When did you last get a good night’s sleep? If you struggle to remember, then you might find this post a useful read and hopefully you’ll find out how acupuncture for insomnia can help.
How much of a problem is insomnia?
Most people have experienced occasional insomnia but for some, it is a nightly occurrence. This is a major issue as being unable to sleep on a regular basis can lead to a variety of health problems.
Besides leading to short term tiredness, irritability and difficulty concentrating, insomnia can increase the risk of accidents during the day. Furthermore, scientists have now linked it with chronic inflammation, the root cause of a whole range of conditions
Insomnia can take on many forms – having difficulty dropping to sleep, waking frequently, waking and finding it difficult to get back to sleep because of a racing mind, not getting enough REM (good quality) sleep.
Sleep deprivation is known to have been used as a form of torture! The longest anyone has been recorded as going without sleep is 11 days. In fact, a few years ago, one 26 year old man died after not sleeping for 11 days because he wanted to watch every match of the European cup!
Clearly, insomnia should not be ignored. But what can you do about it besides taking strong and potentially addictive medications? Fortunately there are many different natural remedied for insomnia. One of these is acupuncture – or I wouldn’t be writing this post!
So, how does acupuncture for insomnia work? Let’s take a look.
There are many different causes for insomnia from the Chinese medicine viewpoint. Stress, depression, anxiety are all common culprits. Pain, digestive issues, bladder problems and conditions like sleep apnoea can all make it difficult to get a good night’s rest. Perimenopausal and menopausal women often struggle to sleep well too. For some people the cause isn’t always obvious, making it difficult to find an effective solution.
This is where Chinese medicine comes into it’s own because it views the body in a unique way and often places more importance on some symptoms than western medicine does, in this case sleep quality.
When you visit an acupuncturist, they will always ask you about your sleep patterns.
According to Chinese medicine, one of the most important organs for sleep is the Heart and is associated substance, Blood. We use capital letters for the Heart and Blood because we are not talking about them literally in the western sense. In Chinese medicine, more is associated with the Heart than simply it’s function of pumping blood.
The Heart is the seat of emotions and houses the spirit, also known as the Shen.
When the “Heart system” is balanced, the emotions are well-regulated, the Shen is calm and sleep is peaceful and refreshing. However, if the system becomes imbalanced, we can get symptoms such as mood disorders, difficulty sleeping and, in some case, vivid or disturbing dreams.
Unfortunately, a lot can go wrong with the “Heart system.” In our modern world it can easily become depleted of Qi (chee,) Blood, Yin or Yang. The two most likely causes of insomnia are Heart Yin Deficiency and Heart Blood Deficiency.
Heart Yin deficiency is a common outcome of constant stress and worry coupled with inadequate rest. Heart Blood deficiency can have similar causes but can also be due to poor diet or an actual loss of blood such as a serious accident or during childbirth.
How can Acupuncture For Insomnia help?
Luckily, acupuncture can benefit in several ways. It helps to “nourish” Blood and Yin when they have become deficient. Symptoms of their deficiency can include, in addition to the sleep issues discussed, poor memory, cold hands, anxiety, depression, palpitations, sweating.
Acupuncture appears to help in the following ways:
- regulating the release of helpful neurotransmitters such as endorphins and serotonin
- reducing activity in the sympathetic nervous system to enhance relaxation
- boosting the production of melatonin (the hormone that makes you sleepy.)
One of the most significant benefits of acupuncture treatment however is that it is safe, effective and without the dangerous side effects of many medications. It can be used by people of all ages and even pregnant women can use acupuncture to improve their sleep.
To be honest, I often warn my clients that a side effect of their acupuncture treatment (whatever it may have been for) is that they may feel relaxed and sleepy a few hours after their treatment!
A recent literature review concluded that acupuncture can be considered an alternative to medication for treating insomnia
What Else Can You Do?
We all know the advice about not eating a large meal too close to bedtime and not doing vigorous exercise too late in the evening either. Sometimes this can’t be helped if you are working and trying to keep fit as well! In my younger days I did a lot of running, the training sessions were mostly in the evenings after work and my evening meal was inevitably late. Sometimes, this can’t be helped.
However, I did try to make sure that I ate the right kind of food so that I wasn’t, for example, having a big sugar rush before bed.
Good nutrition is so important and can help insomnia. It is a good idea to try and start including more “Blood nourishing” foods in your diet. You can find out more about this in this post
Another handy little tip is to try a foot soak.
Soaking your feet in warm water for 10-20 minutes in the evening. In the same way an acupuncturist would usually select some points on the lower legs or feet, this can draw excessive energy down from your head. Try adding some Epsom’s salts for a mini-detox or some lavender oil for a more relaxing effect.
Are you thinking of trying acupuncture for insomnia?
Get in touch with Eileen here, by phone, by email or by booking a free 15 minute phone consultation:
Call on 07773332553