Trouble Sleeping? Give Acupuncture a Try!

Posted on Nov 16, 2012

Trouble Sleeping? Give Acupuncture a Try!

Acupuncture is great for all kinds of things, and one of the places a community acupuncture style clinic really shines is with difficulty getting a good night’s sleep. In the past when practicing in a more traditional environment, we always felt pretty lame waking an insomnia patient up after 20 minutes with the needles in because the room needed vacated for the next person on the schedule. Thankfully, we don’t have that problem here; with 12 chairs in the main room and another 4 hiding in our as of yet unused back room, our patients are welcome to sleep as long as they’d like. Thus far our longest acu-nap is right at about 3 hours! Now, if you’re the last appointment of the day, keep in mind we’re only here ’till 30 minutes after closing, so if you’ve got your heart set on a long one, please come in earlier.


How Does  Acupuncture Help Insomnia?

For insomnia caused by a secondary condition, like a painful shoulder that hurts when rolling on it, treating the insomnia is as simple as providing pain relief. For insomnia with no obvious external cause, answering the “how” can get a little tricky. From the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective, insomnia is the “Shen” (approximately translated as a combination of mind and spirit) being unable to settle at night, causing the feeling of the mind just not shutting down. There are a number of different reasons why this may be happening, but it can be boiled down to a few primary causes: poor diet, overwork and/or emotional fatigue (excessive worry, fear, anger, etc). All of the above can be helped by acupuncture, though the diet one usually works best if the patient helps out a little bit.

Here’s a great research article on acupuncture and insomnia, in which participants showed increased melatonin (a hormone related to sleep) secretions as well as better indicators of sleep duration/quality all around. The patients involved were monitored for two weeks, then given acupuncture twice weekly for 5 weeks. It suffers from a small sample size (18), but the article does a good job of providing some intellectual meat and potatoes, so to speak, for those interested in digging into some heavier reading on the subject.

The treatment frequency of twice weekly in the article is spot-on what we like to do when we first start out with insomnia patients. Generally we start with treatments twice a week for 2-3 weeks, then drop down to weekly once things are starting to improve, tapering off to every other week, then monthly, eventually we just see patients for a tune-up every now and then.


What Can I Do At Home?

With any health issue, there is almost always something you can do to take care of yourself. Here are some suggestions for helping to get a better night’s sleep:

  • Avoid caffeine after noon. Some people are more sensitive than others, so if you’re having a hard time falling asleep cutting down on caffeine can sometimes do the trick.
  • No alcohol around bedtime. While alcohol can sometimes help someone fall asleep, it can often result in a restless sleep.
  • Try not to eat too close to bedtime.
  • Try dimming the lights in the house as it gets close to bedtime. Also, avoid light from TV/Computer/Phone screens leading up to bedtime. The reasons why are fairly complex, but this article has a more in-depth description.
  • Meditation, prayer, or just some quiet time can help deal with emotions that need sorted out before being able to relax.

Photo Credit: Instant Vantage


One Comment

  1. loved the article about sleep habits and not drinking coffee after noon-I am going to give it a try. Also plan this weekend to read the research article. THANK you both for helping me. I am starting to feel so much better.

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