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Shiatsu for Insomnia

You know you have sleep problems - but are you frustrated that you can't sleep?

With the theory of Chinese Medicine (TCM) we look at your sleep patterns to find out what the underlying imbalances are, we treat you holistically, as a whole person, as sleep issues to tend to be in mind and body, and we aim to resolve these issues to help you get a great night’s sleep back again.

There are so many different types of Insomnia, do any of these resonate:

  • I can't get to sleep, my mind won't switch off

  • I fall asleep easily but wake up in the early hours* and it takes me a long time to get back to sleep

  • I sleep well but once I wake up that's it, I know I'm not going to get back to sleep again

​And many more types in between. It's so tiring, and this leads to frustration and the more tired you are the more emotional you can get or the less easily you can handle situations and it can allow you to also become very anxious.

So let’s take a look at some of these types of Insomnia in some more detail and what sleep problems may be going on with you.

Not being able to get to sleep, can’t switch off and get to bed way too late only to oversleep and feel groggy every morning. This is the classic ‘I’m not a morning person’ energy and it really is true that some of these sleeping patterns are personality type-driven. This type of sleeping pattern takes will power to create a routine to get to bed earlier, as these types often reading, watch TV, write or surf the internet until 2/3 am. Also, this can be when you get ‘wound up’ by things you see and hear, and you may find yourself writing some wordy emails or social media posts! I always say ‘hold off sending until you’ve reread at 11 am tomorrow morning’. If then those words you wrote still seem palatable, then you can press the ‘send’ button.

So how can Shiatsu help this sleep problem? 

In TCM terms you have a blocked Gallbladder energy, so a treatment that helps this flow again, along with other calming techniques can release stuck tension, usually in and around the neck and shoulders, this is term calms your mind and can help you unwind earlier in the evening. This also needs some discipline when it comes to bedtime. They say that sleep before midnight is the best kind, and I believe the reason for this is quality sleep before the liver starts processing (that’s the next sleep pattern). The Chinese Clock shows at what time of day each organ gets its priority in the body to do some ‘processing’, it’s a cleansing process that goes on, and that organ can feel sluggish or energised whilst the processing is happening. You really want to be in deep sleep by the time the liver gets going around 1am, as this helps it be more effective if you brain is really shut down and you’re in deep sleep.

The classic time for people to wake up who are menopausal, chronically fatigued or overindulged in food and drink is the 1 to 3 am slot. Women who have night sweats know only too well how this feels, and I had a period a couple of years back where I slept worse on a Saturday night than the rest of the week and realised it was the rich meals and wine I was having. This sleep pattern is more to do with what is going on in your body and the lifestyle you’re leading. The great news is that again, it can be altered, the Shiatsu intervenes and starts addressing the underlying imbalances and if you support this with a few life and food changes you can really get on top of your sleep patterns quickly.

A lot of people can also wake up around 4am-ish just from feeling they’re cold. We really heat up during the liver processing ours, it’s like a car engine, whilst it’s running, it gets hot, the less lubrication (water) the hotter it gets. Then the liver shuts down and its switches to the Lungs having a cleanout and we go cold. The hotter you were, the more likely you are to feel cold now. People wake up, notice the cold and pull the covers back up, this is fine. It’s good to pull the covers up as then 5/6am is the coldest part of the night (unless you have the heating on all night!). You don’t want limbs and shoulders to get too cold, as this can have an effect on muscles and causes stiffness in the morning. If you wake up and it’s very creaky getting out of bed, I have some simple exercises for that to get the Liver Blood going again!

The main problem for those people waking around 4/5am is if they can’t get back to sleep. The issue tends to be you’re lying there with your mind whirring and worrying about all the things you’ve got to do, and the things you might have forgotten to do the day before, plus political and social situations you also have to deal with in your life and work. So you can lie there for those 2 or so hours before you get up and you’ll feel tired earlier in the day. This mind type is a worrier, and this comes from and causes a physical imbalance too. It’s a catch-22 situation a lot of the time with your health, which came first the head or the body. An issue is that emotions get pushed into the body and come out as physical ailments and sleep is a big component of this.

Hopefully, I’ve given you a flavour here of different sleep pattern types and that Shiatsu looks at each person and their symptoms and lifestyle as individuals. We use all of this information to build the pattern of your imbalance and then gently press and hold the Acupoints to help the body address the rebalancing. There are some supplements that can also help and my top tip is below – Magnesium.

Shiatsu therapy for insomnia relief in Cheltenham


My first piece of advice that I would give you if you came to see me is to take a Magnesium supplement, 400 mg a day. You can take tablets and if you have muscle aches there are sprays, ointments and if you love a bath, Epsom salts; Mg is readily absorbed through the skin and this maybe a better way to ensure absorbency.


These are all great ways of getting the Magnesium levels up in your. It's a micro nutrient we don't hold onto so it needs to be taken every day. You can also look into eating more Mg rich foods such as :

  • Green leafy vegetables (e.g. spinach and kale)

  • Fruit (figs, avocado, banana and raspberries)

  • Nuts and seeds

  • Legumes (black beans, chickpeas and kidney beans)

  • Vegetables (peas, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, artichokes, asparagus, brussels sprouts)

  • Seafood (salmon, mackerel, tuna)

  • Whole grains (brown rice and oats)

  • Raw cacao

  • Dark Chocolate

  • Tofu

  • Baked beans

"Magnesium is involved in helping to regulate calcium, vitamin D, blood sugar and hormonal balance, so there is little surprise to learn that low magnesium levels can lead to chronic fatigue-type symptoms, low mood, anxiety, eye tics, insomnia, high blood pressure, muscle cramps (which can be due to low calcium too) and a poor tolerance to dealing with stress,"

Shiatsu Bodyworks - Cheltenha - Andrea at Shiatsu Bodyworks recommends Magnesium to relieve Insomnia and muscle aches
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