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Lots of people have Heart and Spleen Blood deficiency. They can have it long-term, or from time to time. If you have it, you'll probably be someone who takes supplements, even if you already eat well.
Probably the most common cause of being unable to fall asleep in the first place, this form of Blood deficiency means that your Blood isn't rich enough to support your Shen, your Mind, as it tries to sleep.
After all, you wouldn't expect to sleep well if, where the bed should have been, there was just a hole in the ground!
Maybe that's what the yawning cheetah in the picture has realised.
Heart and Spleen Blood deficiency is important in many spheres of life. It starts with the Spleen being unable to transform food into the first stage of Blood, which is called 'food-qi'. Later in the process, after the blood has passed through your lungs and acquired oxygen, it passes through your Heart, only then becoming what Chinese medicine means by 'Blood', capital 'B'.
This could be because
At any rate, your Heart doesn't get what it needs to make Blood. When there isn't enough Blood, there is nowhere for your Shen - your Spirit or Personality - to reside.
So it easily escapes when you are unsettled, and can't settle when you want to get to sleep.
Consequently, there may be signs in Heart and Spleen Blood deficiency of what Western medicine's Doctors might recognise as anaemia, with
There will also be a tendency to worry, and probalby the desire for sweet food, or food that becomes sweet after chewing it well.
Nowadays, we get round this by having tea and coffee, which give us an adrenalin burst of caffeine-fuelled energy - but read about the downside of coffee HERE.
Tea is probably better, because it sends energy down and tends to cool you (yes! - even a hot cup of Indian or Chinese tea will cool you down, though it warms you first).
When you have Heart and Spleen Blood deficiency you easily get a bit panicky, a sign of energy rising up in the body, hence the palpitations: tea sends it down. If there were enough Blood your Shen energy wouldn't escape upwards so easily.
DEEP breathing helps Heart and Spleen Blood deficiency even more, because the Lungs send energy down too. Deep breathing is also better than tea because it adds more oxygen to the food-qi, temporarily improving it.
When Spleen Qi is weak, so often is Lung Qi, and together they are very important contributors to food-qi on its way to becoming Blood. If either is weak, then Blood is weak 'deficient'.
However, although Blood is deficient, you don't tend with this syndrome to wake up once you've gone to sleep properly. (Although I've noticed some exceptions in older people who, having gone to sleep - eventually - have got their 6 hours sleep, wake earlier than they were used to: but even so after 5am.
The reason you don't wake during the night, (unless you also have one of the other syndromes, like food retention, of course) is that you do have enough Yin energy, which keeps you asleep. (Read more about Yin and Yang here.)
Note: with Heart and Spleen Blood deficiency, if you can remain in bed after 7am you may be able to sleep well for a while again.
In fact this morning sleep may partially recover the missing energy and Blood which you failed to get between 10pm and 1am.
If you can sleep after 7am for several hours, you feel almost normal again. It's often a good sleep. (One reason, in Chinese medicine, is that this is the time of day when the Stomach energy comes online and partially makes up for the Spleen deficiency.)
The Blood deficiency here makes you somewhat panicky or over-anxious. You often need to be calmed down or reassured.
Because women make more Blood than men, to service their periods, this syndrome occurs more often with them than men, although many men also suffer it.
For women, it is often worse when menstruating when they are losing blood and haven't yet re-manufactured it.
Heart and Spleen Blood deficiency is a syndrome where a small snack before bed, warming and comforting, may help you to get to sleep.
However, too large a snack at bedtime can be counter-productive as it easily leads, in someone for whom Spleen Qi is deficient, to Food Retention.
Whatever treatment is chosen (in Chinese medicine these might typically be acupuncture, herbs or massage) the aim would be to:
Of course, longer-term, the patient with Heart and Spleen Blood deficiency would have to be 're-educated' about nutrition, diet and eating habits. This includes learning not to over-eat, which can be a tendency, because since you don't absorb quickly, you still feel hungry, so you eat more.
There's an old piece of advice, which is to stop eating before you have no more room: always finish feeling that you could have eaten a little more. Leaving yourself a little hungry means that you probably have just a small excess of stomach acid remaining: this will digest your food more quickly and you will be less inclined to feel sleepy.
Unfortunately, this may mean foregoing pudding.
In terms of Chinese medicine, this means that you take care not to exhaust your supply of Stomach Yang, which is the energy your body uses to digest food. If you over-eat, or eat the wrong foods for your metabolism, you feel bloated and sluggish, signs of an excess of Yin over Yang: ie of too much food for your Yang.
This syndrome nearly always benefits from a good nutritional supplement, unless of course you have the diet that is perfect for you.
If this is your syndrome you are also usually
interested in nutrition, and would benefit from reading up on the metabolic diet, for instance, quite apart from learning about Chinese food energetics.
You might need supportive counselling if there are many personal or financial problems in your life. You might need a different job, (or just a job, of course, if financial matters are dire) and be encouraged to save rather than to spend, to accumulate rather than dissipate.
The personality that goes with this syndrome is prone to worry, often for good reasons. But you also tend to exceed your body's capability.
Not too much, to begin with. However, as you get stronger, both from food, counselling and of course treatment, you should take exercise. Initially it should be to develop core strength, so Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates are good.
Later, you might consider interval training - but work up to it gradually! Even here, you have to learn the limits of your body.
time for rest, regularly, is important too. After meals, don't rush
back to work or to take vigorous exercise. Instead, take a gentle walk.
Often Liver Blood has to be treated as well. This is because Liver Blood deficiency can also lead to this syndrome.
All that said, there are other reasons why people have difficulty falling asleep.
Just to repeat - Chinese medicine has been treating this for thousands of years. See an acupuncturist and/or a practitioner of Chinese herbalism: preferably someone who does both.
If you live in the Edinburgh area of Scotland, where the author of this site (and of the books described below) works, click on Edinburgh Acupuncturist.
If you live elsewhere, click on BAcC.
Please note! The Kindle editions are less easy to read! Although the paper editions cost more, they are much easier to read and to refer back and forth to the contents and index.
Here are some of the books Jonathan has written:
Still only one comment, though personally I think this is my best book so far.
Published 1986 and, amazingly, still selling. Was apparently used back then by at least one acupuncture college to help students understand Chinese medicine!
No comments yet: just published. (Despite the lurid cover, it explains the five main types of phlegm and what works best for each type. I hope it's easy to read and will be much more useful than all the websites on the subject.)
3000 years of Chinese being stressed, and at last, here's a book showing how all that experience can help you!
By the author of this website, it explains in simple English how to use stress to improve and enhance your life.
NB You can also order 'Qi Stagnation - Signs of Stress' from your bookseller.
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