By Steve Goodman
In today’s fast paced stressed-out world insomnia and sleep disorders are on the increase. The proverbial good night’s sleep seems more elusive than ever. So many people are facing so many sleepless nights, and yet they fear the side effects and addictive nature of sleep medications – as well they should.
TCM recognizes the importance of adequate sleep for physical, psychological and spiritual well being. Traditional Chinese Medicine sees insomnia as an imbalance of Zang (Heart) functions. Stress and poor diet produce stagnation of Qi, this stagnation of Qi travels as fire to the heart Zang, which is also the repository of the mind and spirit. The damage done by the fire results in insomnia and sleep disorders.1
Acupuncture has been used very effectively by practitioners of TCM to treat insomnia, without any of the side effects of prescription or over-the-counter sleep aids.3 Improved sleep is only one of the benefits reported by people who have used acupuncture to treat insomnia. As in all things TCM acupuncture for insomnia does not just treat a symptom – but attacks the root disharmony in the body causing the condition. Therefore those who use acupuncture for insomnia achieve not only better sleep, but also an overall improvement of physical and mental health.2
Acupuncture, as you know involves the insertion of very fine needles into specific points on the surface of the body. These points lie along the energy conduits, of Qi flow also called the meridians. With acupuncture, the points are stimulated, and flow “unblocked” producing beneficial physical and emotional changes in the body.
Sleep is critical to maintain Qi and a body in harmony. Lack of sleep causes the body to over produce “stress hormones” such as adrenaline and cortisol, which causes people to be nervous and more aggressive. Increased levels of Cortisol due to chronic stress is also linked to high blood pressure, suppressed immune system and weight gain.5 Not enough sleep leads to poor job performance, impaired judgment, and serous accidents when driving or operating machinery.
Unlike western medicine there is not one “prescription” for using acupuncture to treat insomnia. Each TCM practitioner will use acupuncture for insomnia effecting a different combination of meridians or points specific to the patient’s individual problem.
Just as no two violins vibrate at exactly the same frequency and produce exactly the same sound – each persons body is considered unique in TCM with its own individual Qi flow and resonance. Therefore there are as many forms of acupuncture for the treatment of sleeplessness as there are insomniacs.
According to a study published by researchers at the Shandong Provincial Hospital of Shandong, a newer form of acupuncture known as Electro-Acupuncture has been shown to be helpful for improving the quality of sleep in patients suffering from insomnia. The study indicated that acupuncture treatment for insomnia might result in better quality of sleep than medication alone to treat insomnia.