Acupuncture for Insomnia
Most people have experienced occasional insomnia but for some, it is a nightly occurrence. This is a major issue as being unable to sleep on a regular basis can lead to a variety of health problems.
Besides leading to short-term tiredness, irritability, and difficulty concentrating, insomnia can increase the risk of accidents during the day. Furthermore, scientists have now linked it with chronic inflammation, the root cause of a whole range of serious conditions.
Clearly, insomnia should not be ignored. But what can you do about it besides taking strong and potentially addictive medicines? Fortunately, there are many different natural remedies for insomnia too. One of these is acupuncture.
So, how does acupuncture for insomnia work? Let’s take a look.
What Causes Insomnia in Chinese Medicine?
There are many different causes of insomnia. Stress, depression, and anxiety are all common culprits. However, there are also many physical problems that can lead to insomnia. Pain, digestive or bladder problems, and conditions like sleep apnea can all make it difficult to get a good night’s rest. For some people, there is no obvious cause, making it difficult to find an effective treatment.
This is where Chinese medicine can be useful as it views the body in a unique way that is very different from western medicine. According to Chinese medicine, one of the most important organs for sleep is the Heart. The Heart is the seat of the emotions and houses the spirit, also known as shen.
When the Heart is healthy, the emotions are well-regulated, the shen is calm, and sleep is peaceful and refreshing. However, if the Heart becomes imbalanced, this can lead to problems. These problems include mood disorders, difficulty sleeping, and in some cases, nightmares or disturbing dreams.
Unfortunately, there is a lot that can go wrong with the Heart. It can easily become depleted of qi, blood, yin, or yang. The two most likely to cause insomnia are Heart-yin deficiency and Heart-blood deficiency.
Heart-yin deficiency is very common in our modern world. It arises from constant stress and worry coupled with inadequate rest. Heart-blood deficiency may have very similar causes. However, the latter may also be a result of blood loss or lack of nutrition.
Acupuncture for Insomnia
Luckily, acupuncture could benefit insomnia is several ways. It can help to nourish blood and yin when they have become deficient, and restore a sense of balance to an unwell Heart.
In biomedical terms, acupuncture for insomnia appears to work in the following ways:
- Reducing activity in the sympathetic nervous system to enhance relaxation
- Regulating the release of helpful neurotransmitters such as endorphins and serotonin
- Boosting production of melatonin (the hormone that makes you sleepy)
One of the most significant benefits of acupuncture for insomnia is that it is safe as well as effective. It does not cause dangerous side effects like some medications, and can be used by people of all ages. Even pregnant women can use acupuncture to improve their sleep.
Finally, getting an acupuncture treatment is an opportunity to take time out of your busy day and simply switch off for a while. This in itself can help to reduce stress, one of the primary causes of insomnia.
Acupressure for Insomnia
In addition to acupuncture, there are also a few effective acupressure points for insomnia that you can try at home:
Heart 7 – Spirit Gate
This is one of the best points for nourishing the Heart to relieve stress, anxiety, and insomnia.
You can find it on the inner wrist crease, in line with the little finger. Use the thumb of the opposite hand to massage these points in small circles for 1–2 minutes each side while taking some deep, calming breaths. The best time to do this is in the evening before you go to bed.
An Mian – Peaceful Sleep
This is an ‘extra’ point that does not belong to a specific organ. Instead, its sole use is to calm the mind and aid restful sleep.
You will find this point on the back of the neck, just behind the ear. To locate it correctly, find the large hollow directly behind your ear lobe and the one at the base of your skull. This point is midway between the two. Use your thumbs or index fingers to gently press and massage the points on both sides for 1–2 minutes before bed.
Yin Tang – Seal Hall
This is another extra point that is fantastic for calming the mind, relieving anxiety, and helping you to drift off naturally.
You can find this point between the two inner ends of the eyebrows, on the midline of the face. Use the thumb of one hand to gently but firmly press the point for 1–2 minutes, then release.
Tips to Support Your Acupuncture Treatment for Insomnia
To maximize the effects of your acupuncture for insomnia, you can also make a few simple lifestyle changes that should help.
Rest and Exercise at the Right Time
Firstly, it is important to rest and relax in the evenings to prepare yourself for sleep. Choose calming activities such as reading a book and try to avoid too much screen time before bed. Looking at electronic screens at night can disrupt your melatonin release, meaning you don’t feel as tired as you should.
However, it is equally important to get enough exercise during the day to ensure that you are sufficiently tired by bedtime. Exercising outdoors is best as the daylight will help your body to settle into its natural sleep-wake cycle.
Eat a Light Evening Meal
You should also try not to eat too much too late. Doing this will mean that your body is trying to digest food while you should be sleeping. This could lead to discomfort and digestive issues as well as causing insomnia. Similarly, avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other stimulants to ensure a good night’s rest.
Eat More Foods to Nourish the Heart and Blood
Try to eat a healthy and nutritious diet on a daily basis. This will mean that your blood is well-nourished and your Heart remains balanced.
Some of the best foods for nourishing the blood include those that are high in protein and iron. These include leafy greens, eggs, poultry, and meat. You can also try to eat more red foods which will act directly on the Heart; beets, berries, cherries, and kidney beans are all good choices.
Try a Foot Soak
Soaking your feet in warm water for 10–20 minutes can help to draw excessive energy down from your head. This should help to instil a sense of calm before bed. Try adding a few drops of lavender or geranium oil to enhance these relaxing effects.
If you adopt these healthy habits, you will greatly enhance the effects of your acupuncture for insomnia and increase your chances of getting the rest you need.