Acupuncture and Poor Sleep
We all know how great it feels to have an early night and a good nights sleep. A good nights sleep not only makes us feel good but is of paramount important for our health. Studies indicate that ideally the average adult needs 8 or 9 hours of sleep every night, the reality however is that most of us are only getting 6 or 7 (Lyttleton 2008) hours and often little chance to catch up.
Over time, not getting enough sleep can have profound affects on important aspects of our physical health. Lyttleton (2008) demonstrates this with a study that showed that even in strong healthy young people one week of shortened sleep showed adverse affects on the body’s ability to metabolise food, manage stress, maintain a proper balance of hormones and fight off infection. More seriously, it can also put you at a higher risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes (NHS direct 2015).
Practitioners of Traditional Acupuncture have long been advocates of an early night and stress the importance of the early first few hours of our sleep to recharge and sustain good health and vitality. This is the time during which we build our kidney energy, our batteries, our energy reserves fundamental to our vitality, digestion, immunity and a long healthy life. In terms of our brain waves this is also the time when we experience the deepest part of our sleep.
Whether its just poor quality sleep in general, stress related sleep disruption or insomnia acupuncture has consistently showed in studies to be helpful in improving quality of sleep. As practitioners we take time to understand each individual case, give lifestyle, dietary and advice on establishing a good sleep routine recognising that each patient is unique. We then tailor treatment to the individual.
So how can acupuncture help to improve our sleep?
The evidence is encouraging and reviews show that most trials find acupuncture to be significantly more effective than hypnotic drugs, no treatment or sham acupuncture (BAcC 2015).
Research has shown acupuncture to work in a number of different and positive ways:
Increases night production of melatonin
Calms sympathetic nervous system helping us to relax
Regulates levels of neurotransmitters which alters the brains mood chemistry helping to increase relaxation and reduce tension
Encouraging a healthy sleep pattern
A good solid nights sleep is essential for a long and healthy life - establish a good routine, take time to wind down.
Limit time on computers/ipads/iphones before bed – A recent study showed that reading or watching an ipad, phone or backlit device negatively affects our sleep and reduces melatonin secretion - the hormone that helps us sleep (Chang 2014).
Restrict light intensity in the hour or two before bed
Yoga / meditation / yoga nidra / regular exercise all help to regulate and improve the quality of our sleep.
British Acupuncture council (2015) Insomnia. http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/insomnia.html. http://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/insomnia.html.
Chang, A et al (2014) Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/4/1232.full.pdf
Lyttleton, J (2008) Treatment of Infertility with Chinese Medicine. Elsevier. China.
NHSDirect (2015) Why lack of sleep is bad for your health
LINK – Toyah Wilcox uses acupuncture to help with sleep - http://www.mirror.co.uk/lifestyle/health/toyah-willcox-on-her-battle-with-insomnia-1586599