It is estimated that about 6% to 10% of adults deal with insomnia. Up to 40% have insomnia some of the time. Insomnia can involve difficulty falling sleep or problems staying sleeping with a person awakening during the night and having a hard time falling to sleep. If it usually takes you longer than thirty minutes to fall sleep, or you are not able to sleep through the night, it is likely you suffer from insomnia.
The typical side effects of insomnia include daytime sleepiness, increased risk for accidents, lack of ability to concentrate, and poor memory. We need our sleep to solidify the memories of the previous day and without enough sleep, our long term and short term memory suffers. Chronic insomnia has also been linked to increased risks for heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.
How Acupuncture Works
There are prescription medications you can take for sleep but they tend to be addictive and they are only designed for short-term use. One non-drug way of helping you get enough sleep is to try acupuncture, a long time practice of Traditional Chinese Medicine that has been found in modern studies to help a person fall sleep and enjoy higher quality sleep habits.
In acupuncture, thin needles are inserted into particular acupoints on the body. It is believed that these needles, when applied correctly improve the flow of life force energy called “qi.” This in turn results in returning the body to a state of balance that helps heal all ailments, including insomnia so that sleep comes naturally. Modern studies have shown that the use of acupuncture can increase the levels of gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA), which is important in the induction of sleep.
One study gathered information about all the different studies done recently on acupuncture and insomnia. All the participants had insomnia and were randomized to receive no treatment for insomnia or acupuncture for their condition. The researchers looked at the duration of the participants' sleep as well as the quality of sleep using the Pittsburg Sleep Quality Index, the Index of Severity of Insomnia and other quantifiable measures of sleep quality.
The researchers gathered only those articles, which were considered good in terms of how they were laid out in the measure of insomnia and acupuncture. Biases were left out of the evaluation and poor studies were eliminated. It was found that these research studies consistently showed an improvement in sleep quality when acupuncture was used to reverse insomnia. 67 studies took part in the acupuncture and sleep review. The studies showed improvement in sleep in the participants who underwent acupuncture when compared to those who did not undergo acupuncture.
Another study from 2004 found that patients who could not sleep because of anxiety slept better and had higher levels of the sleep-inducing melatonin than people who did not receive acupuncture. Melatonin is the body's natural hormone for getting to sleep and increases in melatonin after acupuncture may be the reason it works for sleep induction.
Still another study showed that people who were otherwise healthy but who suffered from insomnia slept better after receiving acupuncture. Acupuncture decreases the level of pain in the body so that people who can not sleep because of chronic pain can improve their sleep as long as the acupuncture is effective as a pain reliever in their particular condition.
46 randomized trials that involved 3811 patients were evaluated by scientists as reported on the National Institute of Health website:
- The finds reported that acupuncture helps insomnia as compared with no treatment at all. Acupuncture was found to be superior to sleep medications in patients whose sleep increased by as much as three hours. However, no difference was found between acupuncture and medications in average sleep duration.
- Acupuncture along with medications was found to be more effective than medications alone for total sleep duration.
- It was also determined that acupuncture along with herbs was significantly better than herbs alone in increasing sleep rates.
- It was also noted that no serious adverse effects were found with acupuncture treatments.
How To Get Started
So how do you use acupuncture to help sleep? Seek the advice of a good acupuncturist. Many acupuncturists are working out of reputable clinics and you can use their services as well as the services of doctors and nurse practitioners employed by the clinic.
It may take more than one acupuncture treatment, depending on how severe your insomnia is. You can be trained to do acupuncture on yourself as long as you are not squeamish about needles. Acupuncture is completely safe and natural. You should find yourself sleeping better after using the acupuncturist's services.