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Acupuncture for Insomnia

How acupuncture and lifestyle changes can help you sleep well and the overarching affects that has on your health and wellbeing.

Insomnia can manifest in different ways for people. You may not be able to fall asleep, you may wake up frequently throughout the night, your mind may be racing at night, you may feel tired during the day, you may have intense dreams that wake you, or something else that is disturbing your sleep. In any of these situations it can be very frustrating not to sleep well and it can have huge impacts on your daily life, including reduced productivity and focus and emotional instability. A quick fix may be helpful to get your body back on track but in order to have lasting effects, you should consider the deeper issues going on and lifestyle factors that may be contributing to insomnia.

How Acupuncture Can Help

Acupuncture works with your body to create balance. If you are firing at all cylinders all day long, it can be hard for your body to switch into relaxation mode. Or, if you are low energy and resting and relaxing all day, your body can feel stimulated at night when you are supposed to be resting because you did not get enough stimulation during the day. Acupuncture and other lifestyle choices can help you achieve the balance of rest/ relax and high energy (yin and yang).

Insomnia affects your health in many ways

Sleep seems to be a hot subject now as more research has shown sleeps importance in an array of health issues. Just look at WebMD’s page on “10 Things to Hate About Sleep Loss.” Examples of negative affects from sleep loss include, cognitive issues and affects on learning (which can be a huge impact on students that are having insomnia), aggravation of depression, increased aging of skin (those dark circles or puffiness under the eyes are a tell tale sign of insomnia) and, increase in appetite and weight gain (a very interesting new area of study). Read the article here to learn more and see more health issues that are affected by insomnia.

Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is behavioral and environmental recommendations that are very important when it comes to getting a good night sleep. This article on by sleep specialist Dan Pardi delves into lifestyle tips for a great night’s sleep. The tips include, exercising in the morning, having a consistent sleep schedule, creating a dark, cool, and quiet sleep environment, unwinding and clearing your mind before bed, getting appropriate light exposure, eating well (nutritiously) and eating well (2-3+ hours) before bedtime. If you are having sleep issues please check out these tips. One or a combination of them may be the lifestyle choice that helps you get consistently good sleep.

Sleeping Tips According to Chinese Medicine

I recommend that you go to bed before 11pm in order for deep sleep and regeneration to occur. According to the Chinese medicine clock (times at which energy is circulating strongly through certain organs) 11pm starts the time of the Gallbladder and then the Liver. In Chinese medicine, these organs are associated with muscle repair, detoxification, and emotions. It is best to get to bed before this time so you can have peaceful sleep. The clock can also give insight on what may be causing you to wake in the middle of the night, especially if you find yourself waking up around the same time during the night and early morning. An acupuncturist will be able to take that information and relate it to an imbalance in your body and treat it accordingly.

Acupuncture Treatment for Insomnia

No matter what you are being treated for, the quality of sleep is an important marker of your overall health. An acupuncturist asks many questions to develop an understanding of your health and how acupuncture can help you specifically. One of the subjects of importance is sleep. If your sleep is not well, that will be an area of focus for treatment no matter what your main complaint is. Acupuncture is personalized medicine and holistic medicine. There are times when a patient doesn’t mention that they have sleep issues or they think it isn’t an area of concern, and then they come in after treatment and report that they have been sleeping very well and waking up more refreshed. Acupuncture doesn’t just treat the symptoms you are experiencing, it also treats the root cause and the root cause can have many different symptoms, therefore a treatment helps with many different issues.

Research on Acupuncture’s affects on sleep

A clinical trial published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry, found that after 5 weeks of acupuncture treatment patients with insomnia showed an improvement in sleep measures and melatonin secretion (Spence, 2004). Another study found that acupuncture reduced sympathetic hyperactivities in post stroke-onset insomnia (Lee, 2009). It is well known that melatonin is a very important hormone involved in sleep, thus acupuncture’s ability to increase melatonin secretion at night has far reaching implications for it’s affect on helping treat insomnia. As mentioned before, acupuncture helps to balance out the stress and relax dynamic. Most of us are in a constant state of stress, so the results that acupuncture reduces sympathetic nervous system hyperactivities shows how it does relax the body and mind, enabling one to sleep better.

Nutrition and Sleep

What and when you eat can have an influence on your sleep. It is recommended to eat at least 2-3 hours before going to bed, so that you can digest before lying down. Eating too close to bedtime can lead to acid reflux and inhibit quality sleep (read more about acid reflux at night on WebMD). Eating healthy throughout the day can have an impact on many different things including sleep. The following foods are helpful to calm the mind according to Chinese medicine and can be introduced into the diet to help with sleep. Mushrooms, mulberries, dill, basil, and lemons help to calm the mind. Cucumber, celery, lettuce, and celery juice help to strengthen nerves and heart tissue. Chamomile tea is also calming. Magnesium is also important and can be found in green leafy vegetables (Pitchford,1993 ). It is well known that caffeine can impact sleep, so limit your caffeine intake to the morning. Alcohol before bed can also impair the quality of your sleep. Read more about alcohol use and sleep on Another food that inhibits good sleep is sugar. Interestingly enough, a lack of sleep can inhibit our ability to make healthy food choices. Read more about sugar and sleep on Readers Digest best health and their interview with nutritionists and dietitians.

Now is the time to start addressing what may be impacting your sleep and working with a licensed acupuncturist to help improve sleep.

All the best,

Kearney DeFillipo L.Ac., Dipl. Ac.


Lee, et al. Intradermal Acupuncture… The American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 2009.

Spence, et al. Acupuncture Increases Nocturnal Melatonin… The Journal of Neuropsychiatry. 2004.

Pitchford, Paul. Healing with Whole Foods. 1993.

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