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Can Acupuncture Help Treat Insomnia?

The body’s energy flows through 12 meridians of the body which are linked to eternal organs and emotions. A disturbance of Shen, which is the energy of the emotional body, is caused by too much of any emotion as it can affect the relating meridian. If the Shen is affected it can cause you to wake up easily, prevent the dream like sleep (REM sleep) and keep you from falling asleep. Nervousness and aggression is triggered by the overproduction of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can be caused by sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep leads to poor job performance, impaired judgement and serious accidents when driving or operating machinery.

The different types of insomnia are difficulty falling asleep, waking up and unable to get back to sleep right away, waking up very early in the morning and cannot return back to sleep, disruptive sleep and inability to sleep.

Treatment for insomnia will depend on the duration as well as the nature of presenting symptoms. Signs and symptoms to look out for are:

  • Not feeling refreshed after sleep
  • Cannot sleep even though you’re tired
  • Feeling drowsy during the day
  • Fatigue
  • Irritable
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Decreased ability to perform normal activities
  • Anxious when bedtime approaches
  • Tension headaches

Causes of insomnia, may include:

  • Abusing substances- such as caffeine, alcohol, drugs, or certain prescriptions, such as stimulants.
  • Disruption of circadian rhythms- shift work, travel across time zones, or vision loss.
  • Menopause- may be due to hot flashes, night sweats, anxiety, or fluctuations in hormone levels.
  • Hormonal changes during menstrual cycles- may occur during menstruation. Sleep improves mid-cycle during ovulation.
  • Advanced age- biological changes associated with aging, underlying conditions and side effects from medications.
  • Medical conditions- such as chronic pain syndromes, heart disease, arthritis, ADHD, obstructed sleep apnea, acid reflux.
  • Psychiatric and neurologic conditions- such as anxiety, depression, manic depressive disorder, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, restless legs syndrome, post-traumatic stress disorder and more.
  • Medications- decongestants, bronchodilators, beta-blockers, etc.
  • Excessive computer work- too much mental stimulation close to bedtime.
  • Partners who snore- unpredictable noises can prevent you from falling asleep or cause you to wake up in the middle of the night.

Acupuncture is beneficial for insomnia as it increases melatonin secretion, increases cerebral blood flow, reduces sympathetic nervous system activity (which increases relaxation), regulates levels or neurotransmitters such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine (this helps increase relaxation and reduces tension).

The acupuncturist will work to unravel stress and put your internal energies back into balance helping you calm down. The needles are inserted into specific points of the body that are known to stimulate nerves and muscles, increase blood flow and help ease pain. You may experience a dull ache, heaviness, distension, tingling, or an electrical sensation either around the needle or travelling up and down the affected meridian. It is common to feel relaxed during your session and you may even fall asleep. Acupuncture will promote physical and emotional well-being. Insomnia symptoms are not cured with one visit. You may need multiple visits for the acupuncturist to find the root of your insomnia.

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