When worries come crashing in, sleep often becomes the first victim. But acupuncture is here to help – find out how from our acupuncturist Tiffany Black
Do you find it hard to get to sleep, or wake with night sweats?
Is your mind overactive and you wake unrefreshed and fretful?
Acupuncture is here to help – to soothe your troubled mind and promote good sleep.
Importance of Sleep
This is a time of year when we desperately need our sleep. In Chinese medicine, winter is a time when we should be going within ourselves, increasing rest and conserving our fragile energy. If sleep is disturbed, we become more deficient and more susceptible to infection. In his excellent book Why We Sleep, Matthew Walker explains that there are numerous ways poor sleep negatively impacts our health. He also shows the clear linear relationship that exists between infection and the quantity of sleep an individual gets (Prather et al, 2015).
Thankfully, there is now a body of evidence to support what Chinese medicine has known for centuries – that acupuncture is an effective treatment for insomnia and disturbed sleep (Yu Feng et al, 2011; Sok et al, 2003; Montakab, 1999).
How Can Acupuncture Help?
In Chinese Medicine, very fine needles are inserted into the skin at specific points to tap into a person’s Qi. Qi can be thought of as a person’s energy or life force, which according to Chinese medics runs throughout our body in channels.
Acupuncturists work on the premise that when Qi does not flow freely through the body disharmony and disease arises. The insertion of the needles encourages Qi to flow thereby restoring balance.
In Western medicine, it is believed that the needles stimulate sensory nerves under the skin and in the muscles, which results in the body producing natural substances, such as pain-relieving endorphins. It is likely that these naturally-released substances are responsible for the beneficial effects experienced with acupuncture.
Calming the Mind
When I treat patients for sleep issues, one of my primary treatment principles is to calm the mind. In the west, we are afflicted by having too much Qi in the head. Smart phones, punishing schedules, sedentary lifestyles, endless demands on our time and attention, as well as poor bedtime routines mean we are often too much in our heads and not rooted in our bodies.
One of my favourite acupuncture points to use is Yintang, which sits between the eyebrows. The needle is gently inserted in a downward direction to encourage the Qi to literally descend out of the head. It is the acupuncturist’s equivalent to a chill pill, and we use it for when a patient’s mind is unsettled, agitated, and busy.
Another point I use regularly is Anmian, or Peaceful Sleep, located near the earlobe. It is a superb point for anchoring the Shen (as the mind/spirit is known in Chinese medicine). It is wonderfully calming and promotes good sleep. I use it for treating both restless and interrupted sleep as well as for nightmares and excessive dreaming.
In other instances, calming points also need to be combined with heat clearing points. For some patients, excessive internal heat has accumulated which at night agitates the mind and body leading to hectic dreams, tossing and turning and even night sweats and hot flushes. In these instances, I use points that are known to clear excess heat from the body so equilibrium can be restored.
So, if any of this rings true with you, instead of reaching for another coffee to get you through the day why not book an appointment now and experience the calming affect acupuncture may have on your life to sooth a troubled mind and promote good sleep.
- Montakab, H. (1999) ‘Acupuncture and insomnia’, Forschende Komplementarmedizin, vol 6, no 1, pp29-31
- Prather, A., Janicki-Deverts, D., Hall, M. H., and Cohen, S. (2015) ‘Behaviourally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold’, Sleep, vol 38, no 9, pp1353–59.
- Sok, S.R.; Erlen, J.A., Kwuy Bun Kim, (2003) Effects of acupuncture therapy on insomnia, JAIN, School of Nursing, Pitsburgh
- Walker, M. (2017) Why We Sleep: The Science of Sleep and Dreams, Penguin Random House, London
- Yu FENG, Xin-yu WANG, Shao-dan LI, Yin ZHANG, Hai-ming WANG, Min LI, Ke CAO, Yu-fei YE, Zhao ZHANG. (2011) ‘Clinical Research of Acupuncture on Malignant Tumor Patients for Improving Depression and Sleep Quality’, Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, vol 31, no 3, pp199-202