU from deep, restorative sleep? To get you started, here are the 3 types of insomnia I see most often (though there are others), plus a tea, lifestyle and self-acupressure suggestion for each.
#1: Liver-Network Qi Stagnation
Is this me?
I have trouble falling asleep when I first go to bed
My dreams wake me up
My sleep troubles are worse when I'm stressed
I tend to wake up between 1-3 a.m. and then lie awake
(Note that this is the true 1-3 a.m. That's the 2-hour window that begins an hour after true midnight, the midpoint between sunset and sunrise. Depending on where you are in your geographical time zone and whether it's Daylight Savings Time, this time might be different on your clock.)
I tend to have PMS with breast tenderness and irritability
I have shoulder tension and get temporal headaches
Yes! That's me! What can I do?
Lifestyle suggestion: Take a walk.
No, really. That may sound too simple. Or you're thinking, “I'm already on my feet all day.” But don't write this one off. When you have Liver Qi stagnation, really taking a walk – striding along with your arms swinging, not carrying anything, looking out in the distance in the direction you're headed, taking slow, full breaths – that's medicine for your Liver network.
Try to take your walk as early in the day as you can, because morning is the “springtime” of the day, when the Liver network is most ready to get going.
Herbal tea: Skullcap and/or Lemon Balm
You might also benefit from Dandelion Root or Mint tea in the morning.
Self-acupressure: In the morning, massage Liver 3. Before bed, massage Liver 14, Lung 1 and Kidney 1.
If you're awake in the middle of the night, massage Liver 14, Lung 1 and Kidney 1 again. This simple strategy can make all the difference for this type of insomnia!
See the images below for where to find these acupressure points. You can also get instant access here to my videos on How to Do Acupressure on Yourself and massage Kidney 1. And, I cover these points in detail in the "Insomnia" section of my online course, Acupressure for People with Anxiety.
#2: Blood and Yin Deficiency
Is this me?
I have trouble falling asleep, and then I wake up frequently during the night
My sleep is fitful and often full of dreams
I wake up too early, before I'm rested, and can't get back to sleep
I feel forgetful
My eyes get dry and sometimes sore
I wake up with a dry throat and feel thirsty
I tend to get hot at night, maybe even have night sweats
My periods are heavy and I feel exhausted during and after them...
OR my periods tend to be very light or irregular
This one's me! What's your advice?
Lifestyle suggestion: Eat some beets! Also fill your plate up with leafy greens, black beans, and high quality red meat. Because this is likely related to what we call in Chinese Medicine "Blood Deficiency," foods that build Blood will be helpful. (See this post for more about Blood deficiency.)
Herbal tea: Lemon Balm, Skullcap, Chamomile, and/or Lavender all will probably feel lovely and helpful for you.
Additionally, one of the best Chinese herbs to get to the root of this issue is called Suan Zao Ren, or Zizyphus. Reach out to me or your local Chinese Medicine practitioner about how to take this herb in a traditional formula for optimal results and safety.
I think I see this type of insomnia more often than statistics would predict, because I work with so many women who are postpartum, breastfeeding, or perimenopausal. In the clinic, I always use herbal medicine for this type of insomnia.
Self-acupressure: Massage the points Anmian and Kidney 1 before bed. See the images below, and check out my free videos about doing self-acupressure and massaging Kidney 1 for more help.
#3: Restless Heart Fire
Is this me?
I don't just have trouble falling asleep, I have trouble even calming down and relaxing
I feel restless, agitated, or anxious
Sometimes I feel my heart fluttering or beating fast
- My mind is often racing, and I tend to talk faster than other people
Yep, I recognize this one. What can I do?
Lifestyle suggestion: Cut out (or way down on) your intake of stimulants. This means coffee, chocolate, yerba mate, black or green tea, and refined sugar.
If you feel that you need to drink caffeine or you're not ready to quit sugar, make sure you have those only in the morning.
Herbal tea: Chamomile and Passionflower
Self-acupressure: Use self-massage on Pericardium 6 and 7, and Kidney 1. You can massage these points before bed, or any time during the day that you'd like help shifting into a more calm state.
For even greater benefit, massage these points with a little Lavender essential oil (a few drops diluted in a carrier, like olive oil or lotion).
The images below show you where to find these. You can get more detail in my free videos about acupressure. If you have this type of insomnia, the routine I teach in my online course, Acupressure for people with Anxiety, would be perfect for you.