Last updated on May 14th, 2018
Many people overlook non-Western treatments when it comes to sleep problems. But the ancient Chinese practise of acupuncture has used to treat insomnia for thousands of years.
Tossing and turning at night is a bigger problem than you might think. An estimated 30-50% of Americans are believed to suffer from some form of insomnia. Struggling to sleep at night is not only frustrating, but it can also expose you to different health problems down the line. In a more immediate sense, lacking sleep can cause stress, ruin your concentration, and increase irritability.
Sleeping pills seem to be the solution that most people turn to for their insomniac problems. Unfortunately, many sleeping medications can have side effects of their own. They also do nothing to correct the actual issues causing a person’s insomnia.
Experts disagree on a universal way to treat insomnia due to the various ailments that can cause it. Insomnia can stem from psychological issues, stress, aches and pains gained throughout the day, and plenty of other issues.
How acupuncture can help you sleep
Many times, it’s difficult to pinpoint the true cause of a person’s insomnia. Luckily, there’s a treatment for insomnia that can positively affect many of the most common symptoms – acupuncture.
It can sound intimidating for those who aren’t well versed in acupuncture. The National Health Interview Survey found out that only 7% of Americans have been to an acupuncture session; that means an overwhelming majority of people are missing out on a natural solution to sleeping more soundly.
What is acupuncture?
Acupuncture draws its origins from an ancient Chinese medical philosophy to balance qi and to make sure it flows unhindered within the body. While this belief might not hold up in Western medicine, it’s still a theory that’s impressively close to the truth considering acupuncture’s ability to aid the body in achieving homeostasis.
How many times have you seen a person rub their temples or pinch the bridge of their nose? We all seem to have an instinctual knowledge of pressure points within the body.
You can also find information on certain places to press to achieve things like relieving stress or a headache. These pressure points are places on the body where nerves are more tightly packed together. Acupuncture uses this knowledge to manipulate the nervous system.
The benefits of acupuncture
Directly stimulating the nervous system influences many other systems of the body. It can be an intense experience that improves blood flow while reducing pain and inflammation within the body.
Stress is considered one of the more common causes of insomnia. Acupuncture works to relieve stress and tension by stimulating nerves in such a direct way. It allows the nerves and surrounding muscles to relax afterwards and allows a person to relax their stress in much the same way.
Inserting needles into different parts of the body also signals the brain to begin the production of endorphins. Encephalin and norepinephrine – both produced in an acupuncture session – act as natural painkillers.
The combination of painkillers and the reduction of tension allows a person to truly relax. Studies show that acupuncture increases blood flow as well; the combination of a relaxed body and the ability to move blood more effectively gives the body a chance to heal.
All of these things matter when it comes to sleeping more soundly. Stress and pain are very common symptoms of insomnia. However, there’s another major way that acupuncture helps to induce sleep.
Melatonin is the body’s chemical that allows you to feel drowsy and lulls you to sleep. Acupuncture increases the body’s natural production of melatonin. By relieving pain, stress, and increasing your body’s own functions to induce sleep, acupuncture can have a major effect in sleeping easily at night.
Acupressure for sleep
If you still aren’t fond of needles, acupressure uses the same science to influence the body as acupuncture. It’s a less intense form of stimulation, but using acupressure for sleep might be a more convenient variation that you can experiment with.
Pressure points for sleep
According to Chinese medicine, there are several points on the body that can have an influence on your sleep problems. These include the Vital Diaphragm, The Spirit Gate, Gall Bladder and Kidney pressure points to name a few. This diagram below illustrates the most common acupressure points for sleep and insomnia disorders.
If you’re struggling with sleep – and surveys say that you’re not alone – acupuncture might be an excellent way to help you improve your sleep. However, you need to find a qualified acupuncturist who understand how the process works.
Trust is important for this sort of practice; there’s no need to jump in head-first if you’re going to be tense and uncomfortable throughout the entire procedure. But if you’ll allow yourself the chance to give acupuncture a try and keep your mind open, you might just be surprised at how it can help you sleep.
Alex Briggs is a contributing author for Sleep Masters.