How do we ‘Treat’ Sleep with Acupuncture?
Thich Nhat Hanh famously said, “Breathe in deeply to bring your mind home to your body.” That’s because the way we breathe can have a profound impact on our mind, body and soul. Equally, there are other important factors which impact the quality of shut-eye you get each night, including diet, exercise, stress levels and other environmental causes. It’s a well-known fact that the amount of sleep we get is intrinsically linked to our mental and physical wellbeing. Sleeping not only helps to repair and restore our brain, not just our body.
It's safe to say that insufficient sleep in the short term can leave you feeling tired, run down and impact your concentration levels and decision-making. Also, not enough sleep can also lead to heart disease, weight gain, poor immunity and impact fertility. Ultimately, consistently poor sleep puts us at risk of serious medical conditions and shortens life expectancy. It’s safe to say that sleep is paramount to good health.
How can acupuncture help sleep?
An acupuncturist will assess the most common symptoms seen in sleep disturbances from a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective. It’s important to understand why you are having difficulties in the first place. During our assessment we explore possible causes such as pain, stress, menopausal symptoms, depression, constitutional imbalance or whether you’re a light sleeper and we just generally examine any patterns in a person’s sleep behaviour. This gives us the clues we need to decide which organ imbalances are present on an energetic level. Trained in TCM, our acupuncturists will then know where the imbalance is and which acupuncture points to treat to help the sleep return to a normal pattern.
Here at Treat our acupuncturists always assess the following symptoms in a person who has a sleep disharmony:
- Difficulty to get off to sleep
- Difficulty staying asleep
- Difficulty sleeping alone
- Light sleeping
- Vivid dreams/nightmares
- Waking up in the early hours and not able to get back off
- Waking up several times to urinate
- Waking up feeling hot or irritable
- Waking with bloating and abdominal discomfort
- Waking up in pain
- Waking up with palpitations and anxiety
- Waking up with fear
- Waking with sadness and or grief
We then diagnose the patterns of disharmony (the TCM syndromes), which in acupuncture includes other intricate forms of investigation. Part of this individual assessment includes Traditional Chinese Medicine Pulse and Tongue diagnosis, an approach which has been used for thousands of years to give information about the internal balance of the body.
After we’ve done this, we’ll also take into consideration the information you’ve shared with us about your lifestyle and symptoms. We’ll then choose specific points that relate to your unique patterns, which will help with certain functions to help the individual reason for sleep related concerns.
For example, the acupuncture point called ‘Heart 7’ (Chinese name: Shen Men), located at the wrist, helps people get off to sleep by calming the mind – ‘Shen’ incidentally means ‘mind’. We are also trained to assess and give lifestyle advice as well, and where needed, we can give advice on sleep hygiene related to your patterns.
Compelling Research on Acupuncture and Sleep
We see first-hand just how well acupuncture can help people with sleep. We’ve included a couple of patient testimonials below:
“I was amazed with how well I slept after just one session. It was as though I just needed my system to be fine-tuned, to bring my parasympathetic back. It worked!” (Leah)
“A superb, mellow chill-out session! I’d never had needles before and I was a wee nervous, I felt fantastic and will sleep well tonight!” (Rupert)
“A very calm and relaxed experience. There is no need to fear the needles it is very comfortable and actually quite a nice sensation.” (Robyn)
Acupuncture and Menopause
But don’t just take our clients’ word for it, there has also been lots of positive research within a wide variety of areas, including how acupuncture improves sleep through menopause. In fact, acupuncture has been associated in offering a significant reduction in symptoms in women experiencing menopause-related sleep disturbances. The study from Taiwan identified 31 trials involving a total of 2,433 participants and the results showed that acupuncture led to a significant reduction in the likelihood of sleep disturbances*.
Acupuncture also increases melatonin and improves sleep in pregnancy and can significantly improve sleep quality in pregnant women, possibly through increasing melatonin secretion. In a trial, women received ten treatment sessions over a three-week period. At the end of the study period, treatment with acupuncture was shown to significantly improve sleep scores and also raise serum levels of melatonin metabolites.**
Treating Depression with Acupuncture
Lastly, there’s also been some compelling research that shows how acupuncture (or more specifically electro-acupuncture) improves sleep for those with depression. In a study, 90 depression patients with insomnia received treatment three times weekly for eight consecutive weeks. There were improvement in sleep scores and an improvement in depression and anxiety scores as well as sleep efficiency, sleep awakening times and total sleep time.***
Acupuncture truly does have that ability to manage specific complaints as well as aid general relaxation. Don’t take our word for it, give it a go and see for yourself. Like many of our clients, we know you’ll experience the benefits first hand.
Treat is a Norwich-based Health & Wellbeing Clinic. Founder and acupuncturist - Rebecca Geanty started Norwich Acupuncture Rooms in 2011. Offering a cross section of therapies and a community multi-bed clinic. Norwich Acupuncture Rooms expanded into Treat in 2016 and was located at Capitol House in Norwich. In January 2022, Rebecca and her business partner David, renovated the Dyers Arm pub on Lawson Road, NR3. Today Treat therapists offer over 50 different health and wellbeing therapies, beauty and spa services.
*Taiwan Research: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26855097/
***Depression and Sleep: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32765146/