Sleep is a very crucial part of life. It provides rest, relaxation and rejuvenation for the body and mind, and is also involved in hormone regulation, stress management, detoxification and many more vital functions for the person to be at optimal health. Whenever someone has problems with sleep quality and/or quantity, it can drastically affect many aspects of health.
Some general statistics (1):
- 1 in 7 Canadians (aged 15 and older) have insomnia (issues falling asleep or staying asleep)
- Insomnia is linked to chronic diseases, stress and many conditions with pain
- A 2002 Canadian Community Health Survey found that over 20% of Canadians with asthma, arthritis or rheumatism, back problems or diabetes reported insomnia, whereas only about 12% of those without these issues reported any sleeping issues
- Insomnia also increases with age, with about 10% of people reporting this aged 15 to 24, and almost 20% for people aged 75 or older
Thus, although there are many factors that cannot be changed, like age, sex, etc., there are many factors that can be modified including diet and lifestyle habits. Many natural therapies are also available to help with sleep, one of which includes acupuncture. Acupuncture works by promoting the body’s ability to self heal through stimulation of specific acupuncture points (acupoints) and this is most commonly done through the insertion of fine sterile needles into these points.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is the concept of 2 forces called yin and yang and everything has these forces including the human body. When these forces are in balance, the body is generally healthy. There is also this concept of energy or “qi” that flows through meridians or pathways in the body and this flow of energy helps keep yin and yang in balance. When the energy or “qi” is blocked, the disruption can lead to health concerns, pain, sleep problems, etc. With acupuncture, the stimulation of certain acupoints in the body will help balance the flow of energy in the body to promote the balance of yin and yang and bring the body back into alignment and health. Looking at all aspects of someone’s health to determine what is off balance will help determine the best treatment plan to take. From a western perspective, acupuncture stimulates many complex pathways and signals that lead to changes in certain neurotransmitters, which help promote sleep and relaxation.
Some examples of scientific studies include:
– A preliminary report in 2004 found that in patients with anxiety, acupuncture increased total sleep time and nighttime melatonin production. Patients who received acupuncture were less stressed, less aroused at night and also fell asleep faster. (2)
– A systemic review of randomized controlled trials in 2009 also found that acupuncture appears to be effective in the treatment of insomnia. However, more large scale and better-designed studies are still warranted. (3)
Overall, acupuncture has been shown to help reduce stress, relieve pain and calm the mind, all of which are common concerns for people in getting good sleep. Thus, although research is still limited in many areas, clinically, acupuncture has shown tremendous benefits for sleep quality and insomnia.
- Statistics Canada. 2002 study on Insomnia. 2005.
- Spence DW, Kayumov L, Chen A, Lowe A, Jain U, Katzman MA, Shen J, Perelman B, Shapiro CM. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2004 Winter;16(1):19-28.
- Huijuan Cao, Xingfang Pan, Hua Li, Jianping Liu. Acupuncture for Treatment of Insomnia: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. J Altern Complement Med. 2009 November; 15(11): 1171–1186. doi: 10.1089/acm.2009.0041.
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