Can Acupuncture Help Insomnia?
Insomnia is defined as having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. Getting insufficient sleep can leave you feeling groggy and irritable. For the 10% of the US population that suffers from chronic insomnia, lack of sleep, can have far more detrimental effects such as increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. Insomnia is now an epidemic and treating insomnia is critical to both quality of life and long term health. There are a variety of medications on the market to help insomniacs out. Many of the medications are habit forming, have serious side effects such as long term cognitive impairment, sleep walking and even sleep eating! Additionally, many sleep medications leave people feeling groggy and hungover the next day, making it difficult to focus. For those of you who are looking for a safe and effective alternative to sleep medications, acupuncture is a wonderful treatment option to consider.
Acupuncture has a lot to offer people suffering from all types of insomnia. In Chinese medicine there are several underlying imbalances that could result in difficulties with sleep. For instance, a person that has trouble falling asleep and a person who has trouble sleeping through the night without waking would likely be given a different Chinese medicine diagnosis and receive very different treatments even though they both have insomnia. Chinese medicine is based on a system of 12 organs that all have a corresponding energetic channel called a meridian. Disharmony in the heart, liver and kidney organs/meridians are some of the common imbalances that result in insomnia.
In an acupuncture visit, Dr. Bokman will discuss the specifics of your insomnia. She will also look at your tongue and feel your pulse to help determine the underlying imbalance that is contributing to your insomnia. Once a diagnosis is made, Dr. Bokman selects specific acupuncture points to restore balance to your system. Dr. Bokman will recommend the potent combination of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to improve your sleep. Chinese herbs can have a profound effect and works synergistically with acupuncture visits. Dr. Bokman prescribes personalized Chinese herbal formulas to accommodate the unique needs of each patient.
This is an example of two cases of insomnia that are treated very differently with Chinese medicine based on the pattern each patient presents with:
Sue is a 48 year old woman in perimenopause, came to NaturoMedica with the complaint of waking frequently throughout the night with hot flashes. She was diagnosed with a kidney yin deficiency (based on her symptoms, a “thread” and rapid quality to her pulse and bright red tongue with little coating) and prescribed a Chinese herbal formula called Liu Wei Di Huang Wan (Six Ingredient Pill with Rehmannia), which works to nourish the kidney yin. She was also received acupuncture treatments once a week for 6 weeks that worked to clear heat and nourish the kidney yin. Sue experienced a steady improvement in the frequency and severity of her night sweats and was soon able to sleep through the night.
Michael, a 21 year old college student, came to the clinic with high levels of stress and anxiety, unable to fall asleep due to a racing mind. It would take Michael 3-4 hours to fall asleep, but once asleep he would sleep through the night. Michael was diagnosed with liver qi stagnation and blood deficiency (based on his symptoms, a “wiry” quality to his pulse and small tongue with significant distension of the veins underneath the tongue. Michael was prescribed the Chinese herbal formula, Xiao Yao San (Relaxed Wandered). After a month of taking Chinese herbs, weekly acupuncture treatments and stress management techniques, Michael’s stress and anxiety reached manageable levels and he was able to fall asleep with ease.
Acupuncture visits are typically very relaxing and patients often fall asleep while on the table. Dr. Bokman recommends that patients struggling with insomnia come in for acupuncture once weekly for 5 weeks initially. Often the frequency of visits can be reduced at that point. At your first acupuncture visit Dr. Bokman may recommend a personalized Chinese herbal formula tailored to the exact needs of your body. Acupuncture works wonderfully in combination with other sleep medications and supplements and many of our patients are able to wean off of them over time.