There are two main categories of sleep disorders; insomnia and somnolence. Insomnia is where a person will have problems sleeping and somnolence is where a person will sleep too much. Most people are more familiar with insomnia and I will start it.
Insomnia is broken down into different types such as inability to fall asleep, restlessness at night, difficulty falling asleep, frequent waking and dream disturbed sleep. There are also a lot of factors that will lead up to causing insomnia. Stress is one of the more obvious reasons. When a person is stressed there is a tendency to overthink. It is understandable to try and figure out a solution to your problems, but if there is not one that is readily available then constantly thinking about it is not going to help. Most people will notice that when you actually stop thinking about a problem is when an answer will show up. This is not always true, but it is more than it is not. There are a few things that you can do to help with this. Learn to focus and breathe. Breathing is a great way to get the body to relax and if you are focusing on a single aspect, such as counting your breath. You will be able to calm the mind and sleep. If this has been going on for a while you will need to do more. You will need to eat food that will strengthen the spleen. Foods that will help the spleen are normally very bland in flavor, but that is what your body will need.
Foods that will help to strengthen the spleen are:
Congee Rice syrup
Oats Barley malt
Sweet rice Cherry
Mochi (pounded sweet rice) Date
Carrot Small Amounts prepared in congee
Garbanzo beans Anchovy
Black beans Beef
Peas Beef liver or kidney
Sweet potato Chicken
Onion Butter is the only recommended Dairy
Dream disturbed sleep is another problem that will cause insomnia. When I started studying Chinese medicine, I found out that dreaming on a regular basis is considered as abnormal. I always thought there was something wrong with me because I would only dream about one time a year. Now I know that it is actually healthy. I am not saying that dreaming is bad, but if you constantly dream or are being woken up by your dreams, then there is some problems. Dreams are an aspect of your subconscious overworking. Your body at sleep is meant to be relaxed, healing and restoring itself. During the night the liver will store the blood and help to recycle the red blood cells. With Chinese Medicine if there is a liver Yin or blood deficiency there is a good chance that you will be having too many dreams. There are certain kind of food that can help to strengthen Liver Yin and Liver blood they are:
Foods that build Liver Blood
Blackberries Dark Grapes
Foods that build Liver Yin
Mung Beans Seaweeds
Mung Bean Sprouts Watercress
Millet Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil
Borage Oil (supplement)
Include food that builds Liver Blood as well
Frequent waking at night can be caused by a few different aspects. One of these is waking up at night and feeling extremely hot and covered in sweat. The body has created. This is basically considered as a Yin deficiency. Yin is the substance of the body and when the Yin is deficient it can make the body sweat at night. The Yin is also the anchor for Yang. And since the Yang is not anchored it will disturb the mind and wake you up. There are many types of Yin deficiencies and it would be best to get this diagnosed properly through a Chinese Medicine practitioner. Extreme shock or fright can also cause frequent waking at night. The shock or fright will cause anxiety and palpitations. You most likely will wake up early in the morning. It will take time and patience to get the body to relax from this kind of experience. Tai Chi and Yoga are good ways of getting the body to get back under control and relieving the stress caused from the shock or fright.
The last frequent waking that I will discuss is sleep apnea. Most people do not even know or realize that they are waking up at night. They will just feel really tired as if they never actually got any sleep. This can also be considered as part of somnolence, because of the need to sleep. The western aspect of this is that the tongue and throat will press against each other when you are sleeping and it will stop your breathing. The body will wake itself back up to get you to start breathing again. Most people that have sleep apnea are overweight. With Chinese Medicine it is a buildup of non-substantial phlegm in the body and more specifically in the throat. Controlling your diet and avoid eating fried greasy foods as well as dairy products can help.
Somnolence means too much sleep. This will have tiredness throughout the day, mental fatigue and inability to stay alert during the day. As I mentioned about sleep apnea it can be considered as both insomnia and somnolence, because you are not really sleeping throughout the night. Other aspects are caused by the body not developing enough energy and creating a need to sleep, excessive dampness in the body and/or phlegm accumulation.
Somnolence caused by your body not getting enough energy is going to be, in Chinese Medicine, a Spleen Qi deficiency. The food that I listed above can help with strengthening the Spleen Qi. When your body becomes even more Spleen Qi deficient then dampness will set into the body. This dampness can cause more fatigue as well as some discomfort in joint, dizziness, poor appetite and/or loose stool. When dampness is happening in your body, you should avoid eating raw, cold, sweet foods as well as dairy and fried foods. Foods that can help to dry out the dampness are:
Foods that dry dampness
Amaranth White pepper
Corn Raw honey
Aduki beans Chamomile
Celery Micro-algae dunaliella
Lettuce Wild blue-green algae
Pumpkin Raw goat’s milk
Although most will not want to do exercise, it is something that will help to generate energy and move dampness out of the body.
Over time the dampness can accumulate and then change into phlegm. This is more difficult to clear out on your own and you should seek out someone that has experience with herbal formulas to resolve the phlegm from the body.
I hope that this information will help you to understand what is causing your sleep disorder. I do suggest getting help if you do have a sleep disorder and you should not self-diagnose yourself. I know from personal experience that you will normally miss something important when you try to self-diagnose. If you have any question please feel free to call or email me. My goal is to help as many people as I can and this blog is just way of achieving it.