Sleep is essential for good health and wellbeing throughout our lives. Getting enough sleep at the right hours can not only protect quality of life and help us function effectively throughout the day, but more importantly, it will protect your mental and physical health.

Much healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels occurs whilst we are asleep. If we do not get enough of it, your risk of developing several chronic health problems raises. These include cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke1.

The immune system also depends on sleep to stay optimal. Sleep deprivation will lower your immune system and compromise how well you are able to fight off infection2.

Sleep deprivation can also increase your risk of obesity. Sleep maintains a healthy balance of ghrelin (the hormone that makes you feel hungry) and leptin (the hormone that makes you feel full). Lack of sleep has been linked with increased levels of ghrelin and decreased levels of leptin. This makes you feel hungrier than when you are well rested. It can also alter glucose metabolism by interfering with the hormone insulin and can decrease energy expenditure. These link little sleep with increased risk of obesity and diabetes3.

Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint, affecting approximately 9-15% of the population4. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is fantastic in the treatment of such sleep disorders.

Randomised controlled trials have found Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) to be significantly effective in the treatment of insomnia 5 6. The Chinese herbal formulas, Suan Zao Ren Tang and Xiao Yao Tang have been found to have anxiolytic and sedative effects7 8, further more, some of the ingredients (Suan Zao Ren, Chuan Xiong, Chai Hu and Dang Gui) can act on GABAA (target receptor for benzodiazepine drugs – commonly prescribed drug for insomnia) and dopamine receptors9 10.

Chinese herbal medicine (CHM) can also be used effectively alongside existing medication for insomnia. A study compared CHM plus Western medication with Western medication alone, (medication used was a benzodiazepine drug derivative, estazolam at 1 mg/day). It was found that the combination of CHM with the medication was significantly more effective immediately after treatment than the group receiving medication alone11.

Not only is CHM very effective for the treatment of insomnia, but studies have indicated that it is also safer. A meta-analysis of 19 studies which compared CHM with Western medication showed that Western medication was more likely to have adverse events (sixteen studies were comparing CHM to benzodiazepine, two used trazodone and one with methaqualome)12.


Further References:

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  1. Mullington, J, Haack, M, Toth, M, Serrador, J & Meier-Ewert, H, 2009, ‘Cardiovascular, Inflammatory and Metabolic Consequences of Sleep Deprivation’, Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases, vol. 51, no. 4, p. 294-302.
  2. Rogers, N, Szuba, M, Staab, J, Evans, D & Dinges, D, 2001, ‘Neuroimmunologic aspects of sleep and sleep loss’, Seminars in Clinical Neuropsychiatry, vol. 6, no. 4, p. 295-307.
  3. Knutson, K, Spiegel, K, Penev, P & Cauter, E, 2007, ‘The metabolic consequences of sleep deprivation’, Sleep Medicine Reviews, vol. 11, no. 3, p. 163-178.
  4. Ohayon MM. Epidemiology of insomnia: what we know and what we still need to learn. Sleep Med Rev 2002;6:97e111.
  5. Wang, Y,Li, F, Xu, F, Zhang, L, Xu, S & Xiao, L, 2001, ‘Clinical confirmation of preparation from the branch and leaf of peanut in treating insomnia’, Shanghai Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, vol. 5, vol. 11 [in Chinese].
  6. Zhu, G & Ma, H, 2004, ‘Treating 40 cases of insomnia with Yang Xue An Shen syrup’, Chinese Clinical Medicine, vol. 4, no. 36 [in Chinese].
  7. Mizowaki, M, Toriizuka, K & Hanawa, T, 2001, ‘Anxiolytic effect of Kami-Shoyo-San (TJ-24) in mice: possible mediation of neurosteroid synthesis’, Life Sciences, vol. 69, p. 2167-77.
  8. Yi, P, Tsai, C, Chen, Y & Chang, F, 2007, ‘Gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptor mediates suanzaorentang, a traditional Chinese herb remedy, -induced sleep alteration’, Journal of Biomedical Science, vol. 14, p. 285-297.
  9. Chen, C, Chen, Y, Tsai, H, 2008, ‘What is the effective component in suan zao rendecoction for curing insomnia? Discovery by virtual screening and molecular dynamic simulation’, Journal of Biomolecular Structure & Dynamics, vol. 26, p. 57-64.
  10. Liao, J, Jan, Y, Huang, S, Wang, H, Yu, L & Chen, C, 1995, ‘Evaluation with receptor binding assay on the water extracts of ten CNS-active Chinese herbal drugs’. Proceedings of the National Science Council, Republic of China, vol. 19, p. 151-158.
  11. Ma Y, 2008, ‘Clinical research on treating insomnia of internal disturbance of phlegm-heat with Qing-gan Ningshen decoction [Dissection]’, Xinjiang: Xinjiang Medical University, [in Chinese].
  12. Yeung, W, Chung, K, Poon, M, Ho, F, Zhang, S, Zhang, Z, Ziea, E & Wong, V, 2012, ‘Chinese herbal medicine for insomnia: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials’, Sleep Medicine Reviews, vol. 16, no. 6, p. 497-507.
  13. Guo, J, Wang, L, Liu, C, Zhang, J, Wang, G, Yi, J & Cheng, J, 2013, ‘Efficacy of Acupuncture for Primary Insomnia: A Randomised Controlled Clinical Trial’, Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2013, p. 1-10.
  14. Chung, K, Yeung, W, Yu, Y, Yung, K, Zhang, S, Zhang, Z, Wong, M, Lee, W & Chan, L, 2015, ‘Acupuncture for residual insomnia associated with major depressive disorder: a placebo- and sham-controlled, subject- and assessor-blind, randomised trial’, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, vol. 76, no. 6, p.752-760.
  15. Zuppa, C, Prado, C, Wieck, A, Zaparte, A, Barosa, A & Bauer, M, 2015, ‘Acupuncture for sleep quality, BDNF levels and immunosenescence: A randomised controlled study’, Neuroscience Letters, vol. 587, p. 35-40.
  16. Wang, Y, Zhang, L, Han, Y & Li, P, 2016, ‘Efficacy observation on Governor Vessel-unblocking and mind-calming acupuncture for insomnia’, Journal of Acupuncture and Tuina Science’, vol. 14, no. 4, p. 274-278.
  17. Wang, H, Meng, X & Zou, W, 2014, ‘Curative Effect of Acupuncture Therapy of Regulating Mentality Combined with Auricular Point in the Treatment of Insomnia’ Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion, vol. 30, no. 7.
  18. Li, Y & Zhang, L, 2009, ‘Acupuncture therapy in treating athletic insomnia and its effects on the levels of 5-HT and NGF’, Zhe Jiang Journal of TCM, vol. 44, no. 6.
  19. Sun, Y & Yu, T, 2014, ‘Clinical Research on the First Area of Sun’s Abdominal Acupuncture Treatment for Insomnia’, Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion, vol. 30, no. 12.
  20. Spence, D, Kayumov, L, Chen, A, Lowe, A, Jain, U, Katzman, M, Shen, J, Perelman, B & Shapiro, C, 2004, ‘Acupuncture increases nocturnal melatonin secretion and reduces insomnia and anxiety: a preliminary report’, Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience, vol. 16, no. 1, p. 19-23.
  21. Lee, S & Lim, S, 2016, ‘Acupuncture for insomnia after stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 16, no. 228.