Somnolence or Hyper-somnolence is the flip-side of insomnia. It is the feeling of always wanting and being able to sleep. It is a bit tricky to talk about because many people often feel tired for a number of reasons and more often than not it is because we simply don’t get enough sleep. For many, 9 hours is a normal amount of sleep. You may hear of people who can “get by” on 6 hours of sleep but some people simply need more. Somnolence is not this condition. It is for people who can and do sleep well – too well.
In Chinese, the condition of somnolence is known as duomei 多寐 which translates directly as “sleeping a lot”. Sometimes tiredness comes from some one with severe health problems or a disease. Obviously only treating the sleepiness is secondary in importance to treating the disease.
Somnolence is many times not just not having enough “qi” or energy. If you feel better by getting a little exercise then probably you have an “excess”. Giving tonics like ginseng things will only make it worse. If the body feels heavy then you might be a little (or a lot) depressed emotionally. This will cause stagnation or “constraint” on all the emotional/ physical systems. For this you want herbs that will move the “qi”.
Chinese medicine puts great importance on the digestive function. We call this the Spleen/ Stomach system. The Spleen system lifts the qi upward to the rest of the body. When this function becomes deficient then the muscles become tired and the brain is not fed the proper nutrients. Both body and mind feel tired. Usually the person eats too much to make up for the lack of nutrients. There will be a slow down of the digestion and there might be nausea or acid reflux.
The key formula for this condition above is Ping Wei San.
The spleen system also transforms the fluids from what is eaten and drunk. Often times this creates a build up of fluids. Like wearing wet clothes, this slows down the body and tires it out. There might be dizziness, indecisiveness, slight confusion and frustration. The tongue coating may extremely thick and yellowish.
The key formula for the above condition is Wen Dan Tang.
If sleep apnea is suspected relief is often found with Ban Xia Hou Po Tang. This formula was originally for stress which manifests as a feeling of something “stuck” in the throat. The herbs target this area of the body and nowadays we often use it to move the qi at the throat area.
If the person becomes extremely fatigued in daytime or after just a little exercise and also often feels really cold (not just hands and feet but the whole body) then this might be what is called a spleen and kidney yang deficiency. There might be some form of edema or weight gain. Along with the cold body there might also be extreme fatigue, incontinence, lack of libido, impotence and sleeps curled up. The place to start with this type of presentation is Ba Wei Di Huang Wan.