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  • Jean Ang

Why Can't I Sleep?

Anne* could not sleep at night. She was still fully awake at 2AM when everybody else had turned in. She tossed and turned, walked around the house and kept going to the bathroom until 5AM, but finally fell asleep by 6AM when her family members were starting to get up. She re-awoke at noon, only to nap again from 2-6PM after lunch because she was still ‘tired’. Rinse and repeat. Every night. And day.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder. Difficulties in sleeping could be an illness itself or a symptom of other health conditions. You may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting good quality sleep. It can be short-term (acute) or can last a long time (chronic).

Main causes for insomnia include:

  • Poor sleeping habits and environment – such as habitually sleeping and waking up late, an uncomfortable bed, or a bedroom that is too bright, noisy, hot or cold.

  • Lifestyle factors – such as jet lag, shift work, taking caffeine or exercising before bed time.

  • Mental health conditions – such as depression or bipolar disorder.

  • Physical health conditions – such as heart problems.

  • Certain medication

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are at least six causes for problems in sleeping. The major cause which I am only going to mention here is the imbalance of a body’s yin-yang.

I am personally very fascinated with the yin-yang theory. It is a concept that originated in Chinese philosophy and it is the foundation of TCM, but usually associated as the most well-known symbol of Taoism.

The Theory of yin-yang is an ancient Chinese philosophical concept of naive dialectics, expressing the law of the unity of opposites. Yin and yang are ever opposing and complementing each other, the ceaseless motion of which gives rise to all the changes in the world — an ancient philosophical concept used in TCM for indicating various antitheses in anatomy, physiology, pathology, diagnosis and treatment, and for explaining the health and disease processes. A balance between yin and yang is a harmonious state of yin and yang by which health is guaranteed.

I have a lot to say about this particular theory. If you were to visit me and are interested in the yin-yang symbol (not religiously linked though) and other TCM theories like the five elements, I could give a lecture about them. Hey, you might even doze off.


This ancient TCM text states that and loosely translated as “If the active yang-qi automatically quietens, (night) sleep occurs; If the serene yin-qi automatically gets activated, this results in awakeness; for the person who cannot sleep at night, the ‘illness’ is the issue with the yin-yang interaction”.

Of course, there are other reasons like indigestion that also result in problems with sleeping.

Chinese medicine and/or Acupuncture can help in insomnia. Do not suffer in silence if you cannot sleep well. Seek help immediately.

*Name has been changed for privacy reasons.


Xie, ZF (2002) ‘Classified Dictionary of Traditional Chinese Medicine’ Beijing, Foreign Language Press

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