Yesterday somebody asked me if acupuncture for insomnia has been proven effective, so I checked a meta-analysis, and quickly reviewed “insomnia”.
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep and/or the inability to remain asleep, with non-restorative sleep lasting for a month or more.
Anyone who’s experienced insomnia understands how this can affect their quality of life, their ability to work efficiently and safely, to concentrate, and to enjoy life and relationships without feeling irritable, frustrated and exhausted.
There are different reasons why people have insomnia, and there are different types of insomnia. Medical doctors understand that insomnia may be a “primary” or “secondary” condition, with the International Classification of Sleep Disorders listing more than 100 differential diagnoses of the condition.(1)
Acupuncture – as part of a comprehensive treatment approach which can include medical care, counselling, cognitive behaviour therapy, a nightly bedtime routine or ritual, nutrition and lifestyle changes – may help some people to fall asleep faster, or to sleep longer, or to sleep with fewer awakenings during the night.(2)
As yet, the exact mechanism of action for acupuncture is unknown, but many acupuncture studies have shown that various biological responses may occur in the nervous system. In 2012 it was found that more research is needed to fully understand acupuncture’s efficacy for this condition.(3)
Acupuncturists who practice Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) know that there can be many factors contributing to insomnia.
An in-depth consultation at your first visit helps both you and your acupuncturist understand why you have insomnia.
A TCM pattern of disharmony is identified – according to the nature of your Yin, Yang, Qi and Blood – and a course of treatment will be suggested, tailored to your unique needs.
The language of TCM is quite poetic, and insomnia can be summarised as “Spirit not settled”.
As TCM is a holistic therapy, acupuncturists can also help you with lifestyle and nutritional guidance and support. Many of us are also qualified to prescribe herbal medicines for your specific pattern of disharmony.
One of my areas of special interest is helping women through menopause transition, when sleep, exhaustion and hot flushes can become a vicious cycle. For most women, a reduction in the number and intensity of hot flushes and better quality sleep go hand-in-hand, and acupuncture may help with this.
Cautions and Care: If you or someone you know is suffering from a condition which causes concern, please see your primary health practitioner. This blog is for information and educational purposes, and is not a substitute for the assessment and care of an appropriately qualified health professional.
1,2,3: Cheuk DKL, Yeung WF, Chung KF, Wong V. Acupuncture for insomnia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 9. Art. No.: CD005472. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD005472.pub3.
The image: You can read a little more about this series of works by the sculptor Louise Bourgeois here