Please keep reading for more information on how acupuncture can help insomnia and an introductory special offer in support of Acupuncture Awareness Week.
How can Acupuncture help Insomnia?
The most common types of insomnia are as follows:
- Difficultly falling asleep: The underlying pattern here is one of deficiency- usually Qi and Blood, often arising from over-strain and/or anxiety. Treatment involves using a selection of points to notify the body and soothe the mind.
- Waking up often during the night: Restlessness and waking up after a short sleep is symptomatic of a different type of deficiency pattern – Yin deficiency this time. This type of deficiency can lead to the body becoming heated. It is the heat that gives rise to the restlessness. It is also common during menopause when women find they sleep lightly and experience night sweats. Treatment involves nourishing the Yin energy of the body and lowering heat.
- Waking up at 2 – 4 am repeatedly: This symptom indicates an excess pattern – excess Yang. There are often other symptoms like dream disturbed sleep, perhaps headaches and irritability. High levels of stress, and sometimes depression, are often associated with the patterns underlying this particular symptom. Treatment involves points to calm Yang energy, lower heat, circulate Qi and soothe the emotions.
- No sleep at all: Again the root pattern will be one of deficiency and treatment will be aimed at reinforcing and notifying the underlying deficiency.
Western scientific research suggests that acupuncture increases night-time production of melatonin, which helps to ensure a proper night’s sleep. It may also have a calming effect on the central nervous system, as it can be used effectively to treat pain.Traditional Chinese Acupuncture theory regards insomnia as a symptom and not as a disease. Consequently it is extremely successful in treating insomnia as it treats the underlying causes and not just the symptoms. Clients often find that as their insomnia clears other ailments also clear up.
Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically be of benefit in people with insomnia by:
- increasing nocturnal endogenous melatonin secretion (Spence et al 2004).
- stimulating opioid (especially b-endorphin) production and µ-opioid receptor activity (Cheng et al 2009).
- increasing nitric oxide synthase activity and nitric oxide content, helping to promote normal function of brain tissues, which could help to regulate sleep (Gao et al 2007).
- increasing cerebral blood flow (Yan 2010)
- reducing sympathetic nervous system activity, hence increasing relaxation (Lee 2009a)
- regulating levels of neurotransmitters (or their modulators) such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA and neuropeptide Y; hence altering the brains’ mood chemistry to help to increase relaxation and reduce tension (Lee 2009b; Samuels 2008; Zhou 2008).
- Acupuncture can be safely combined with conventional medical treatments for insomnia, such as benzodiazepines, helping to reduce their side effects and enhance their beneficial effects (Cao et al 2009).