Insomnia and Restlessness: A Holistic Approach to Management.

(Organ names in Chinese medicine differ from Western medicine’s understanding).​

Insomnia and restlessness are common problems affecting millions of people worldwide. Western medicine often addresses these issues with prescription medication, but there are holistic approaches to managing these symptoms that can be equally effective, such as those offered by Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Western biomedical understanding of insomnia and restlessness involves various factors such as genetics, lifestyle, psychological factors, and medical conditions like anxiety, depression, and chronic pain. Sleep-promoting drugs, also known as hypnotics, are commonly prescribed to manage these symptoms. These medications can be effective, but they come with risks and side effects such as dizziness, headaches, and the possibility of dependence.

On the other hand, TCM views insomnia and restlessness from a holistic perspective. TCM practitioners believe that these symptoms result from an imbalance of yin and yang, stagnation of Qi, blood deficiency, or an excess of heat in the body. TCM also considers the body and mind as a whole, taking into account individual emotional, physical, and environmental factors.

One of the primary TCM approaches to managing insomnia and restlessness is through acupuncture. Acupuncture involves the insertion of fine needles at specific points on the body, which helps stimulate the flow of Qi and balance yin and yang. Acupuncture has been found to be effective in promoting sleep, reducing anxiety, and improving overall well-being. [2],[3]

Another TCM approach to managing these symptoms is through herbal medicine. TCM herbal formulas are created based on individual symptoms and diagnoses. These formulas can help nourish the body, improve circulation, and promote relaxation. Herbs such as Suan Zao Ren, Bai Zi Ren, Bo He, Ye JiaoTeng have been found to be effective in promoting sleep and reducing anxiety. From a Chinese Medicine perspective they Nourish the heart and calm the spirit. No treatment is the same and each herb and formula is constructed carefully and individually. a patient may present with “Rising Liver Yang” or “Deficient kidney Yin” or both. Each of those patterns will be treated differently.

TCM also emphasizes the importance of lifestyle modifications such as regular exercise, proper nutrition, and stress management techniques like meditation and Tai Chi. Regular exercise promotes circulation and helps to relieve stress, while proper nutrition ensures that the body is receiving the necessary nutrients for optimal function.

In conclusion, insomnia and restlessness can be managed using a holistic approach that incorporates both Western and Eastern modalities. While Western medicine offers effective sleep-promoting drugs, they may come with side effects and risks. TCM approaches, such as acupuncture and herbal medicine, can be equally effective and offer a holistic perspective on managing these symptoms.


Ma, Y., Wang, J., & Xiong, X. (2016). Efficacy and safety of auricular acupuncture for insomnia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2016, 1-10.

Chen HY, Shi Y, Ng CS, Chan SM, Yung KK, Zhang QL. Auricular acupuncture treatment for insomnia: a systematic review. J Altern Complement Med. 2007;13(6):669-676. doi:10.1089/acm.2006.6375

Cheuk DK, Yeung WF, Chung KF, et al. Acupuncture for insomnia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012;(9):CD005472. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD005472.pub3

Huang T, Shu X, Huang YS, Cheuk DK. Herbal medicines for insomnia: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Med Rev. 2019;48:101205. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2019.08.001

Li Y, Li S, Liang X, et al. Acupuncture for patients with insomnia disorder using resting-state functional magnetic resonance imaging

The Treatment of Modern Western Medical Diseases with Chinese Medicine, written by Bob Flaws, Honora Lee Wolfe, and Philippe Sionneau. Blue Poppy Press, 2005.

Chinese Herbal Medicine: Formulas and Strategies, by Dan Bensky, Randall Barolet, and Andrew Gamble. Eastland Press, 3rd edition, 2016.