Acupuncture for Sleep
Updated: Apr 16
When was the last time you felt truly awake and present during the day? I often remind people that without sufficient sleep and energy, we may not always be present and able to function properly for not only ourselves but also our family, friends and coworkers. However, with the glorification of busy, sleep is commonly underrated in today’s society. For an act that is so biologically vital to human existence, it is time we start prioritizing sleep as the purposeful recovery tool we need to function and feel our best each and every day!
Sleep is critical for our cognitive function (1), focus, creativity (2), memory, and so much more. Poor or insufficient sleep can cause increased inflammation (3), food cravings (4), weight gain, poor recovery, and increased levels of cortisol and other stress hormones. Routinely sleeping less than 6 hours a night has been shown to lower immune function, increase chances of Alzheimer’s disease, and contribute to major psychiatric conditions including depression and anxiety. And yet, more than 90% of people we see in the clinic complain about inadequate sleep or fatigue during the day.
The good news though is that there are plenty of ways to improve your sleep and Chinese medicine is one of those! Regular acupuncture treatments can be a great way to continually improve your sleep quality, increase your daily energy levels, and allow you to feel rested, revived, and able to take on whatever the day gives you. One study found that acupuncture was shown to be of therapeutic value for insomnia with anxious adults and may even represent an alternative to pharmaceutical therapy (5). After 10 consecutive acupuncture sessions, the researchers found that the subjects melatonin levels increased post acupuncture treatments in the evenings, which plays a significant role in facilitating sleep.
Acupuncture has also been shown to help reduce chronic pain in adults. For anyone who experiences or has experienced pain, they know the difficulties in falling sleep. Therefore acupuncture has been shown to be a wonderful alternative to facilitating sleep for those experiencing pain. In 2013, the Journal of Pain published a meta-analysis that concluded acupuncture is effective for a number of chronic pain conditions (6). Results even indicated that the effects of acupuncture were persistent over time! Have we convinced you yet to try acupuncture for your sleep?
Along with acupuncture, here are 4 more tips that can help improve the quality of your sleep:
1. Stick to a sleep schedule. As creatures of habit, going to bed and waking up at the same time each day can have positive impacts on sleep and energy levels. Sleeping late on weekends will not fully make up for lack of sleep during the week and will make it harder to wake up early on Monday morning. We often set an alarm for when it is time to wake up, how about setting an alarm for when it is time to go to sleep as well?
2. Take a hot bath before bed (7). The drop in body temperature after getting out of the bath may help you feel sleepy and studies show that you sleep better when your body temperature is a little cooler. If you can’t take a bath before bed, even just splashing your face with warm water can help cool your body temperature.
3. Avoid caffeine too late in the day (8). The effects of caffeine can take as long as 8 hours to fully wear off. I often remind my patients to finish their last cup of coffee by 11am so that by the time the evening rolls around there is zero caffeine in their brains and they will be able to feel the full effects of sleepiness set in.
4. Relax! Create an evening routine that is relaxing for you. Read a book, chat with your children or your partner, go for an evening acupuncture treatment or massage, do some light stretching or find a hobby you enjoy like knitting, crafting, or doing a puzzle. Do not include watching TV in your evening routine as both the blue light that TV’s emit combined with a stimulating show can over-stimulate your nervous system and halt the natural release of melatonin. A relaxing routine before bed has been shown to lower your stress levels, activate your parasympathetic nervous system and get you settled for a quality, restful night of sleep.
It is time we remove the stigmas of sleeping in being associated with laziness, and going to bed early being seen as lame. Sleep is vital to life. It is time for us to reclaim our sleep again!
(1)Paula Alhola, Päivi Polo-Kantola, “Sleep Deprivation: Impact on Cognitive Performance,” (October 2007) Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment 3, no. 5 (October 2007): 553–67
(2)Rui Marguilho, Saul Neves de Jesus, Joao Viseu, Rita B Domingues, Nathalia Brandolim Becker, Rafaela Dias Matavelli, Raul Quevedo, and Gualberto Buela-Casal, “Sleep and Creativity: A Literature Review” In Advanced Research in Health, Education and Social Sciences: Towards a Better Practice, 131–40, Accessed December 24, 2019
(3)Janet M Mullington, Norah S. Simpson, Hans K. Meier-Ewert, and Monika Haack, “Sleep Loss and Inflammation,” Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism 24, no. 5 (2010): 775–84
(4)Tae Won Kim, Jong-Hyun Jeong, and Seung-Chul Hong, “The Impact of Sleep and Circadian Disturbance on Hormones and Metabolism,” International Journal of Endocrinology 2015 (2015): 1–9
(5)D. Warren Spece, Leonid Kayumov, Adam Chen, Alan Lowe, Umesh Jain, Martin A Katzman, Jianhua Shen, Boris Perelman, Colin M. Shapiro, “Acupuncture Increases Nocturnal Melatonin Secretion and Anxiety: A Preliminary Report,” J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neuroscience 16:1, Winter 2004
(6)Andrew J. Vickers, Angel M. Cronin, Alexandra C. Maschino, George Lewith, Hugh Macpherson, Norbert Victor, Nadine E. Foster, Karen J Sherman, Claudia M Witt, Klaus linde, ”Acupuncture for Chronic pain: individual patient data meta-analysis,” Journal of Pain, (2013).
(7)J. A. Horne and A. J. Reid, “Night-time sleep EEG changes following body heating in a warm bath”, Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology 60, no. 2 (1985): 154-57
(8)Frances Ocallaghan, Olav Muurlink, and Natasha Reid, “Effects of Caffeine on Sleep Quality and Daytime Functioning,” Risk Management and Healthcare Policy Volume 11 (2018)