Acupuncture for Insomnia
Difficulty with sleep is a problem millions of North Americans face every day. Although numerous causes exist, perhaps the primary issue behind insomnia and restless sleep is the overly-busy lifestyle that many people lead. Modern society is focused on the energy of "doing" much more than on "being."
In Traditional Chinese Medical theory, this equates to having a deficient Yin aspect in one's life. As a quick primer on the theory of Yin and Yang, these are the two polar forces that appear in all aspects of the natural world. Yin corresponds to stillness, tranquillity, and contemplation. Yang is related to movement, accomplishment, and function. In order for true health and well-being to occur, Yin and Yang need to be in balance within one's self. When Yin is depleted, Yang becomes dominant and it is then easy to become restless, irritable, and excessively busy. Experiencing deep states of continuous sleep turns into a challenge as the body and mind are no longer able to rest or restore themselves.
Another way to view this issue is that the sympathetic nervous system is stuck on overdrive. Trying to maintain busy schedules and varied responsibilities, people become stressed and get locked into fight or flight mode. Excessive amounts of cortisol and adrenaline are pumped into the system to keep the body "going and doing" but preventing it from resting properly. When stuck in fight or flight, it sometimes becomes difficult to even notice when one is tired. Feeling wired or manic may occur at times. Then, with little warning, heavy exhaustion may set in, penetrating deep into one's bones.
This pattern of Yin deficiency and an overtaxed sympathetic nervous system will often cause feelings of heat, thirst, dryness, and anxiety or irritability. Though people of all ages and health backgrounds get insomnia, menopausal women commonly experience this pattern due to a combination of lifestyle pressures and hormone imbalances.
Today, people will turn to sleep medications, hormone replacement therapy, or anti-depressants out of desperation for a restful night. Unfortunately, drugging oneself to sleep often causes excessive grogginess. Additionally, drugs only mask the problem and often include the risk of dependence if a natural, non-medicated sleep pattern is not achieved.
Fortunately, natural treatments like acupuncture and Chinese herbs offer an excellent alternative for overcoming insomnia. These methods help restore balance to the sympathetic nervous system and naturally induce healthy states of sleep. Or, as acupuncture theory states, the treatment balances the Yin and Yang and flow of qi in the body to promote a proper rhythm of activity and rest. Regardless of theory, acupuncture and Chinese herbs will always provide a gentle and effective treatment for insomnia. By combining these time-tested techniques with simple diet and lifestyle modifications, one can bring their body back to a natural state of balance....and finally get a truly good night's sleep!
Articles and Research
Acupuncture for Treatment of Insomnia; a systematic review of randomized controlled trials: NIH
Acupuncture increases nocturnal melatonin secretion and reduces insomnia and anxiety: Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience
If you would like to learn more about acupuncture and discuss your specific health situation, please phone 403.455.0880. Dr. Wegmann will be happy to answer your questions.
Mitch Wegmann is a registered acupuncturist and doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He owns and operates Calgary Acupuncture Centre in the city's southwest quadrant, near the Marda Loop district.