Insomnia is the most common sleep complaint encountered in clinical practice, whereby 70% of the population has suffered from it at least one point in their lives. Although insomnia is a common sleep complaint, it is often not a single disorder. It can often be a symptom of another problem. In order to best treat your insomnia, you need to figure out why you’re experiencing it.
These are useful questions to ask yourself:
What kind of stress is in your life right now? Can you manage it better? How are your eating habits? Do you often eat heavy meals late, say within an hour of going to bed? Do you drink too much caffeine throughout the day? Or consume an excess of sugar? There are many lifestyle factors you alone can address and change without relying on sleep specialists or using prescription medications. The bonus is that these adjustments won’t just benefit your sleep -you will feel better all round and enjoy a greater sense of well-being in general.
Sometimes, however, you can need a little help addressing what the problem is that underpins your sleeping problems. You may have never thought of using acupuncture before, but a 2008 research study found that acupuncture was as effective as the drug zolpidem (sold under the brand names of Ambien, tilnox, and Sublinox). In that study, participants were either given one acupuncture treatment per week or 10 mg of zolpidem per night. “Researchers found both groups improved over time at a similar rate,” said a summary of the study. “Results suggest that acupuncture may be an effective therapy for insomnia.”
Can’t I Just Take Pills?
The most common “treatment” for insomnia is, unfortunately, medication – not just sleep aids but also benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants. Sedatives and oral hypnotics are also utilized heavily, but the down side to those is that they have high abuse potential and can be addicting.
The tricyclic antidepressants can have debilitating and undesirable effects too, such as dry mouth, orthostatic hypotension (dramatically decreased blood pressure upon standing or standing too quickly), urinary retention or heart arrhythmias.
If research shows acupuncture is just as effective as sleep medication, it certainly seems more appealing to utilize the benefits it can offer you without withstanding side effects such as those listed above.
A Different Approach
In very basic acupuncture terms, the way we can look at insomnia is this:
The Yang energy circulates through the Yang areas of your body during the day keeping your mind active. At night, this Yang energy should return to the Yin areas of your body, deeper and lower in your body. If the Yang energy stays in the Yang areas of your brain and eyes, these parts will continue to be energized and prevent you from falling asleep leading to insomnia. Of course, there are many different types and causes of insomnia in acupuncture terms – from too much heat in the body, to too little blood – which is why we need to feel your pulse and abdomen to assess different reflex areas and organ balance to determine what is going on for you specifically.
While drugs can have blanket effects on patients, acupuncturists take a much more individualized approach. Acupuncturists take a detailed history, which includes questioning, pulse analysis and abdomen diagnosis, to give a complete picture of the patient as a whole. Even if it is determined that two different patients have insomnia as a result of yin deficiency, their treatments may still be different, depending on each person’s constitution (strength and type of overall body and health) and other factors.
What To Expect
Some people may get their best night’s sleep right after their acupuncture treatment, but several days later, their insomnia could return. This is in indication that you should receive your acupuncture treatment for insomnia more frequently. It can sometimes take several acupuncture treatments per week, for several weeks to fully resolve chronic insomnia. Other people might respond much more quickly. It depends entirely on factors such as how severe the insomnia is, how long you’ve had it, and what other health factors might be at play, i.e. stress, etc.