Acupuncture for Insomnia: Promoting Good Sleep through Chinese Medicine
It’s summer. The days are looooong, and that is a great thing! But did you know that extended daylight hours can affect your sleep patterns and your ability to get a good, restful night of sleep? Additionally, there are so many other things that can affect your sleep too – stress, diet, work schedule, and even computer or smartphone use. With all these distractions, it can be really difficult to get as much sleep as you need.
What Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep
You already know the extreme tiredness you experience when your sleep habits change. But there are many issues inside your body that are created from lack of sleep. For instance, research has discovered:
- People suffering from sleep deprivation also experience impaired working memory and attention spans. They also don’t perform as well on complex mental tasks as people who are well rested (getting 7+ hours of sleep a night).
- Adults who get less than 7 hours of sleep a night have a higher mortality rate than those sleeping 7 – 7.9 hours.
- Individuals without sufficient sleep may alter their metabolic health by taking in more calories than normal, by eating at times that disturb your natural restorative processes, and potentially by reduced activity levels. Any of these alone could contribute to weight gain, and when combined, put you at much greater risk for obesity and metabolic disease including diabetes. This doesn’t only affect adults – but sleep-deprived kids as well.
So, all in all – sleep is good! Your body needs it desperately to be able to optimally perform and to experience true health.
But how much sleep do I need?
Experts at the Mayo Clinic say school-age children need 9 to 10 hours of sleep every night and that adults need log at least 7 to 8 hours nightly. So, you know how important sleep is, and now you know how much sleep you need to get.
But what do you do if you just can’t sleep? If you’re not sleeping enough, you’ve probably tried nearly everything to get more rest. From a Sleep Number® bed to eye masks and prescription medication, you may have spent a fortune in your quest for rest. What can you do? How might acupuncture and herbs used in Traditional Chinese Medicine help?
Scientific Research Demonstrates Herbs and Acupuncture Can Improve Sleep
There have been numerous medical studies about the benefits of good sleep, including many linking acupuncture and herbal medicine to improved sleep quality.
- A 2017 review of clinical studies and pharmacological research showed that herbs including Suan zao ren, Fu ling, and Gan cao have sedative properties and help eliminate insomnia.
- A 2017 study found that people receiving auricular (ear) acupuncture for insomnia “slept longer, increased their time in bed, and decreased their sleep latency post-treatment.”
- A 2017 study found that acupuncture patients experienced improved sleep and daytime performance with a reduction in morning headaches from lack of sleep, fatigue, tiredness, and moodiness.
Traditional Chinese Medicine for Insomnia / Sleep Issues
Traditional Chinese Medicine, or TCM, is a complete system of medicine that uses a variety of healing modalities to help promote good sleep and reduce insomnia. Chinese medicine is the oldest continually practiced system of medicine in the world. The longevity of the medicine and the modalities that include herbs, acupuncture, and diet can all be helpful in alleviating persistent insomnia and sleep issues.
Some herbs for insomnia commonly found in Chinese medicine formulations include:
- Suan zao ren – Sour jujube seed
- Fu shen – Poria
- Zhi mu – Anemarrhena rhizome
- Bai zi ren – Arbor vitae seed
- Mu li – Oyster shell
- He huan pi – Mimosa tree bark
Chinese herbs for insomnia have proven to be effective in treating insomnia. The herbs work in various ways to rebalance health.
Each herb has its own specific properties that work to help you get deep, restful sleep. While some work to relax the mind and body so that sleep may be more easily attained, other herbs work to reset and disinhibit autonomic mechanisms that keep our bodies revved high and in a stressed state. The use of herbs in Chinese medicine is a polypharmacy approach, meaning that your individual symptomology and circumstances will inform the proper blending and individual herbal dosing of a multi- herb formula that will address your particular presentation, in regard to a better night of sleep.
Acupuncture for Insomnia / Sleep Issues
In addition to herbs, acupuncture is another modality of Chinese medicine that is very successful in relieving sleeping issues.
Acupuncture breaks the continuous sympathetic nervous system’s “fight or flight” response. We live in fast-paced times, and acupuncture combined with better personal sleep hygiene routines can yield deeper, more restful and healing sleep.
- In a 2004 study in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry showed that acupuncture increased nocturnal melatonin secretion. Increased melatonin production helps your body sleep more soundly and also found that anxiety was reduced.
- A 1999 study in Germany showed that acupuncture improved sleep quality and lessened insomnia.
TCM & Acupuncture for Insomnia Get to the Root Cause – No “Band-Aids” for Your Symptoms
Instead of just treating that one symptom, a TCM practitioner / acupuncturist will determine the root cause of your insomnia or other sleep issues. After a thorough dialogue examining your particular condition and overall health to better understand the cause, they work with you in partnership to restore balance to your body. They also help to bring attention to the habits that are detrimental to our sleep to create an actionable plan, so that you are empowered in your wellness.
A licensed acupuncturist and TCM practitioner will take into consideration your appetite, thirst, mood, tongue color, and the quality of your pulse. This allows acupuncturists to customize your treatment regimen that is the best fit for your lifestyle.
There is no need to struggle any longer with the symptoms of sleep deprivation – brain fog, weight gain, moodiness, fatigue, high blood pressure, and all those other concerns reducing your quality of life. There is plenty of scientific evidence to show that acupuncture and herbs can improve the quality of your sleep, as well as the side effects of insomnia and other sleep issues. I suggest working with an experienced Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner who is licensed in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to help you soundly sleep and restore your health overall.
Updated September 18, 2017