Acupuncture for Insomnia
Insomnia is a very common condition that affects millions of people every day, or more likely, every night. In fact, sleep problem is one of the top reasons people seek acupuncture treatment.
Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up unusually early and not being able to go back to sleep. Insomnia also influences daytime activities and functions. Being one of the most common sleep disorders in the U.S., chronic and long-term insomnia impacts about 10 to 34 percent of the population. This means it’s a virtual epidemic in the U.S.
In 2005, pharmaceuticals decided to put an end to sleeplessness by investing $300 million in research and development. That resulted in $2 billion in sales, a record of 43 million prescriptions for sleeping pills, and people swallowing tons of pills for a decade, and yet the issue does not appear to have gotten any better..
Symptoms of Insomnia
The symptoms of insomnia include fatigue, sleepiness, poor concentration, anxiety, and forgetfulness. These symptoms interfere with their performance at work and personal relationships. Chronic Insomnia sufferers also have an increased risk of automobile accidents compared to individuals who simply are fatigued.
Insomnia can be a debilitating condition, characterized by difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, or both. While there are many known causes of insomnia, such as stress and anxiety, there are also a number of less common causes..
Short-term insomnia, lasting less than 3 months, is associated with stresses on the body that may be caused by:
- Any stressful event
- Pain, surgeries, illnesses
- Alterations in sleeping patterns or environment
- Addictions or use of stimulants such as coffee or medications
- Withdrawals from certain medications, drugs, alcohol, or other stimulating substances
Once the stress factor is taken care of, short-term insomnia can be resolved. Situations such as jet lag or new job shifts can disrupt a person’s sleep pattern and can cause insomnia.
On the other hand, long-term insomnia lasts longer than 3 months and afflicts patients at least three times per week. The conditions that often accompany long-term insomnia are:
- Illnesses causing pain, breathing difficulties, stress
- Problems affecting mental health, PTS disorder, depression, and anxiety
- Neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
- Irregular sleeping patterns
- Some medications, prescription, and recreational drugs
- Other disorders that may affect sleep adversely like circadian rhythm disorders, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea, and periodic limb movement
Alternative Options for Insomnia
More and more patients are looking for alternative treatment options for insomnia due to the side effects and/or fear of being addicted to sleeping pills. According to the National Health Interview Survey of 2002, out of 31,000 U.S. adults who reported suffering from insomnia, 4.5% of the participants said they would try alternative medicines or therapies including acupuncture.
The good news is that all types of insomnia have been treated successfully with acupuncture. In Oriental Medicine, several patterns have been identified that cause insomnia. In a study conducted on rats in Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies, the stress hormone levels were lower in rats that received acupuncture. With stress being the main cause of insomnia, reducing stress levels with acupuncture will fix one of the main problems for poor sleep.
Acupuncture as Efficient Treatment Option for Insomnia
There’s a growing number of scientific researches presented to attest to the efficacy of acupuncture to treat insomnia. For instance, a meta-analysis of 46 randomly picked studies confirms that acupuncture does help sleep.
The Asian Journal of Psychiatry published an article that reported acupuncture just as effective as the sedative drug Ambien (zolpidem) in its ability to diminish sleeplessness without any side effects, specifically in women and elderly patients.
Unlike sleeping pills, acupuncture does not cause chest pains, depression, blurred vision, increased heartbeat, breathing issues and is not addictive. Additionally, acupuncture works to regulate the release of neurotransmitters and hormones such as endorphin, serotonin, melatonin, and others that are involved in sleep regulation.
With the reduction of pain, stress, and tension, the major causes of insomnia are solved. What this all means is that acupuncture restores the body’s balance and strengthens its ability to heal itself. When the tension and pain are removed, you eliminate much of what’s causing the sleep problem.
The duration, number of sessions, and treatment protocol are customized based on an individual’s conditions. Often patients receive moxibustion as well to enhance the action of acupuncture. Acupuncture points are selected based on where the energy blockage occurred and other underlying health concerns that may contribute to insomnia. There’s almost no pain since the needles are very thin, sterile, and penetrate only the top layer of skin.
Typically, insomnia patients take a treatment once or twice a week for 5 to 10 weeks, then taper off to once in 2 weeks to 1 month. Some patients feel the difference with just 2, 3 treatments, while others may need the full cycle to feel the relief. Herbs may be used in addition to acupuncture if progress is too slow.
With the stress of our daily lives taking its toll on our minds and emotional health, sleep is a luxury afforded by few. For natural, effective, and safe treatment for your disrupted sleep, acupuncture might just be the best option. Do not hesitate to contact us to find out how acupuncture can lead you to the right path for more peaceful nights.