Is a Qi Deficiency Causing my Lack of Sleep?

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What on earth is a Qi deficiency you may ask and what could it possibly have to do with my lack of sleep?  That was my first question too when I had an herbal consultation with a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioner last fall to see if there might be an herbal remedy to help me sleep better.  I don’t really remember when it started, but over the past few years I had begun to notice I was sleeping lighter and that if I woke up in the middle of the night it was harder, if not impossible, to go back to sleep.  It seemed like it was taking longer to fall asleep too.  My husband would be out like a light as soon as we went to bed, while I would lay awake for what felt like hours waiting to drift off, even if I was downright exhausted.  It was so frustrating.

I’d been trying all the normal tips that you find when you Google trouble sleeping, but nothing seemed to be working as well as I was hoping.  Don’t get me wrong, many of these suggestion did help and I still do my best to adhere to them on a daily basis, but in addition to not sleeping well, I noticed that over time I just began to feel more fragile overall - like I didn’t have as strong of an immune system as I should and I had much less energy than I desired.  It felt like I was doing all the right things - eating a balanced, healthy diet, low in sugar and with plenty of dark leafy greens, reducing stress, practicing yoga, moderate exercise etc., but I still felt a bit puny on a regular basis.  I began to wonder if this was just part of getting older, but wasn’t ready to give up trying to fix this just yet.  Thus began my introduction into Chinese herbal medicine.  

Lucky for me, Meridian Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine is less than a twenty minute bike ride from my house.  So I made an appointment for an herbal consultation with  Robert Gittli, one of the owners there.  Robert has a Master’s degree in TCM from Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in San Diego, California and had trained at the Cheng Du Traditional Chinese Hospital in Si Chuan, China, so I was confident that if Chinese herbs were a path to a stronger, more vibrant me, he would know the right ones to prescribe.  After listening to my symptoms, he asked me a few questions such as, “do I ever feel a little dizzy after bending over to pick something up?” and “do I bruise fairly easily?”.  Then he checking my pulse, looked at my tongue and eventually told me he suspected that I had a Qi deficiency.

What is a Qi Deficiency and What Causes it?

As a yoga teacher, I was aware of the concept of Qi and of how this is the life force energy that courses through your entire system, but I’d never heard of someone having a Qi deficiency.  Robert explained that this could be caused by a number of things, including my propensity to overwork on a frequent basis and not allow sufficient time to rest and restore.  Other causes include the aging process in general, chronic medical diseases such as heart disease or high blood pressure, poor dietary habits, long term highly emotional states such as sorrow, fear or boredom and prolonged stress.  With one of the risk factors being prolonged stress, I have to wonder how many other women may have a low levels of Qi as well and simply attribute it to the demands of their daily schedule.  So many of us are under pressure to be constantly connected, to juggle a demanding work schedule, care for family, all the while by being bombarded with visual and noise stimulus at every turn.   We are always “on” and while we recognize from time to time that we feel run down and depleted, we get so accustomed to this way of life that we don’t feel the long term, slowly creeping impact of not allowing adequate time to allow our bodies to rest.  The body is miraculous in its ability to heal itself with proper care, but in today’s hectic lifestyle we have a propensity to short change ourselves on time to allow the body to restore.  So how do we handle this?  

How do you Treat a Qi Deficiency?

If this all hits home for you, the good news is that you can reverse this condition.  It is important that you seek medical advice from a qualified health professional to rule out other health conditions that may have similar symptoms.  You may also choose to seek out complimentary integrative treatment through a TCM practitioner such as I did.  Treatment of a qi deficiency by a TCM practitioner may include various recommendations such as acupuncture, dietary changes and Chinese herbs.  You will also likely be told to make sure you get plenty of rest and engage in relaxing activities such as yoga, tai chi or yoga nidra.  Anything you can do to reduce stress and slow down in general will help as well.  You can also eat iron rich foods that help to build blood such as:

  • Dark, leafy, green vegetables

  • Red meat

  • Beans & legumes

  • Raisins

  • Eggs

Taking other suggested steps to ensure a good night’s sleep is important as well.  Some common tips in this area include:

  • Sticking to a schedule for going to bed and waking up

  • Signaling to the body that it is soon time to go to bed by adhering to an end of day routine that includes more restful activities such as reading a book, breathing exercises or meditation

  • Taking a hot shower, bath or a hot foot soak prior to bedtime

  • Turning off any blue lights, the computer and staying off your phone about an hour before turning in for the evening

  • Ensuring your bedroom is dark and the temperature is cool

  • Avoiding caffeine late in the day

  • Using calming essential oils such as lavender or DoTerra’s Serenity blend when you are getting ready for bed.  Try a foot massage or dab on pulse points.

If you research for further information on a qi deficiency, you will find that there is little to no scientific proof in this area.  However, I will be the first to tell you that after only a few weeks of drinking the herbal tea that I pick up weekly at Meridian I noticed a significant decrease in my symptoms.  I began falling asleep at night within five to ten minutes of my head hitting the pillow, I no longer noticed the faint dizzy feeling when picking up something from the floor and I generally just began feeling stronger overall.  Proponents of TCM believe that to achieve an optimum level of health, it is important for our qi or vital energy to be balanced.  Take the steps today to ensure you are getting the rest you need and deserve and keep that qi a flowin’.  

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