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 for 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 affects daytime activities and functions. Being the most common sleep complaint in the U.S., long-term and chronic insomnia affects about 10 – 34% of the population. This means it’s a virtual epidemic in the U.S. In the year 2005, pharmaceuticals decided to put an end to sleeplessness by investing $300 million in the 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 problem does not appear to have gotten any better.

Symptoms of Insomnia

Symptoms of insomnia include fatigue during the day and sleepiness, feeble concentration, anxiety, forgetfulness, irritability, low energy levels, depression, difficulty in falling and staying asleep, increased number of mistakes and excessively worrying about sleeping. Many experience that these symptoms interfere with their performance at work and personal relationships. Chronic insomnia sufferers also have an increased risk of experiencing automobile accidents as compared to individuals who simply are fatigued.

Short-term Insomnia

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.

Long-term 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
  • Medications and illegal 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 another treatment options for insomnia due to the side effects and/or fear of being addicted to the 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 different patterns have been identified that cause insomnia. In a study conducted on rats in Georgetown University School of Nursing and Health Studies, it was found that stress hormone levels were lower in rats that received acupuncture. With stress being ruled as the main cause behind insomnia, reducing stress levels by means of acupuncture will fix the main culprit 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 researches confirmed 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 eradication of pain, stress, and tension, the major causes of insomnia are eliminated. 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 sleep problem. Even though the duration and protocol of the treatment is customized to an individual’s current conditions, usually a patient receives 2 units in 1 treatment session receiving 10 – 20 hypoallergenic acupuncture needles for each unit. 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 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.