As an estimate, anywhere from 30-50% of the general population suffer from insomnia. It refers to the partial or complete loss of sleep. Whether it is difficulty in falling asleep, waking during the night, waking too early in the morning, sleeping restlessly or having dream disturbed sleep. As a result it can cause:
- daytime fatigue
- mood changes
- poor attention and concentration
In a systematic review of over 46 randomised controlled trials involving over 3800 patients, acupuncture had shown to be more effective than no treatment or sham acupuncture. From a Western bio-medical perspective acupuncture can increase the amount of Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA). GABA is what’s known as a neurotransmitter inhibitor, meaning it stops the nerves cells from communicating which allows for a better sleep.
On the other hand, from a Chinese Medicine perspective there are many factors to what can cause poor sleep, a correct diagnosis is key. The following is a list of important questions that can help determine the cause of insomnia for an acupuncturist.
- What is the quality of the sleep?
- Do you have difficulty falling asleep?
- Do you fall asleep easily, but constantly wake up?
- Do you have dream disturbed sleep?
- Do you wake up feeling refreshed?
These questions then help to form a diagnosis which in TCM have to do with a deficiency in blood and qi and imbalances in multiple organs such as the Heart, Liver, Spleen and Kidneys. In addition to the questions above an acupuncturist will also ask about stress levels, mood/emotions, work environment, diet, energy and temperature levels. The tongue and pulse are also observed to confirm the diagnosis.
Specific points along the body are chosen according to the organ pathology. Auricular therapy is often used where points on the ear can be needled and/or ear magnets attached so that acupressure can be applied in between appointments to help calm the mind and close the eyes for better sleep. Such as Shenmen or Shenmai (Bl62), they can be stimulated with the fingers for a few minutes before going to bed.
If you suffer from insomnia please consider getting a consultation along with a few treatments from an acupuncturist, it can do wonders to regulate the body’s system for better sleep.