The last couple of months I have noticed an influx of patients with sleep problems. These have ranged from difficulty falling asleep to being unable to sleep at all. Insufficient sleep can make us feel tired and irritable and affect our concentration during the day. As well as that not enough sleep makes us more prone to making bad food and drink choices and can makes us turn to drugs or alcohol as a crutch to help.
Getting a good night’s sleep is a struggle for over half of us and women are three times more likely than men to suffer – 75% of women report problems, compared with 25% of men (Great British Sleep Survey).
These chronic sleep problems can lead to chronic health problems. Studies suggest that inadequate sleep may adversely affect our immune system. Many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur predominantly or only during sleep.
Types of Insomnia:
- Difficulty falling asleep (sleep-onset insomnia) – the most common type
- Waking up in the night and not being able to get back to sleep
- Waking up too early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep
- Not feeling refreshed after sleep
- Almost everyone has problems sleeping at some point in their lives.
Possible causes of Insomnia:
- During or after stressful situations such as money or work worries, or death of a loved one.
- Psychological problems, such as anxiety, panic disorder or PTSD, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Underlying physical problems such as IBS, fibromyalgia, arthritis, hyperactive thyroid, respiratory or urinary problems, chronic pain.
- Use and misuse of drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and recreational drugs or medicine.
What can be done?
Visit your GP: get checked out for any under lying health problems that might be the cause of your insomnia. If lack of sleep is severely affecting you during the day, you may be prescribed a short course of sleeping pills. Sleeping pills can help provide relief from the symptoms in the short term but do not always address the underlying cause, if there is one.
Sleep hygiene: research shows that good sleep hygiene can help with insomnia. This includes a regular bedtime routine and time. Exercise, sleeping in darkness, avoiding caffeine, especially after midday, avoiding too many stimulants before bed i.e phones, television, computers and tablets.
CBT: If you have long-term insomnia, cognitive behavioural therapy may also be recommended.
Acupuncture for Insomnia
In clinical research trials, acupuncture for insomnia appears to be at least as effective as existing conventional drugs without the side effects and should be considered as one of the therapeutic options for insomnia.
Acupuncture may specifically benefit people with insomnia by:
- Increasing production of nocturnal melatonin, a hormone believed to regulate sleep
- Stimulating natural opioids which reduce anxiety and pain
- Promoting normal function of brain tissues
- Calming sympathetic nervous activity, promoting relaxation
- Altering the brain’s mood chemistry to calm and reduce tension
See https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions/a-to-z-of-conditions/insomnia.html for more evidence based research
I have seen fantastic results using acupuncture to help with sleep problems. It can sometimes take regular treatment over time to get the best results but in some cases one or two treatments is enough to reset the body and help achieve a good nights sleep.
Here’s what a patient had to say after receiving acupuncture for insomnia:
‘Having suffered insomnia since the birth of my first baby, I decided to try acupuncture. I was waking many times in the night, often waking at 2 or 3am and not being able to go back to sleep whilst my baby was sleeping through the night. I was left extremely fatigued all day and completely drained of energy.
After treatment, I immediately felt relaxed and at ease. From having three sessions so far, my sleep has definitely improved. I have noticed that I am waking less frequently in the night and when I do wake, I am going back to sleep faster. I feel calmer when I do wake in the middle of the night and my mind is no longer racing. I also feel more energised during the day, as if the sleep I am getting is deeper and more restorative. I plan to have regular treatments as I can really see the benefit and impact of acupuncture for my sleep.’
For more information see www.hannahpearn.com or call 07761648441
For more information on acupuncture see www.acupuncture.org.uk