Chinese Medicine Approach to Sleep

Sleep disturbances come in different forms - trouble getting to sleep, trouble staying asleep, feeling exhausted on waking, dream-disturbed sleep and bed-wetting are all viewed as different conditions and treated accordingly in Chinese Medicine (CM)

CM practitioners will tend to refer to a disturbance of ‘Shen’ when describing sleep issues. ‘Shen’ if often translated as ‘Spirit’ which can be misleading as it does not refer to spirit in the religious sense, but describes the balance of your mental, emotional and psychological activity.

As an example -  if you go to bed ‘wired’, are going through emotional turmoil or staring at the ceiling worried about money/work/family etc, this is what a CM practitioner would describe as agitation or disturbance of your ‘Shen’ i.e. you are finding it hard to sleep due to too excessive mental, emotional or psychological stimulation.

Chinese Medicine offers various treatments to try to restore a healthy sleep cycle:


Acupuncture involves the insertion of thin needles into the body to give pain relief, promote relaxation and improve health.

Insomnia and sleep disorders are common reasons why people have acupuncture and insomnia is cited by the WHO (World Health Orgnaisation) as a condition for which acupuncture has been shown to have a therapeutic benefit.

Chinese Massage Therapy (Tui Na)

Chinese Massage Therapy, known as Tui Na, uses different techniques - kneading, rolling, pressing, warming, dispersing - to apply pressure to acupuncture points and wider areas on the body to treat health conditions.

Tui Na and Acupressure have been shown to demonstrate effectiveness for improving the quality of sleep in a number of studies in China and Europe (see them here).

Qi Gong

Most people are familiar with Tai Qi. Qi Gong is somewhat similar but involves the use of prescribed movements, breathing, visualisation and meditation techniques for general well being and for specific conditions. Among many other benefits,Qi Gong aids relaxation which in turn leads to healthy sleep. At the clinic we show you sets of daily Qi Gong exercises to support healthy sleep patterns.

Chinese Medicine Treatment at OxAC

At OxAC we find that treatment is most effective when a combination of acupuncture, Chinese massage and Qi Gong exercises are used.

However, all treatment methods are beneficial on their own so if you have a preference just for Chinese massage or to learn Qi Gong please let us know.

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