Can acupuncture help me to sleep better?
One of the most common problems that GPs and complementary therapists like me come across each year is sleeplessness that eventually begins to have a negative impact on day to day life. So, can acupuncture help people to sleep better? The answer is yes, it can.
But before we look at exactly how acupuncture can aid better sleep, it’s worth taking a look at typical causes of poor sleep and the different types of sleep disorder that people commonly experience.
What causes poor sleep?
Obviously, some sleep issues are down to environmental issues like extremes in noise and temperature, which can be controlled to some extent.
Other common causes of poor sleep may be traced back to lifestyle issues. For example, drinking alcohol and/or high-caffeine drinks just before bed have been scientifically proven to disrupt the body’s natural daily waking and sleeping patterns.
The same is true of the artificial blue light generated by tablets and phones. Natural blue daytime light is essential to our sleep-wake cycle, helping to keep us awake and alert during the day. Screens replicate this light, inhibiting the body’s production of the natural sleep-inducing chemical melatonin.
But if you’ve ruled out environmental and lifestyle causes, there’s a chance that your poor sleep may be down to stress or anxiety or, in the worst cases, depression.
Acupuncture is very effective in helping to reduce stress and anxiety, which is part of why it’s a complementary therapy that works well in restoring balance to our natural sleep-wake cycle.
If you think ongoing depression might be at the root of the problem, then it’s probably a good idea to speak to your GP about it before looking into alternative options that may be available to you.
Other common causes include illness and also menopause, for which insomnia is a known symptom.
Different sleep issues affect you differently
There are several different types of sleeplessness and in working out the best way to use acupuncture to combat the problem, it’s useful to understand which type is affecting your ability to get good quality rest.
Waking early after just a few hours of sleep is a different problem to not being able to get to sleep, for example. Early waking is typically stress- or anxiety-related, whilst the inability to fall asleep is more often associated with mental hyperactivity – what’s known as ‘analytical brain’.
There are also different types of acute or chronic sleep issues, including but not limited to narcolepsy, insomnia, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnoea.
By identifying the type of sleeplessness, you may be experiencing, we are able to tailor your acupuncture sessions to be as effective as possible.
How does acupuncture help achieve better sleep?
Acupuncture works by painlessly placing superfine needles under the skin to stimulate the body’s natural energy. By targeting particular areas of the body for the insertion of the needles, acupuncture can help to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress.
Acupuncture is also known to help increase the body’s production of melatonin, promote relaxation by naturally altering the brain’s chemistry, which in turn reduces what’s known as sympathetic nervous system activity (we know this as stress).
One of the advantages of acupuncture as an alternative approach to dealing with your sleep problem is that it is entirely complementary, meaning it works together with any treatment or medication you may be receiving from your GP.
Everyone knows how frustrating it is to suffer from poor sleep. Apart from anything else, it can lead to poor general health, but it also makes us less effective in the other areas of our life that require our energy and concentration.
Once you’ve identified that you have an ongoing sleep problem, it’s important to seek help for it as quickly as possible, since the longer it goes on, the more ingrained the problem is and the longer it can take to resolve.
If you’d like to learn more about how acupuncture can help you to get better rest and improve your general health and happiness, please get in touch – we’d love to hear from you.