Insomnia can be caused by everything from stress to a medical condition. The prolonged sleep deprivation it brings takes a heavy toll physically, mentally, and emotionally. Acupuncture has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries to treat many conditions, including insomnia.
The Detrimental Effects of Insomnia
There are two basic types of insomnia—primary and secondary. People who have primary insomnia do not have any other health condition related to their sleep troubles. Those with secondary insomnia experience sleep problems because of another condition such as depression, arthritis, cancer, or medication.
Insomnia symptoms include:
Difficulty falling asleep at night
Trouble staying asleep or wakefulness during the night
Waking too early without the ability to fall asleep again
General tiredness throughout the day despite being in bed a full seven hours
These symptoms are normal in small amounts. However, if you start feeling like you can’t function because you’re too tired, you might be dealing with insomnia. Without treatment, the sleep deprivation associated with insomnia can lead to:
High blood pressure
Changes in appetite
Unwanted weight gain
As difficult as insomnia can be to deal with, there are effective ways to help you fall and stay asleep using natural methods.
Acupuncture as Insomnia Treatment
Acupuncture works on several levels to treat insomnia. The first factor in the equation begins with stress reduction. A stress response releases the hormones adrenaline and cortisol into the body. A study published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry Clinical Neuroscience found that acupuncture reduced anxiety, which in turn reduces stress and improves the number of hours participants slept.
While reducing the stress-producing anxiety was one part of the equation, the study also showed the second factor in the equation—the release of melatonin. Melatonin is a sleep hormone that’s vital to the onset of sleep and continues to be released throughout the night. Participants in the same study showed higher than normal levels of melatonin, which increased the amount of sleep they got.
Acupuncture also works well when used with other natural insomnia treatments. When used in conjunction with herbal remedies, acupuncture and herbs together improved sleep more than acupuncture or herbs alone.
Improve Your Sleep Hygiene
Good sleep hygiene is a vital part of your efforts to treat insomnia. Sleep hygiene is all the habits and behaviors in your life that contribute to the quantity and quality of your sleep. It also includes the conditions of your sleep environment. For example, if you’re sharing a mattress, you might want to be sure that it isolates the motion of your partner if he or she moves.
The habits that make a big difference in your ability to fall asleep might surprise you.
Consistent Wake-Up Time (and Bedtime): The human body loves a routine. A consistent wake-up time and bedtime help your brain learn your sleep-wake pattern so that it can release sleep hormones at the same time every day.
Balanced, Healthy Diet: The food you eat can directly affect your ability to fall asleep. Late night meals full of high-fat food can interrupt cause discomfort that disrupts your sleep cycle. Try to eat an early, light dinner. If you’re hungry before bed, try foods that promote melatonin production like cheese, yogurt, or bananas.
Bedtime Routine: Bedtime routines signal the brain that it’s time to sleep while allowing you to release tension and stress before bed.
No Screens: Televisions and other electronic devices can give off a bright blue light that suppresses the release of melatonin. Turn them off at least two hours before bed to stay on your sleep schedule.