Struggling with Sleep? Try Shiatsu, Acupressure, and Qi Gong

Struggling with Sleep? Try Shiatsu, Acupressure, and Qi Gong

 Understanding Sleep Disruptions Through Chinese Medicine

I’m excited to share some amazing insights from a recent podcast interview, where we dived deep into sleep issues, Chinese medicine, and the impact of Menopause and COVID-19 . If you’ve ever struggled with sleep, especially post-COVID, this blog and the video podcast is for you!

A Personal Story: From Sleepless Nights to Sweet Dreams

One of our lovely community members shared her personal journey of battling insomnia after recovering from COVID-19. Before COVID, she never had trouble sleeping, but post-recovery, she found herself waking up soon after falling asleep. The frustration of lying awake at night became a constant struggle.

She also her experience of a traumatic childbirth with her second child, which resulted in septicaemia and a highly stressful period. This past shock, combined with her recent Covid experience, seems to be affecting her sleep.

She tried magnesium supplements, which helped a bit, but her sleep remained fragmented. She practiced Yoga Nidra, a form of guided meditation, which worked wonders initially, but she still woke up frequently. Sound familiar?

Menopause and Sleep: A Roller Coaster Ride

Our conversation also touched upon the challenges of menopause. Many women, including our guest, experience mood swings and sleep disturbances during this phase. It’s not just about the hormones but also how our mind and body process these changes.

Chinese medicine offers a unique perspective, emphasizing the interconnectedness of our organs and emotions. The heart and small intestine, for instance, plays a crucial role in how we experience, integrate and transform shock and trauma. These experiences can ripple through our system, affecting our sleep and overall well-being.

Embracing Chinese Medicine: Building a Home for the Heart

In Chinese medicine, insomnia is often seen as a problem of the blood and the heart. Our spirit, (Shen in Chinese Medicine) needs a peaceful home in the heart to settle in for the night. If the heart is unsettled, sleep becomes elusive. Here are some tips we discussed in the Podcast to help calm the heart and promote better sleep:

Qi Gong: Incorporating these practices into your bedtime routine can be very beneficial. They help calm the nervous system and create a sense of inner peace. (sign up for the free class at the end of this blog/plus there’s a special qi gong move at the end of the podcast.)

Winding Down Before Bed

To improve sleep, it’s important to wind down properly before bed. Qi gong is an excellent ways to relax, but you can also try adding some mantra or humming.

Including an “ohm” chant can help stimulate the Vagus nerve, located on either side of the neck, which will deeply relax your body and prepare you for sleep.

  • ☯️ Sit comfortably and take a deep belly breath.
  • ☯️ On the exhale begin humming or chanting “OHM.”
  • ☯️ Feeling the vibration begin from your belly, push it up through your chest and experience the resonance through the head.
  • ☯️ On the inhalation imagine the energy falling back down to the lower belly.
  • ☯️ Begin the circuit agail
  • ☯️ Practice at least 9 times for the benefit to become rooted in your body.

Dietary Adjustments: Each of the organs is linked to a flavour.  The heart is supported by the bitter flavour, often found growing in the height of summer.  Bitter greens like dandelion leaves, nettles, spinach, and chard can improve blood circulation and support heart health. Mung beans, in particular, are fantastic for the heart in Chinese Medicine.  Find out which organ likes which flavour in my books.

Foods for Sleep

Drinking plenty of water and herbal teas like chamomile, valerian, and even a special lettuce tea can support your kidneys and heart.

Making barley water and drinking it throughout the week is another great way to stay hydrated and support your kidneys.

Ensuring the Kidney Meridian system and its management of water element is strong will help calm heart fire which causes hot flushes, anxiety and insomnia.

Additionally, try drinking lettuce tea before bed—it’s delicious, easy to make, and helps relax your body for sleep. You can find the recipe [HERE]

Acupressure helps promote restful sleep by stimulating specific points on the body that regulate the nervous system, reduce stress, and balance the flow of energy (chi). By releasing tension and enhancing relaxation, acupressure can improve the quality of sleep and support the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle.

This massage benefits the kidney meridian, which is related to water and helps balance fire and water in the body, especially around the heart and chest.

Kidney 27 Acupressure for Calming Heart Fire

Place your fingers either side of the sternum, in line with the nipples, and massage into the spaces between the ribs. Press, hold, and tap as you move down either side of the sternum, feeling the connection. This area, which contains the intercostal muscles, can hold a lot of tension. Gently massage these spaces, imagining energy flowing, guiding it with your intention rather than force.

Finally, find Kidney 27: locate the knobbly parts of the collarbone and slide off diagonally into a small divot. Massage this point by pressing, holding, and releasing.

Kidney 27 is excellent for rebalancing the yin and yang and is particularly helpful if you feel burnt out or exhausted.

Consistently massaging Kidney 27 helps maintain balance and flow in your energy. Remember, you’re not just pressing a button; you’re connecting with your own energy source.

Watch the full video in the Podcast below for exact location and practice.

Conclusion: Your Path to Restful Sleep

Remember, every small change can make a big difference. By nurturing your heart, supporting your kidneys, and incorporating calming practices into your routine, you can create a peaceful environment for your spirit to rest. Let’s embrace the wisdom of Chinese medicine and Qi Gong to transform our sleep and overall well-being.

Join us in our daily live Qi Gong classes at Chi Flow with Jo, and let’s embark on this journey together. Here’s to nights filled with peaceful sleep and days brimming with energy and joy!

Join Us for a FREE Online Qi Gong Class (scroll down to enter your email)

Ready to experience the benefits of Qi Gong for yourself? We invite you to join us for a free online Qi Gong class. Together, we will explore these easy flowing movements, stretching and releasing to cultivate mindfulness, relaxation, and focus.  Just fill in your details below and you’ll get a link to the FREE class.

Discover how the gentle practice of qi gong can transform your health and well-being, bringing balance and harmony to your life. Whether you’re new to Qi Gong or looking to deepen your practice, our classes are designed to support you every step of the way.

Join us today and take the first step towards a healthier, more balanced you.  Scroll down to sign up!


Cultivating Mindfulness, Relaxation, and Focus

One of the most profound benefits of Qi Gong is its ability to cultivate mindfulness, relaxation, and focus. Each movement is performed with intention and awareness, allowing practitioners to connect deeply with their bodies and breath. This mindful approach not only enhances the physical benefits of the practice but also translates into everyday life, leading to:

Better Mobility: Improved flexibility and strength make it easier to perform daily activities with ease and confidence.

Less Anxiety: The calming effects of mindful movement help to reduce stress and anxiety, promoting a sense of inner peace.

Sound Sleep: The relaxation induced by Qi Gong supports better sleep patterns, helping you to wake up refreshed and rejuvenated.

By integrating these practices and dietary changes, you can help calm your mind, relax your body, and improve the quality of your sleep. Shiatsu, acupressure, and qi gong are powerful tools to support your well-being, especially as you age.

If you have specific concerns, always consult with a healthcare provider familiar with these practices to tailor a plan that’s right for you.

What to eat when Panic Attacks

What to eat when Panic Attacks

In my last post, I shared an Acupressure Point that I found personally useful during panic attacks, palpitations and shortness of breath that I suffered just after I had twins, 19 years ago. Even though they are teenagers and way more stressful now, I have learned and used many different tools to balance my body so that the stress hormones of cortisol and adrenaline don’t flood my body and fry my mind.

I’m grateful for the Shiatsu acupressure and Qi Gong work I do, which uses the 5element system of Traditional Chinese Medicine to interpret symptoms and treat the body using acupressure points, meridian stretches and dietary advice.

I love having a toolkit of different techniques with which to balance the body. Below I share a simple recipe that helps to calm the mind and bring the heart home, aiding sleep and relaxation.

During the 1990s when I ran an environmental awareness and coaching agency I thought I had to think of everything. I felt that if I wasn’t on top of all my work, it would fall apart. My mind often wouldn’t let me sleep. It wouldn’t turn off. Instead of sleeping, I would run through future scenarios and presentations. Irrationally my mind thought it could control outcomes.  If I could only think of everything, especially in the middle of the night, then everything would be ok. It was exhausting, physically and mentally.

It was at this time I was embarking on my Shiatsu journey when my teacher introduced me to the power of lettuce as a natural sedative, it really worked. I would drink the tea in the early evening and I would find that my sleep was better. If I woke in the night I would take a shot of pre-prepared Lettuce Juice in the fridge and I’d go straight back to sleep.

From a Chinese Medicine perspective, each of the organs has a flavour.  Lettuce of all varieties including Chicory and Endive pictured here, has a bitter flavour and so benefits the heart.

The heart is said to be where our Shen, our consciousness, our spirit lives. so eating foods with this bitter flavour such as basil, coriander, radish, beetroot, chicory, endive, and pomegranate will help heart function and provide a home in which the Shen spirit can settle. This will help with insomnia, heart palpitations, anxiety, overthinking and restlessness of the mind.  For more foods check out previous Heart Health post

It all sounds very poetic but believe me it works.


Recipe from the Holistic Cookbook – Good Food: Better Sex

Lettuce Tea Tonic – pg 235

Lettuce contains a chemical called lactucarium which is the white milky substance you see when you break the leaf along the stem. As opposed to opioids this substance has no harmful side effects. Try and see for yourself.

Take 5-6 leaves of romaine or butterhead lettuce and place into a saucepan.  Pour a litre of boiling water over the leaves of a head of Romaine or Butterhead lettuce, simmer in a pan with the lid on at a low temperature for 5 minutes, strain and drink.

It’s a very refreshing tasting tea tasting similar to chamomile.  But it is more potent at being able to physically relax the body, relieving fullness in the chest and tightness in the mind.  This is great to drink in the early evening as it is a great support for sleep and stopping insomnia, which in Chinese Medicine would be caused by the heart not being able to settle.

Chinese Medicine is over 4000 years old and the 5elements give a system where you can understand your symptoms and the cause of them. If you would like to find out more you can read all about the system in Shiatsu & the Art of Conscious Cooking or Good Food: Better Sex. This lists all the five elements, their flavours, times of the year, emotions, ailments and offers recipes plus acupressure points to transform them.  It’s packed full of Food Medicine, Acupressure Points and Energy Exercises 

Or why not try a free class with me – enter your email below and I will send you a link for the zoom class which takes place on the last day of each month.

Free Class Sign Up