In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), insomnia is known as sleeplessness. Insomnia may result in the decline of the sufferers’ quality of life, and long-term insomnia may also trigger depression, reduce pain tolerance, or negatively impact on the immune response. Sleep is indispensable for maintaining a healthy body. During sleep, the internal metabolism and physiological function would be in a state of protective inhibition, which helps to avoid loss of nerve cell function due to hypertension, as well as reviving the physiological function of fatigued nerves.

All physiological activities of a living organism have their own cycle, which is known as the biological rhythm. Likewise, the sleep-wake reaction of a human body also follows a circadian rhythm within each 24 hour period. According to TCM theory, the qi and blood of a human body flows to the gallbladder meridian from 11pm to 1am, and reaches the liver meridian between 1 am to 3am, which is the best time for the body to rest and detox. Long-term sufferers of insomnia will experience lowered immunity, and various ailments will manifest as a consequence. Thus, it is ideal to follow the natural rhythm, and get up to work at sunrise and rest at sunset. Only with a balanced yin and yang, can a healthy body be maintained.

The main cause of insomnia is the obstruction of qi and blood in the meridians. The meridian system of a human body is not only linked to the internal organs, but also spreads to the periphery, connecting all the tissues and organs through a tight communication network. When a person is awake, the defensive qi circulates on the body surface, and during sleep, the defensive qi enters into the body and circulates between internal organs. Any ailment or disease could cause meridian obstruction, which may block the channel for the internal and external circulation of defensive qi, which may cause insomnia. Due to the unsmooth main and collateral channels associated with ageing, the elderly are more likely to experience light sleep at night and lethargy during the day. A smooth circulation of qi and blood is essential to maintain the normal operation of a human body’s physiological function.

Acupuncture is a common method in treating diseases in TCM, which has been utilized by the Chinese society since ancient times, and at present, many western countries have also adopted acupuncture as an alternative approach in treating neurological diseases. For example, melatonin can help regulate the sleep-wake rhythm, which is secreted by the pineal gland in a dark environment, while the stimulation of sunlight will inhibit its production. According to some research, acupuncture can help increase the secretion of melatonin at night and improve the quality of sleep. Moreover, in a clinical context, acupuncture is also proved to be effective in treating insomnia.

Post by Toby Chang.

Toby Chang

Toby is graduated from a five-year Bachelor’s degree in traditional Chinese medicine from Nanjing University of TCM, China and was trained by renowned Master TCM Practitioner Professor Kuotong Ho. He has done his one-year internship in Jiangsu Provincial hospital of TCM and is now a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbal practitioner in both China and Australia. More…


Acupuncture is the practice of inserting tiny needles at specific points on the body to treat illness or promote health and well-being. Oriental medical theory describes a network of energy pathways in the body (meridians) that can be accessed on the surface at the Acupuncture points. The points to be used in a session are chosen by the practitioner based on traditional theories outlined in texts that are at least 2000 years old. More…