Restless Sleep? Get off Ok but Not Refreshing?

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Restless Sleep? Can’t settle? And not because of a fever or a cold, or because you have small children demanding your company? Or because the air or the room is too hot, or there is too much noise?

These, and similar conditions, are very good reasons for not sleeping restfully.  But suppose you could remove those irritations? Then you would sleep well so they aren’t really reasons for restless sleep.

On this page, we assume no such irritations are bothering you, yet still you have restless sleep. In other words, it’s coming from inside you, not from somewhere else.

Also, we have other pages for the following, so click them instead if they seem more relevant:


Chinese Syndromes for Restless Sleep

If your restless sleep is due to one of the following syndromes, then Chinese medicine can help.


Restless sleep syndromes
Too restless for sleep? One of these syndromes may explain it!
  • Food Retention: restless sleep from this syndrome is common. This is because you push food down your throat (or that of your baby – it’s common in babies whose sleep is restless) too often. You don’t allow it to work through in time for the next meal, and this creates a traffic jam inside. Like a lot of angry drivers in a traffic jam, tension builds and you get anger – heat. This ‘heat’ or ‘anger’ prevents restful sleep. You get this in people, often older, whose digestions are growing less flexible, who eat too late at night. A gentle walk in the open air before bed sometimes ‘settles’ their digestion. A good bowel movement before bedtime often helps too. For more, click the link.
  • Heart Qi Stagnation: this is quite different from food retention. With this syndrome, there is emotional tension and worry which has often lasted for years. (Technically, it disturbs the Heart, giving palpitations, depression, breathlessness and a stuffy feeling in the chest – hard to describe. Since the Heart in Chinese medicine ‘governs’ the Blood, and the Blood is where your ‘Shen’ or spirit rests during sleep, the Blood isn’t settled so the spirit cannot settle.) It is unlikely that if you have this syndrome you can sort it out yourself. It needs help and treatment. You might also find Counselling beneficial. But don’t overlook acupuncture which treats it from the energetic point of view. You might even find after a few sessions that you don’t need the Counselling.
  • Liver Fire: this is different again. Here the emotional tension produces Heat.  This Heat dries your stools, ascends to your head where it inflames your eyes, gives you stonking, bursting headaches, and usually makes you irascible. You won’t think so, of course! You’ll think you are being perfectly reasonable – unlike everyone else!
  • Liver Qi Stagnation:  this is an earlier stage of frustration than either Heart Qi stagnation or Liver Fire. This is very like being ‘stressed out’. It’s so common, and such a big subject, that I wrote a book about it – “Qi stagnation”, see below. Click the link to find out more.
  • Phlegm Heat Harasses the Mind:  this syndrome is further along the spectrum than Heart Qi stagnation, see above. Here you often get a condition like bipolar disorder or manic-depression. You vary between two poles. Click the link to read more. Its cause is emotional suppression. It appears after years of continual worry. Also, there are digestive and nutritional factors that influence its onset.
  • Residual Heat in the Diaphragm: this syndrome arises from an old battle that your body lost. Or if not lost, both sides have retired to recover. In Chinese medical theory, the invader has taken up residence in your diaphragm. From here it makes skirmishes into your stomach and heart, upsetting both, causing restless sleep. Since both Stomach and Heart are vital for calm sleep, with this syndrome you don’t get it because both are unsettled. Please click the link for a fuller explanation.


All these syndromes are ‘excess‘ conditions.

When asleep your body, your metabolism, should be quiescent. Science tells us that even in this state, there’s plenty going on, repairing and refreshing your body. But, even so, relatively speaking, your body’s energy output is much less.
Of course, as the link above points out, you alternate between deep and light sleep through the night. But with this ‘restless’ sleep’ syndrome, you can’t enter either state properly. If you sleep at all, it is likely to be the dreaming, rapid-eye-movement sleep.
So an acupuncturist treating you for restless sleep would clear food retention, ease Qi stagnation, reduce Heat or resolving Phlegm.

Your acupuncturist would also consider if you had a deficiency. Correcting that could make a huge difference to restless sleep.

All those actions help your body get rid of the blockage or excess that is preventing good sleep. For carefully diagnosed syndromes, acupuncture does improve sleep.


Is it possible to have more than one syndrome at a time?

Yes. In fact this is more common than having one syndrome. Diagnosing your particular mixture is important because your acupuncturist has to decide where to start.

You could also have other syndromes, not mentioned on this page, which upset your health in areas other than sleep.

Other conditions that might prevent you from sleeping include:

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