Get better sleep and improve quality of life with acupuncture
Acupuncture for insomnia
Sleep well seems so natural for people. A sound good night sleep is so important to get us refreshed and get our body’s battery recharged for next day’s activity. Why we need sleep? We need sleep because sleep can rest our body and mind. What happens, if we don’t sleep well? We must all have experienced some sleepless nights for some reasons; and then we feel tired and cannot be concentrating well next day. This temporary issue would be over by following a good sleep. Do you ever imagine that someone has never been sleep well for years; every night is sleepless night? About 1 in 2 adults in the UK suffer from some forms of sleep problems and did not get enough sleep.
What is happening to our body, when we are sleeping? When we sleep, our body is going through cycles. Each cycle lasts about one to two hours and consists of four stages: pre-sleep, light sleep, slow wave sleep and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. In pre-sleep stage, muscles are relaxed; heart rate and breathing slow down. In light sleep stage, it is easy to wake up. In slow wave sleep stage, it is hard to wake up. In REM stage, dream occurs; eyes move from side to side; muscles are completely relaxed. There are up to five cycles during a night sleep lasting about 8 hours in adults.
Insomnia is that sleep problems last for a long time. The symptoms include that 1) it is difficult to fall sleep; 2) it is difficult to stay sleep (often wake up during sleep and difficult to get back to sleep again). 3) Waking up early in the morning. After a sleepless night, one may feel tired, irritable and less concentrating. If this lasts for a long time, it would affect overal heath. The causes of insomnia include two aspects: psychological problems, such as stress, anxiety and depression; physical problems, such as physical chronic pain, asthma, heart problems etc. Recent research showed that people with insomnia have more activities in their central nervous system and/or autonomic nervous system and this keeps them awake.
There are many methods which could self help to improve sleep, such as avoid drinking coffee a few hours before sleep, do regular exercises, take a warm bath before sleep etc. If none of these works, it is easy to turn to sleeping pill for help. However long term taking sleeping pill may lose its effectiveness and cause serious side effects. Here I would recommend acupuncture for you, if you have got insomnia.
Acupuncture is proven to be effective for insomnia because it has direct effects on peripheral nerve system and muscle relaxations; it also regulates autonomic nervous system and central nerve activity. Huang W did a system review for effectiveness of acupuncture in treating insomnia. They analysed 30 clinical trials, 93% of which showed positive treatment effects of acupuncture in improving various aspect of sleep. Acupuncture makes falling sleep faster; increases sleep time; reduces waking up time; improves quality of sleep. Comparing the effects of sleeping pill and acupuncture, they found that sleeping pill has rapid effect, while acupuncture has accumulating effects. Acupuncture can be used for a long time to achieve better effects than that for sleeping pill. The maintenance effects could last as long as 3.5 years at follow-up without side effects.
Tu Jh et al compared the effect of acupuncture and zolpidem in treating primary insomnia. 19 patients received acupuncture once a week and 14 patients received zolpidem treatment. The treatment period was 4 weeks. PSQI was used to evaluate sleep quality. They found that sleep was improved significantly in both groups. Both groups improved over time at a similar rate. They concluded that acupuncture may be an effective alternative treatment compared with zolpidem for primary insomnia.
Insomnia increases in women in menopause period and after this period. Hachul et al studied the effectiveness of acupuncture on women in their postmenopausal period with insomnia. In this study, 18 women aged 50-67 years of age were included. Their period stopped over 1 year and they did not use any antidepressants, hypnotics or hormonal therapy. The participants were divided into two groups: acupuncture group and sham acupuncture group. They received 10 sessions of acupuncture during a period of 5 weeks. Pittsburgh sleep quality index (PSQI) was used to measure the sleep quality before and after the acupuncture treatment. The result showed that women in acupuncture group had better quality of sleep after acupuncture treatment.
Here is a typical case report. A 55 year old woman presents with sleep problem for a year, which related to her stress and knee pain as well. She used some pain killers to help sleep. She had problems of falling sleep as well as staying sleep. Her sleep quality Index was 17 indicating very poor sleep. 2 nights of sleep monitoring showed that 6 hours sleep for the first night using sleeping pill and 4 hours sleep for the second night with fewer amounts of sleeping pills. Her sleep quality is poor. And then she started 12 sessions of acupuncture treatments. Acupuncture was given twice a week for the first 4 weeks and then once a week for the following 4 weeks. Each session lasts for 45-60 minutes. Five days after the start of acupuncture treatment, she slept for 7-5 to 8.0 hours per day without taking sleeping pills. After 8 weeks of acupuncture treatment, she was falling asleep easily and stayed asleep longer. Two days of sleep monitoring showed that 7 hours good sleep per day without taking sleeping pill. The quality of sleep is also improved.
Acupuncture helps sleep quality in patients with insomnia by altering brain activities, new research shows.
Primary insomnia is that people have difficulty in falling sleep and difficulty in maintaining sleep. People with insomnia has caused an increased incidence of serious medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Acupuncture has been proven to be effective for insomnia with minor side-effects and has been increasingly used in private clinics located in 46 states in the United States as a treatment for insomnia.
Previous studies on the mechanism of acupuncture have revealed that acupuncture can affect the activation in brain regions. The activation in brain regions at 15 min after acupuncture stimuli were greater than the activation at 5 min after acupuncture stimuli.
A recent study recruited 129 patients with insomnia and examined the effect of acupuncture on insomnia. After the 5-week acupuncture treatment, patients sleep quality was improved significantly.
fMRI scan has shown that in the following brain regions are related to sleep quality: right cerebellum posterior lobe, temporal gyrus (left middle temporal gyrus, left superior temporal gyrus), left extra-nuclear, right anterior cingulate, left parahippocampa gyrus, frontal gyrus (bilateral inferior frontal gyrus, left middle frontal gyrus, bilateral superior frontal gyrus), parietal lobule (right precentral gyrus, left postcentral gyrus, left supramarginal gyrus, left inferior parietal lobule, left superior parietal lobule, left precuneus). After acupuncture treatment, activities in these regions are altered.
Huang W etc (2009) Sleep Med Rev 13:73-104.
Huang W etc Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine (2011), 7: 95-102
Get sleep problem? Acupuncture could help
Hachul H et al Climacteric (2012)
Tu JH et al Asian Psychiatr. (2012) 5:231-5
Yu-Kai Wang et al BMC Complement Med Ther. 2020; 20: 254.