One of the most common clinical problems is insomnia. It can be one of the trickiest disease states to resolve in a satisfactory way. The information you receive on insomnia is woefully inadequate. It is important for all those who suffer from insomnia to have a better idea of what is going on and how to deal with it.
Contemporary medical thinking focuses on quieting the mind through drugs. People agree to drug themselves to sleep with pharmaceuticals such as Ambien, Xanax, or Prosom mainly because no other approaches are available. Rarely is anyone satisfied with this solution. These medications are addictive, and, if anything, aggravate the underlying cause. Although I am open to the use of insomnia medicine on an infrequent basis, I do not believe such drugs are wise. A drugged sleep, although it is arguably more satisfying than a night awake, does not qualify as “good sleep.” It is no more, no less than what it seems to be: an artificial sleep produced by a drug, which does not achieve the levels of rest and restoration of natural sleep.
People with insomnia complain that they are stirred up in some way. Many complain that they “cannot stop their thoughts” at night.” “Worries” are another common complaint. People wake in the middle of the night with things on their mind and they cannot get back to sleep. Others simply complain of an “awake-ness” where they lie in bed for hours and the release of sleep refuses to come.
Looked at from this angle, it would seem that anyone with real worries must submit to the inevitable interrupted sleep. Yet, when you look at the big picture, something else is going on. I can find plenty of people with huge worries and stress who sleep fine. One cannot divide out the population between those who have heavy stress and those who do not and make any sense of insomnia. As a rule, applicable to all but the most stressful of times, it is not the worries that cause the insomnia. It is just the opposite: the energy of the insomnia itself is what causes sleep to be interrupted with awake-ness, worries and racing thoughts.
What, then, is the cause of insomnia? It is not simple to explain, but even a difficult explanation is better than the misinformation you are receiving. So let’s start from point one.
In my measurements of people with sleep difficulties (using the Digimeridian machine) one theme stands out: people with insomnia almost invariably have toxicity or weakness in the Fire meridians (specifically the heart, pericardium, or triple warmer meridians). There is one exception to this. Occasionally the toxicity is in the Water element (kidney and bladder meridians).
This starts to drive at some fundamental truths about insomnia. It is important to realize that energies described by Chinese medicine are not abstractions. They are real–and actually measurable with new machines such as the Digimeridian.
1) In Chinese medicine, the Fire meridians have to do with “consciousness.” Weakness or toxicity in the Fire meridians point to a “disturbed consciousness.” Feelings of un-groundedness at night, eg. floating, of mind racing, of a mind that refuses to settle, of worries coming out nowhere refer to a disturbed consciousness. This has to do with disturbed energy in one’s heart.
2) Insomnia disturbs the energy of the heart and is a risk for developing pathology with the heart itself. It does not necessarily mean disease of the actual heart. If the body has sufficient strength to protect the heart, it will remain fine. Eventually, though, disturbed heart energy will impact the physical heart. Take insomnia as a warning sign that you need to take steps to protect your heart. Depression, which also often relates to heart energy (liver energy can be dominant in certain cases) is also a warning sign for trouble around the heart. It is a call for action, and anti-depressants do not help. The may actually create more risk for the heart.
3) More specifically, insomnia relates to the balance between Fire and Water. That is, in Chinese medicine language, if there is “dirty water,” i.e. toxicity in the kidneys or bladder, it may not balance the Fire element. If the Fire “burns out of control,” uncontrolled by the Water element, it disturbs consciousness. I find a strong heart is protection against insomnia in all cases. Yet, even those with a strong heart may encounter disturbance if the kidney meridians have a lot of toxic energy.
4) It is often mentioned that people sleep less well as they age. Elderly people, we are told, sleep less. Years ago I accepted this as an inevitable consequence of aging. Now I know it is a problem of energy, not of aging in itself. Generally people “dry out” as they get older. They do not have the “vital juices” like they did when they were young. This most directly relates to the kidneys. Because of loss of kidney essence, the Water element does not balance the heat in the heart. This disturbs consciousness and sleep. Menopausal symptoms in women also relate to this phenomenon.
Most importantly, what do you do about it? The first step is to find out what is going on. It could point to one or more of the following energy imbalances:
1) A weak heart energy, perhaps congenital,
2) Toxicity in one or more of the fire medians that disturbs its energy and disrupts consciousness–and therefore sleep.
3) A decline in vital essence, in a manner of speaking, you are “drying out” as you age, and there is a resulting heat in the heart region disturbing sleep. The way to think of it is “there is not enough water to control the fire.” This relates to hormonal issues. I also see this lack of vital essence in younger people. Often it comes with obsessive behavior, bipolar disorder, or other such mental condition.
4) Relating to #3, there may be a deficiency of blood, which causes heat to occur in the heart. This frequently occurs in very thin people, but you do not have to be thin for this to apply to you. If you have had a diagnosis of anemia, or have borderline anemia, this possibility increases. “Deficiency of blood” is not exactly anemia, but they are close.
5) The kidneys are toxic. There may be no problem in the heart meridians, but the toxicity in the kidneys creates a problem by its lack of adequate “counter-balance.” This most often occurs with people who have “panic” somewhere in the mix. Dreams of intense anxiety or panic, panic attacks point to this. Occasionally you see this in a deep and suppressed way, that is, there is no panic on the surface, but you find it if you dig a bit. These people are very “calm and collected” souls–until they tip out of balance and feel panicky.
Treatment of these five causes is a complex matter, which I will leave for another time. My main modalities are classical homeopathy and Chinese herbals. For now, it is enough for you to know to search for deeper answers. You do not need to sell out to an unhealthy “drugged” sleep.