The medical definition of insomnia is “a persistent disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, hard to stay asleep or both, despite the opportunity for adequate sleep. With insomnia, you usually awaken feeling unrefreshed, which takes a toll on your ability to function during the day.”
Acupuncture and Sleep
Your initial visit to an acupuncturist will involved a detailed look at your health, medical history and lifestyle. A variety of questions are asked to determine the root cause of your problem. The core of Traditional Chinese Medicine TCM) is the holistic approach, stimulating the body’s natural healing systems to restore equilibrium. Most patients describe a feeling of deep relaxation and calm during and after an acupuncture session and often report sleeping more soundly that night.
Chinese medicine and acupuncture have been used to remedy sleep for thousands of years. TCM recognises the proper flow of Qi of the body to be influential in healthy sleep. The focus is on the underlying issues causing sleep disturbances such as pain, stress and anxiety or night sweats and work to eliminate these issues.
An ancient Chinese physician, Zhang Jing-Yue, wrote: “Sleep is yin and ruled by the spirit. If the spirit is quiet there will be sleep. If the spirit is not quiet there is no sleep.” TCM theory begins with the theory of yin yang. Most basically, Yang is associated with day, activity and wakeful hours. Yin is associated with night, stillness and sleep. The spirit, or ‘Shen’ in Chinese, is a combination of the heart and mind; the two are inseparable in Chinese medicine.
Practitioners of Chinese Medicine focus on sleep problems by taking into consideration your overall balance of mind, body, and spirit. The condition may be remedied using acupuncture, herbal remedies, diet and lifestyle changes, and relaxation techniques. Treatment is tailored to meet your individual needs and often depends on the underlying cause of the insomnia. A proper diagnosis is key to successfully aiding insomnia, which may be caused by a number of factors including physical strain, mental and emotional stress, or improper diet. All these things must be examined in the patient’s life and adjusted to increase their state of balance. This is different for each person and tailored to meet their individual needs.
Western science has recognised acupuncture’s effects on insomnia and attributes it to the natural release of melatonin and dopamine with acupuncture.
Acupuncture works by:
- Reducing sympathetic nervous system activity, hence increasing relaxation
- regulating levels of neurotransmitters (or their modulators) such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA and neuropeptide ; hence altering the brains’s mood chemistry to help to increase relaxation.
If you are suffering from insomnia you can start by working to eliminate stress and worry from your life. Acupuncture can help you begin to do this by identifying factors that trigger these emotions and take steps to reduce these triggers. Chinese medicine practitioners can also help you manage and reduce your emotional stress and reduce your dependence on stimulants like smoking, alcohol, coffee or tea, all of which can affect your sleeping patterns.Mind and body practises can further reduce stress and regulate the flow of blood throughout the body. For example: tai chi, qigong, and meditation.
Colette Assor Lic AcMBAcC runs Acupuncture Works Clinic.