By: S.J. Merens
Many men and women try several suggestions for curing insomnia and become frustrated when nothing works. They may be unaware that acupuncture helps some individuals solve this problem. Just a few sessions can make a significant improvement in the ability to fall asleep and avoid waking up far too early.
What Does the Research Say?
A review of studies that was published in 2009 verified the effectiveness of acupuncture for enhancing sleep. The authors included 46 randomized trials with about 3,800 participants. They found acupuncture to be significantly more effective than no treatment for insomnia. Combining this therapy with prescription sleep medication boosted sleep quality as compared with medication alone. The same was true for combining acupuncture with herbs recommended for sleep enhancement. This review appeared in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
A more recent review of studies was published in 2016 in Complementary Therapies in Medicine. Thirty randomized controlled trials were included with a total of nearly 2,400 participants. This review confirmed that true acupuncture was more effective than fake treatment. It also was superior to pharmaceutical treatment using benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam and diazepam.
How Does Acupuncture Enhance Sleep?
This method appears to increase the body’s nighttime production of melatonin, a natural hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle. The body normally increases melatonin production as daylight fades, leading to drowsiness at night when most people want to sleep. Melatonin supplements are available, but they cause side effects in some individuals. They also have negative interactions with many prescription drugs. The supplements are not effective for everyone.
Another benefit of acupuncture is the possible increase in the brain’s levels of serotonin. Like melatonin, this hormone and neurotransmitter is also important in the sleeping and waking cycle. Serotonin helps with the waking process and with feeling alert and active during the day. Low serotonin levels can lead to lethargy and fatigue. This is one reason why some antidepressants are designed to increase serotonin levels in the brain.
What to Expect at an Acupuncture Session
The practitioner evaluates the patient’s physical condition and asks questions about general health and sleep issues. Typically, the person lies face down on a padded table while the acupuncturist gently places thin needles at specific points. Depending on what the practitioner believes is best for a particular client, the treatment might last for up to 30 minutes. People generally find these sessions to be relaxing. They may need two or three sessions before positive results are experienced, but some notice improvement after only one appointment.
Research has confirmed that acupuncture helps many individuals resolve their problems with insomnia. The strategy seems to work by increasing levels of the hormones melatonin and serotonin, which are important for proper sleep-wake cycles. Anyone ready to try this strategy for sleep problems may schedule an appointment with an acupuncturist.