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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2012, Article ID 735078, 9 pages
Review Article

Classification of Insomnia Using the Traditional Chinese Medicine System: A Systematic Review

1Department of Psychiatry, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong
2School of Chinese Medicine, Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong

Received 10 January 2012; Accepted 22 March 2012

Academic Editor: Shi-Bing Su

Copyright © 2012 Maggie Man-Ki Poon et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


A systematic review was conducted to examine traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) patterns commonly diagnosed in subjects with insomnia and clinical features associated with the TCM patterns, and an insomnia symptom checklist for TCM diagnostic purpose was developed based on the review. Two independent researchers searched the China Academic Journals Full-Text Database and 10 English databases. A total of 103 studies and 9499 subjects were analyzed. There was a wide variation in terminology relating to symptomatology and TCM pattern. We identified 69 patterns, with the top 3 patterns (i.e., deficiency of both the heart and spleen, hyperactivity of fire due to yin deficiency, and liver-qi stagnation transforming into fire) and the top 10 patterns covering 51.8% and 77.4% of the 9499 subjects, respectively. There were 19 sleep-related, 92 non-sleep-related, 14 tongue, and 7 pulse features included as diagnostic criteria of the top 10 TCM patterns for insomnia. Excessive dreaming, dizziness, red tongue, and fine pulse were the most common sleep-related, non-sleep-related, tongue, and pulse features. Overlapping symptomatology between the TCM patterns was present. A standardized symptom checklist consisted of 92 items, including 13 sleep-related, 61 non-sleep-related, 11 tongue, and 7 pulse items, holds promise as a diagnostic tool and merits further validation.