If you can’t sleep in some capacity through the night, you may have a form of insomnia. You may have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep or both, or you may wake early before your alarm, unable to fall back to sleep. According to Chinese medicine, all of these different forms of sleeplessness point to a deeper, underlying imbalance that needs to be addressed so that you can get a normal night’s sleep. If you are someone who suffers from any degree of insomnia, acupuncture and Chinese medicine may be able to help.
How does Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine Treat Insomnia?
In order to treat insomnia, Chinese medicine looks at 3 specific aspects of your health:
- The problem pattern of sleep
- Your emotional health and the effects of stress
- The condition of your physical health.
Knowing these things gives your acupuncturist important information about the root of your insomnia—the underlying condition which may be causing or contributing to the problem. An “underlying condition” can be anything from daily stress to habitual, pent-up or unresolved emotions; it can also be a pattern of pain and discomfort while sleeping; it can be a result of menopause or aging; it can even be a problem rooted in your digestion. The point is, in Chinese medicine, if your health is suffering in another area, your sleep will reflect that problem. Once these factors are identified, treatments simultaneously address the root condition and the problem pattern of sleep so a normal sleep cycle can quickly be restored.
In a small study published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry, 18 patients suffering from anxiety and insomnia were treated with acupuncture twice a week for five weeks. One week before and after treatment, they were given tests to determine changes in melatonin, sleep quality, total time spent asleep and other variables. One week following completion of treatment, sleep efficiency and nighttime melatonin levels had increased.
Are Chinese Herbs Helpful?
Chinese herbal therapy is an important tool in the treatment of insomnia. Herbs work on a daily basis to help improve quality and duration of sleep, reduce dream disturbed sleep and help you to feel refreshed upon waking. Unlike conventional medicines, Chinese herbs are not tranquilizing or sedating, so you are able to get a good night’s sleep without any side effects such as grogginess or fatigue. Herbs are taken 2 to 3 times a day, the last dose usually at bedtime. Prescriptions will be different for each patient, but in general they contain herbs that help calm the mind, relax the body and also address the underlying condition that is contributing to the pattern of insomnia. Herbs can be taken whether or not you are taking prescription medication, including sleeping pills.
What Other Tools will I be Given to Assist Me in Treatment?
If you aren’t all ready practicing healthy bed-time habits, your acupuncturist will advise of ways to create a routine that is more conducive to a good night’s sleep. You may also receive advice about vitamin and mineral supplements and dietary changes that could positively affect your sleep.