Acupuncture has become popular to treat various health conditions like stress, allergies, asthma, and insomnia. People prefer it due to its safety and avoidance of drug-related side effects. So, how can acupuncture help you treat insomnia? Read on and learn how the ancient Chinese treatment method can help you treat insomnia.

Highlights of Insomnia

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that makes it difficult for people to fall asleep or stay asleep. People with this condition are usually fatigued when they wake up from sleeping. According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), it is the most common type of sleep disorder. Doctors diagnose insomnia if the following apply:

  • When you fail to sleep at least three nights a week for a minimum of three months

  • Experiencing sleep difficulties that create a major functional difficulty or distress in a person's life

The above symptoms characterize short-term insomnia. However, some people might manifest insomnia in different ways, which falls under the following categories:

  • Sleep-onset Insomnia: This refers to difficulty falling asleep. This type of insomnia is common with people who have difficulty relaxing in bed and people with irregular circadian rhythms.

  • Sleep Maintenance Insomnia: This refers to the difficulty of staying awake after nodding off. This kind of insomnia is common among elderly sleepers and people who consume caffeine, alcohol, or tobacco before bed. In addition, certain disorders like periodic limb movement disorder and sleep apnea can also cause this type of insomnia.

  • Some people can also experience mixed insomnia that involves sleep maintenance and sleep-onset insomnia. This is common with people with chronic insomnia.

Symptoms of Insomnia

Insomnia is usually associated with disrupted sleep. However, it can lead to other issues such as:

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms

  • Daytime sleepiness or fatigue

  • Low motivation or energy

  • A lack of coordination, leading to accidents or errors

  • Poor focus and concentration

  • Using medication to fall asleep

  • Difficulty working, studying, or socializing

  • Tension headaches

Causes of Insomnia

The cause of insomnia depends on the type of sleepiness that you experience. It can either be short-term insomnia or acute insomnia. Here are some of the causes of insomnia that you should know about.

  1. Stress

Stress is an emotional feeling or physical tension. It occurs when an event makes you feel nervous, angry, or frustrated. It usually occurs when your body is reacting to a challenge or a demand. Stress can cause your nervous system to release hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones raise your heart rate, which leads to blood circulation to vital muscles and organs more efficiently. This phenomenon keeps your body alert, which ends up depriving you of sleep.

  1. Traumatic or Upsetting Event

Traumatic events can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a condition characterized by involuntary and recurrent memories of a traumatic event. These types of memories occur as flashbacks during the day and nightmares at night. These disruptions, especially nightmares, can lead to non-refreshing or disrupted sleep.

When it comes to the relationship between post-traumatic disorder and insomnia, an estimated nine people out of ten suffering from PTSD have insomnia. This usually occurs due to hyperarousal, in which the affected person is unable to relax. PTSD can also lead to maladaptive sleep behaviors like substance abuse or daytime napping.

  1. Change of Your Sleeping Habits

People learn their sleep patterns during their childhood. Sleeping patterns become a habit when they are repeated over time. You can develop insomnia if you change your sleeping habit. For instance, if you sleep in a new home or a hotel, this change of sleeping habits can lead to insomnia.

  1. Physical Pain

Patients with chronic pain have been reported to remain awake during the night. This issue is common with people with chronic lower back pain, especially intense micro arousal. Micro arousal is a change of sleep state to a lighter stage per hour leading to awakening.

Physical pain is often the cause of a non-restorative sleep condition like insomnia. Those with chronic pain usually experience less deep sleep, less efficient sleep, and awakening at night.

  1. Travel or Work Schedule

Traveling or hectic work schedules can disrupt your body's circadian rhythms. Some of the factors associated with this include jet lag, traveling across multiple time zones, frequent shifts, and working early or late.

  1. Poor Sleeping Habits

Poor sleeping habits include naps, engaging in stimulating activities before going to bed, irregular bedtime schedule, naps, using your bed as a workstation, among others. You can also experience poor sleeping habits if you are used to watching TV, playing video games, spending too much time on your smartphone, or using your computer before sleeping.

  1. Overeating or Eating Late in the Evening

Having a snack before bedtime is okay, but eating too much may make you uncomfortable while you lie down. In addition, many people experience backflow of acid, heartburn, and reflux of food into the esophagus, leading to temporary insomnia.

  1. Medication

Many prescription drugs interfere with sleep, especially certain medications for blood pressure, asthma, and antidepressants. In addition, many over-the-counter medications like allergy and cold medications and weight loss products contain stimulants like caffeine, disrupting your sleep. Certain pain medications are also associated with insomnia.

  1. Medical Conditions

Medical conditions associated with insomnia include heart disease, asthma, chronic pain, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, overactive thyroid, and gastroesophageal reflux disease(GERD).

  1. Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine

Stimulants like cola, tea, or coffee are known to be major causes of insomnia. Drinking tea late in the evening or afternoon can keep you from falling asleep during the night. Apart from that, nicotine in tobacco products is another stimulant that can lead to insomnia.

Alcohol can make you fall asleep, but it can prevent you from attaining deep sleep, which awakens you in the middle of the night.

How Acupuncture Can Help in Treating Insomnia

Acupuncture is a form of treatment that involves inserting needles through patients' skins at specific points of their bodies at various depths. Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese treatment method that has been existing for almost 3,000 years.

Traditional Chinese medicine explains that the harmonious balance of the "yin" and "yang" of life force leads to a healthy life. This life force is called "qi," although it's pronounced as "chi." Qi is known to flow through pathways or meridians in the human body. These meridians are accessible through 350 acupuncture points in your body.

From a biological perspective, acupuncture is thought to be a neuromodulator. Therefore, it works as a means to tone down your brain's perception of sensory signals and pain.

In a typical treatment of insomnia using acupuncture, the doctor will first diagnose to determine the exact cause of your condition. They will then develop a treatment program to help you regulate and create a balance in your body. Your doctor can also recommend that you use certain supplements and herbals regularly. Some of the herbs that your acupuncturist might recommend to you include honey, dried longan, chamomile tea, jujube, and lingzhi mushrooms.

Some of these herbs can help nourish your organs and nerves and have muscle-relaxing properties that help you sleep more easily. Traditional treatment of insomnia involves using small needles to access specific points of your body that correspond to your symptoms. The doctor will leave the needles in place for twenty to forty minutes.

Acupuncturists usually recommend the treatment two to three times every week for a total of ten sessions, which works as one course of treatment. Your treatment may vary depending on the severity of your insomnia. Patients with chronic insomnia might require more than one course of treatment, while those with temporary insomnia might require less than ten sessions.

Patients who are taking sleeping pills should not stop their medication without consulting a doctor. In most cases, the doctor will gradually reduce your dosage depending on your response to the acupuncture treatment.

How Acupuncture Benefit Insomnia

Acupuncture has been existing for centuries. Research has shown that several mechanisms contribute to these effects. These effects are as follows:

  • Increase the level of melatonin secretion. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates your sleep cycles.

  • Increase in nitric oxide content, which helps in promoting the normal functioning of the brain. This helps in relaxing the mind and improvement of your sleep.

  • Increasing your blood flow, which relaxes your body and mind, which improves your sleep quality.

  • Reducing your sympathetic nervous system activities. The sympathetic nervous system is the fight to flight response which calms down the body and increases your level of relaxation.

  • Regulating your levels of neurotransmitters or modulators like dopamine, noradrenaline, serotonin, neuropeptide, and GABA.

Recommendations and Prevention of Insomnia Treatment Using Acupuncture

Once you're through with the acupuncture treatment course for your insomnia, your doctor will give you several recommendations and prevention measures that you should follow through. These recommendations and preventions are as follows:

  • Refraining from using your mobile devices or television before you sleep.

  • Avoid sleeping during the day.

  • Avoid eating heavy meals or food that's difficult to digest before you sleep.

  • If you can't sleep, you can engage in light or calming activities like reading, listening to music, and meditation.

  • Avoid drinking caffeinated tea, soft drinks, or coffee.

  • Exercise regularly, but don't exercise before you sleep.

Safety Concerns Associated with Insomnia Acupuncture Treatment

Acupuncture treatment is a relatively safe treatment process. However, there have been reports of minor adverse treatment, which are manageable. Some of these safety concerns are as follows:

  1. The Risk of Injuries

There are chances of injuries to the vital nerves and structures. However, it's rare among patients treated by trained practitioners.

  1. Risk of Bleeding and Injuries

There are rare chances of bleeding and injuries associated with acupuncture treatment. Practitioners have tried to reduce this risk by using a non-inserted needling process which involves bringing the needle to the skin and tapping it along the meridians. Some of the notable acupuncture practices that use this technique include Toyohari and Shonishin.

  1. Risk of Infection

Acupuncture treatment laws require the needle used to be disposable, sterile, and used once. This reduces the chances of infections like Hepatitis B and C and HIV.

  1. Minor Risks

Some of the other risks associated with acupuncture treatment include bleeding, dizziness, fainting, and bruising. Patients can also experience altered sensations over the point of application and increased pain.

  1. Risk Related to Omission of Traditional Care

The omission of traditional and allopathic care leads to irregular preliminary diagnosis or treatment of a particular condition. That's why most acupuncturists prefer using this treatment method as a complementary therapy rather than an alternative therapy.

Risk Factors Associated with Insomnia

Many people have occasionally experienced insomnia in their life. However, the following people will experience insomnia much greater than others:

  1. Women

The hormonal shifts during the menstrual cycle and in menopause play a significant role in insomnia. Women undergoing menopause experience hot flashes and night sweats, which often disrupt their sleep. Insomnia is also common with pregnant pregnancy.

  1. You're Aged Above Sixty

People above sixty years usually experience a change in their sleep patterns and health. Therefore, there are possibilities of increasing insomnia with age.

  1. You have a Physical or Health Disorder

Many issues that affect your physical and mental health can disrupt your sleep, leading to severe insomnia if it lasts for a long time.

  1. You Don't Maintain a Regular Schedule

When you are frequently changing your work or travel schedule, you can disrupt your sleep-wake cycle.

Insomnia by the Numbers

According to several studies and surveys related to insomnia, there have been different results about the prevalence of insomnia across different age groups and both genders. For example, some studies show that 10% to 30% of adults are experiencing chronic insomnia, although other studies suggest that close to 50% to 60% suffer from chronic insomnia.

Studies have also shown that insomnia affects 30% to 80% of older people. This may be associated with their chronic medical conditions, higher usage of prescription medication, social isolation, and factors like stress that's common with people in this age group. In addition, up to 24% of teenagers experience chronic insomnia, while more than 50% of pregnant women show insomnia symptoms.

Find the Best Acupuncturist Near Me

Acupuncture has been considered a safe insomnia treatment method. If you are looking for a reliable acupuncture clinic, Trinity Acupuncture is here to help. We are committed to providing the best acupuncture treatment to all our clients seeking insomnia therapy in Torrance, CA, and its surrounding area. For more information, feel free to call us at 310-371-1777 and schedule an appointment.