Restless nights, tossing and turning, unable to quiet the mind. Millions of people worldwide experience this frustrating struggle every night. The National Sleep Foundation reports that approximately 30 to 40 percent of Americans report that they have had symptoms of insomnia within the last 12 months.
Individuals with insomnia find it difficult to fall asleep, stay asleep, or both. Insomnia not only makes for a miserable night, but often leads to daytime sleepiness, lethargy, and a general feeling of being unwell, both mentally and physically. Other commonly associated symptoms include mood swings, irritability, and anxiety.
Conventional medical perspective
While no specific causes have been identified, insomnia can be caused by psychiatric and medical conditions, unhealthy sleep habits, specific substances, and/or certain biological factors. Insomnia can be managed through both pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods. The American College of Physicians (ACP) recommends cognitive behavioral therapy as the first-line treatment for chronic insomnia in adults. Sleep hygiene training may also be recommended. Sometimes, medications are used to treat insomnia. An example of an over-the-counter (OTC) medication that can be used for sleep is an antihistamine such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl). However, prolonged usage of such medications has been shown to have side effects.
East Asian medical perspective
Insomnia can arise from a variety of different factors in Chinese medicine and can accompanies other more central complaints. Often, the Heart system is undernourished or over-stimulated by heat, preventing the mind and body to find peace at night. Stagnant qi or phlegm may cause disturbances here as well. Pain conditions, anxiety, and stress can also contribute to insomnia. Unfortunately, these issues grow as our lack of rest (and likely frustration) exacerbates the problem.
As with most issues, Chinese medicine takes a very individualized approach to treating insomnia. Herbal medicine is an effective way to help restore the balance in the body and works to nourish the Heart, relax tension, and promote sleep. Acupuncture has an immediate relaxation effect, but can be used to rewire the nervous system and promote healthy sleep habits with ongoing care. Often an acupuncturist will also take into account the daily lifestyle and diet of the patient to help them make further, lasting change to achieve restful, healthy sleep.
Fortunately, natural methods like acupuncture can be of great help when dealing with insomnia. Good quality sleep is a major aspect of a healthy lifestyle in the Chinese medicine framework. Without adequate sleep, the body cannot repair, heal, and reset. This leaves us running on empty and makes for health issues down the road. Because of this, sleep disturbances and insomnia are some of the most important issues that acupuncturists seek to improve.
Some patients notice an immediate improvement in their sleep routines, while others may require a couple months of treatment. No matter the case, acupuncture and herbal medicine is working to address the root issues causing the sleep disturbance to encourage the body’s to regain its normal, healthy sleep patterns.
Is insomnia keeping you up at night and diminishing your quality of life? Find a qualified practitioner near you to get back on track.