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Acupuncture and Insomnia

Benefits of acupuncture for sleep

Although experts at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative HealthTrusted Source say there’s evidence to recommend acupuncture for the treatment of chronic pain, they say there isn’t enough research yet on its effects on other health conditions, such as insomnia.

Although more research is needed, acupuncture may be a helpful treatment for symptoms of:

  • sleep disturbances

  • sleep apnea

  • insomnia

  • pain

  • anxiety

  • depression

  • restless legs syndrome

Sleep, pain, and anxiety

Tony Chon, MD, a general internal medicine specialist and expert in acupuncture at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, says that, while there’s not enough evidence to prove acupuncture treats insomnia, he performs it on patients with sleep issues related to pain or anxiety.

“The potential gains outweigh the minimal risks,” Chon says. “From clinical experience and anecdotally, acupuncture appears to be very helpful. Many of my patients communicate a sense of calm after acupuncture that helps them sleep better for several days.”

General insomnia

Everyone has trouble sleeping from time to time. You may be among the estimated 1 in 3 people with insomnia if poor sleep affects your ability to function during the day.

Insomnia symptoms can last for a few days to months or longer and include:

  • having a hard time falling asleep

  • waking up during the night and finding it difficult to fall back asleep

  • waking up early

Causes for insomnia vary and may include:

  • medical conditions, such as sleep apnea

  • mental health disorders, such as anxiety

  • chronic pain

  • irregular sleep schedules

  • no known medical, psychiatric, or environmental cause

How does acupuncture work?

While it’s sometimes considered an “alternative” treatment in the United States, acupuncture is a 3,000-year-old practice in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).

Sowards is a board certified acupuncturist and Chinese medicine and acupuncture lead at THE WELL in New York City.

“Chinese medicine looks at the mind, body, and spirit as one interconnected system and strives to understand the root cause of illness or imbalance and to rectify it,” she says.

Acupuncture involves inserting needles into certain points on the body located on what are known as meridians. In Chinese medicine, meridians are pathways in the body where life energy, known as “Qi,” flows, Sowards explains.

“We view each individual body as a network, an electrical highway of points and meridians, which is informed by internal and external stimuli that are always in flux,” she says. “Acupuncture needles tap into this network and can affect immediate and lasting change by redirecting and harmonizing this flow.”

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