The other night, I fell into a deep sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow. I went to bed before 10 p.m., and didn’t wake up once throughout the night. When I woke up around 5:30 a.m., I felt refreshed and ready to begin my day. There’s nothing better than a good night’s sleep.
It’s unfortunate, but most Americans aren’t as lucky. How often do you find yourself waking up feeling completely refreshed? Nearly half our population experiences sleep problems. It takes many people at least a half hour to fall asleep, while countless others wake up several times throughout the night.
Many need a shower in the morning to help energize them before starting their day. In fact, insomnia and other sleep problems affect about 60 million people at any given time. And good sleep health affects all aspects of our overall health. In fact, sleep problems may seem miniscule at first glance, but they can cause other more serious health problems in the long run.
Fall Asleep with Acupuncture
What’s my secret to such a great night’s sleep? Well, it’s not a sleeping pill or invasive medical treatment—although it does involve a few needles. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is the oldest and most common medical procedure around the world: acupuncture.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, sleep problems stem from insufficient energy, also called qi. This arises from energy imbalances with your organs—especially the kidneys and heart. Quality sleep is important to help your organs rejuvenate and maintain your body’s qi for the next day. Acupuncture involves the insertion of various needles at certain meridians or channels of the body through which your qi flows.
Insomnia is closely associated with irritation, anxiety, and depression. Once the acupuncture points are stimulated from the needles, emotional and physical blockages in the body can easily be removed. As a result, acupuncture increases certain substances in the brain, especially the top sleep promoter: serotonin.
Improved Sleep Quality in the Elderly
Research also supports the sleep benefits of acupuncture in the elderly. In a six-week study published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging in 2013, researchers found that acupuncture improved the quality of sleep and total sleep time in elderly dementia patients. A meta-analysis review of randomized controlled trials also showed that acupuncture is effective for insomnia. The review involved 3,811 patients from 46 studies. Acupuncture treatment outperformed no treatment, as well as sham acupuncture (sham acupuncture is used as a control in studies, with needles inserted in areas not considered to be effective acupuncture points).
Other Types of Acupuncture
Studies also promote insomnia reduction with auricular acupuncture. This type of acupuncture specializes in placing needles at various points in the ear. Electro-acupuncture uses needles with a mild electric current, which can also improve sleep quality in insomnia patients. Acupuncture or acupressure treatment is most effective for sleep health when done late in the day, so that it directly promotes better quality sleep at the most useful time.
There are other traditional Chinese medicine methods for better sleep as well, including qigong, tai chi, mediation, and the Chinese massage therapy technique tui na. Incorporating herbs into your diet can also help increase sleep rates. Ginkgo biloba, schizandra fruit, or the Chinese herbal formula liu wei di huang are possible herbal remedies to improve sleep.
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Sources for Today’s Article:
Balch, J., et al., Prescription for Natural Cures: A Self-Care Guide for Treating Health Problems with Natural Remedies Including Diet, Nutrition, Supplements, and Other Holistic Methods (Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2004), 361, 678-679.
Kwok, T., et al., “The effectiveness of acupuncture on the sleep quality of elderly with dementia; a within-subjects trial,” Clinical Interventions in Aging, 2013; 9:923-929, doi: 10.2147/CIA.S45611.
Cao, H., et al., “Acupuncture for treatment of insomnia: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials,” Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, November 2009; 15(11): 1171-86, doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0041.
“Insomnia,” University of Maryland Medical Center web site; http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/insomnia, last accessed March 16, 2015.
“Acupuncture for Insomnia Sleep Disorders,” Pacific College of Oriental Medicine web site; http://www.pacificcollege.edu/acupuncture-massage-news/articles/458-acupuncture-for-insomnia-sleep-disorders.html, last accessed March 16, 2015.