Qigong for Insomnia

Medical Qigong offers many simple prescriptions for health conditions. These are gentle, specific, yet sophisticated exercises that involve movement, breathing, and meditation. While not the only important medicine needed for many conditions or situations, these Medical Qigong prescriptions do have some great plusses over using pharmaceuticals, or even natural health concoctions. 

Qigong Prescriptions

  • Give you more self-control over your own health.
  • Don’t have the kind of intense side-effects many medications do.
  • Can’t be used up. The bottle doesn’t get emptied.
  • Can be practiced in addition to other methods you may be using for your healthcare.

You Must Do Them to Receive the Benefits

Qigong Prescriptions do take practice, time, and commitment. The basic Insomnia Prescription–which I detail below–is an effective self-healing method for sleep difficulties. Most people who practice it begin to go to sleep easier, and sleep more deeply and sleep longer. They wake up more refreshed with a sense of energetic regeneration.

Two Main Mechanisms of the Insomnia Prescription

This short series of gentle exercises works through two energetic mechanisms:

  1. The redirection of your Qi.
  2. Charging your Kidneys.

Redirect Your Qi

The Qi is redirected in a series of steps:

  1. From your head to your Kidneys
  2. From Kidneys to your lower abdominal center (Dantian)
  3. And finally, to the bottom of your feet

Awake Versus Sleep

When you are awake, the majority of your body’s consciousness and energy tends to be focused outside of yourself, in the front part of you, and up in the head or heart. When your energy and consciousness is thus directed, sleep is difficult. The Insomnia Prescription reverses that high, forward energy. It will bring your energy inward, backward, and down.

Charge and Fill Your Kidneys

The Kidneys–which also include your adrenal glands (one of these small glands lies on top of each Kidney)–are crucial in Chinese Medicine approaches. To put it simply, the Kidneys can be thought of as fuel reserves; as gas tanks. Your tanks get emptied by forcing and using willpower to get things done. Or by doing too much. You run out of energy and are essentially running on fumes. If you have ever felt, “too tired to fall asleep,” then you know what I mean.

Insomnia Prescription

The instructions for how many reps to practice: The more persistent and bad the insomnia, the more repetitions it will take.

Steps one, two, and three can be done standing or seated.

Insomnia Prescription: Step One

Use your hands to rapidly massage the Kidneys until warm. You can massage up and own, back and forth, or around in circles, both directions. You can use the palms or, if you can’t reach easily, the backs of the hands. Warming the Kidneys will increase the blood flow to them, relieve tensions around them, and generally turn them on. You want your Kidneys “on” so your thinking brain can turn “off” for several hours.

Reps: 20 to 50.

Insomnia Prescription: Step Two

Place the palms on your back, over your Kidneys. Inhale to your Kidneys. As you inhale, round your lower back a bit to help expand the tissues around those fist-sized structures. With the inhale, imagine you are drawing energy that is extra and unneeded from your upper body (especially your brain) to your Kidneys. Exhale into your Kidneys to store that extra energy.

Location Note: The Kidneys are usually found in front of the thick muscles on both sides of spine, about halfway under the lower ribs; and about halfway below the ribs. They are nearly fist-sized. Because of the big Liver above it, the right Kidney tends to be lower than the left Kidney.

Modifying Note: If shoulder flexibility problems or an elbow or wrist issue make it difficult to put your full palms on your back, you can place the back of the hands on the Kidneys. If this is still too difficult to do with no strain, you can place one palm or back of the hand on one side and turn slightly. If this is still too difficult, connect to your Kidneys by placing your hands over the front of your upper abdomen.

Reps: 20 to 50.

Charge the Kidneys for Insomnia

Breathe into the Kidneys



Optional Reps: If the Kidneys need a lot of attention: Repeat steps one and two, twice more.

Insomnia Prescription: Step Three

Left Kidney: Place the right hand on your lower abdomen (Dantian), below the belly button and the left hand over the left Kidney. On the inhale, connect to the left Kidney. Don’t breathe to it, as you did in Step Two, just be there, at the Kidney. On the exhale, use your breath and intention to guide Qi from your Kidney to your lower abdomen. It is as if there is a little highway of flowing energy from the Kidney to the lower abdomen, a one-way flow. You can also push a little with the left hand to the Dantian on each exhale.

Right Kidney: Now place your right hand on the right Kidney and left hand on the lower abdomen. On the inhale, connect to the right Kidney. On the exhale, use your breath and intention to guide Qi from your Kidney to your lower abdomen.

Insomnia Qigong

Kidney to Dantian

Reps: 20 or more, each side

Steps four and five, below are done seated–either on the floor or on a chair.

Insomnia Prescription: Step Four

Left Foot: Warm up the left sole of your foot by rubbing it with your right palm. In Acupuncture and Qigong theory, the center of the palm is a fire point, connected to the heart. The point being rubbed on the foot is called Kidney 1 (KD-1) or Bubbling Spring. It can be found in the space created by the two balls of the foot. By rubbing this water point of the Kidneys with a fire point  you enliven your Kidneys, leading to stronger, more healthful states of energy in your internal organs. You are also bringing more attention to the lowest part of your body.

Right Foot: Repeat on the other leg, warming up the right sole with the left palm.

Reps: 20 to 50 per side, or more.

Insomnia Qigong

Brush the Bottom of the feet

Insomnia Prescription: Step Five

Left Foot: Place the left hand on your lower abdomen (over the Dantian) and the right hand on the sole of the left foot. Feel the Dantian on the inhale. On the exhale, gently encourage energy to travel down the leg to the bottom of the right foot. This gentle focus of one-way Qi flow will help root your energy down your body. You may have to cross the lower left leg over the right leg to reach the sole easily.

Reps: 20 to 100 per side.

Right Foot : Repeat on the other side, right hand on Dantian, left hand on right sole.

Qigong Insomnia Breathing

Breathe from Lower Belly to Foot

Practice Makes Sleepy

It might take a few sessions of practice for chronic insomnia to begin to lessen it’s cruel hold on your sleep: It takes time for the water to make progress on filling the well.


  1. Seth said,

    September 27, 2010 @ 4:12 pm

    …you are so wonderful for sharing this knowledge…thank you! 🙂

  2. admin said,

    September 28, 2010 @ 1:09 pm

    Good luck with the 100-day discipline. It is such great way learn new form, go more deeply into a form, or just to seek a particular healing result. Right now I am practicing the Shamanic Tiger Qigong form (24 moves) every day and loving how it feels and what it is teaching me.

  3. sara said,

    April 27, 2011 @ 10:45 pm

    Have done sleeping routine (all 4) two nights in a row and have noticed a big difference in my sleep from the first night. Fewer night wakings, deeper sleep, and in the AM when my husband gets up VERY early to go to work I am usually wakeful, restless and nervous and don’t really sleep well after he wakes up. Last two mornings, he hasn’t been able to wake me when he leaves. This is very encouraging. I’m curious to see if this nice result continues. I wanted a way to extend my acupuncture’s sleep effectiveness to every night (since I only go to accu once every week at most). This is a wonderful way to do that. Thanks for the detailed video instructions on sleep! Part of me doesn’t want my positive comment to jinx my future results! But maybe that’s just head energy that needs to move on down to those kidneys!

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