Insomnia and Acupuncture: A Safe and Effective Treatment
Sleeplessness is one of the most common complaints I hear from my patients. According to the National Sleep Foundation, two-thirds of Americans suffer from some sort of sleep disturbance. We all have occasional insomnia, but more chronic sleep problems need to be addressed as soon as possible. The quality and amount of sleep we get determines how well many other bodily systems perform, including cognitive function, immune, hormonal, digestion and our ability to maintain healthy weight. Some of the most important work of the body, such as tissue repair and clearing toxins, occurs while we sleep.
Study after study has shown that acupuncture yields excellent results for treating insomnia whether it manifests as the inability to fall asleep, frequent waking or waking early. The inability to get a good night’s sleep is often a symptom of other issues, such as stress and anxiety, physical pain and hot flashes experienced by peri-menopausal and menopausal women. Chinese medicine treats the whole person and addresses the underlying cause of your insomnia while focusing on your individual symptoms. Once the underlying cause is addressed, your body will naturally reset itself.
In the last ten years, the use of sleeping pills such as Ambien and Tylenol PM has more than doubled in the United States. The problem with using these aids is that they are habit forming and not meant for long-term use. Moreover, due to the effect they have on the body’s biological sleep processes, these types of drugs often have a rebound effect and cause chronic insomnia.
A Call to Listen to the Body
Because insomnia is often a symptom of other issues, it is our body’s way of asking us to pay attention to it. Many of us experience sleeplessness as a part of the aging process, and strategies to deal with sleeplessness that worked for us in the past, may not work for us now. Each of us must be willing to adjust our lifestyle to fit our changing body.
Before the invention of the light bulb in 1876, people slept about ten hours a night. Today, most people live on six or seven hours. The advent of electricity, while it definitely has its pluses, has deeply affected our innate biological rhythms that regulate the hormones that determine our sleep patterns. Going to bed at sunset is not practical for most of us; however, doing things like turning off the computer and dimming the lights a couple of hours before bedtime will give the body a chance to decrease cortisol levels and release the sleep hormone melatonin. Given that our world is set up to keep us perpetually “plugged in,” we have to actively do things to settle the body and quiet the mind.
Effects of Stress on Sleep
Poorly managed stress is a main cause of insomnia. Chronic stress keeps high levels of the hormone cortisol circulating in the blood stream. The harmful effects of excess cortisol are numerous and include a rise in the hormone responsible for hunger called ghrelin while at the same time decreasing the hormone that controls whether we feel full after we eat known as leptin. Other factors that contribute to high cortisol levels are poor nutrition and uncontrolled insulin levels.
Acupuncture Assists the Body in Clearing Excess Cortisol
Elevated cortisol keeps us awake and it also decreases the production of the hormone DHEA, which is necessary to balance and produce other hormones of the endocrine system such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. DHEA is needed for numerous biological functions including maintaining muscle mass, keeping our joints fluid, elevating our mood, and a strong immune system. As you can see, the ability to keep cortisol levels in balance is vital to our quality of life.
While cortisol is a useful and necessary hormone in the right amount, too much adversely affects the central nervous system (CNS) and keeps the body in a fight or flight mode. Acupuncture can reestablish balance and assist the body in clearing excess cortisol. Often patients fall asleep during treatment and even those who do not fall asleep experience a feeling of relaxation and calm.
Acupuncture and other Chinese modalities, such as herbs and massage, can greatly improve your sleep patterns by calming your central nervous system and addressing the factors causing the sleep disturbance.
Please call or text Thia at Singing Crane Acupuncture with any questions or for further information at 503-233-2549.