Sleep with Acupuncture

By Ellice Yang

In our clinic, we see patients everyday who share with us their challenges with insomnia.  Some report they have problems falling asleep.  Some report their sleep is interrupted and they wake up feeling un-rested.  And others only get a couple of hours of sleep a night.  Insomnia is sometimes the primary health concern but more often than not chronic insomnia is associated with other health concerns.   A trial by The National Institute of Mental Health determined that 90-93% of insomnia cases were associated with psychiatric conditions more than another any other conditions, depression being the strongest variable.  The National Institute of Health State of Science Statement even proposed a new term “comorbid insomnia” in lieu of terms such as “secondary” or “primary” insomnia.

What about short term or acute insomnia? What are the factors?  New York Times report that the following are major contributing factors to transient insomnia:

  • Traumatic and stressful events; Pain
  • Female hormonal fluctuations (menses, pregnancy, menopause)
  • Jet Lag, travelling
  • Change in light exposure and environment (change in temperature)
  • Stimulants such as caffeine, nicotine and medication

It’s interesting to see all these variables that contribute to insomnia in Western medicine because the Traditional Chinese medicine perspective have always approached all disease and health conditions in a holistic and individual basis.  This means no cookie cutter treatments!

Acupuncture and Chinese medicine

Clinical trials and research today have shown many ways acupuncture works to help those suffering from insomnia.  For instance acupuncture has been effective in regulating serotonin levels and releasing endorphins which help us to have a good night’s sleep.  Stress and anxiety elevate cortisol levels and norepinephrine which interrupt sleep and studies have also shown that acupuncture helps regulate these stress inducing hormones.  Acupuncture and Chinese medicine is all about preventative health and bringing balance within the body.  Exposure to long-term stress and anxiety, a traumatic loss of a loved one or  chronic pain impact on the smooth flow of energy (Qi) and create stagnation, depletion and imbalance.  When you are not getting the recommended hours of sleep (7-8 hours for adults) and the quality of your sleep is compromised this will also create a cascade of other health issues such as weight gain, poor concentration, hormonal imbalance, fatigue….etc.

Many of our patients comment on how relaxed they feel during the acupuncture session.   No one would have ever imagined that having hair fine needles inserted into very specific points in the body could bring such calm and relaxation.  When following up with patients after their acupuncture session, it is very common hear that they have the best sleep after acupuncture.

Contact your local acupuncturist to find out how they can help you restore balance to get a good night’s sleep.