Insomnia and Acupuncture
We are all different, but in general adults under the age of 70 need between 7 and 9 hours sleep a night. Insufficient sleep can make us feel tired and irritable and adversely affect our concentration during the day.
There are different kinds of Insomnia:
• Difficulty falling asleep (sleep-onset insomnia) - the most common type
• Waking up in the night and not being able to get back to sleep
• Waking up too early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep
• Not feeling refreshed after sleep
Causes of Insomnia. Almost everyone has problems sleeping at some point in their lives. There are many possible causes:
• During or after stressful situations such as money or work worries, or death of a loved one.
• Psychological problems e.g. anxiety, panic disorder or PTSD, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder
• Underlying physical problems such as IBS, fibromyalgia, arthritis, hyperactive thyroid, respiratory or urinary problems, chronic pain.
• Use and misuse of drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and recreational drugs or medicines
Treatments for Insomnia
The first step in treating insomnia is to determine the underlying cause. For short term insomnia your GP will advise you on good sleep habits and, if lack of sleep is severely affecting you during the day, prescribe you a short course of sleeping pills. Sleeping pills can help provide relief from the symptoms in the short term but do not address the underlying cause. If you have long-tern insomnia, cognitive behavioural therapy may also be recommended.
Acupuncture for Insomnia
In recent acupuncture clinical research trials, acupuncture appears to be at least as effective as existing conventional drugs without the side effects and should be considered as one of the therapeutic options for insomnia.
Acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system, influencing the production of the body’s communication substances, such as hormones and neuro-transmitters. These influence the body’s self regulating homeostatic mechanisms and stimulate the body’s own natural healing abilities – thereby promoting physical and emotional wellbeing. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points on the body has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain which is responsible for insomnia and anxiety.
Specifically, acupuncture is believed to benefit those with insomnia by:
• Stimulating production of melatonin, a hormone believed to help regulate sleep
• Stimulating endorphin production
• Increasing blood flow to the brain to optimise normal functioning
• Reducing sympathetic nervous activity (our ‘fight and flight’ response to stress) and thus increasing relaxation
• Regulating levels of neuro-transmitters in the brain which affect the brain’s mood chemistry and thus increase relaxation and reduce
Many of my patients report that they sleep better after acupuncture treatment. Subsequently they feel less tired and more energised. For those suffering from insomnia, acupuncture can help provide the impetus to help develop positive sleep patterns. Patients say this can make a huge difference to their quality of life. Following an intensive programme of acupuncture for chronic insomnia over a period of weeks, one of my patients went to for a regular check up with his GP for long term hypertension and weight problems. He discovered that both his blood pressure and weight had come down significantly. They were both amazed at the results.
Judy Bowen-Jones Lic Ac BSc MBAcC
British Acupuncture Council 2011
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NHS Choices 2011
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