8 Ways Acupuncture Can Help You Beat Insomnia

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Is acupuncture effective for anxiety or insomnia? Hypertension? –Cynthia Dunn, via Facebook

Thank you, Cynthia, for your question. I’ll address insomnia first. I started seriously researching sleep remedies when patients at the onset of menopause began complaining that hot flashes were waking them up every hour. (Click here to read an article about using acupuncture to treat insomnia.) And it isn’t only women in midlife who are having trouble getting enough z’s.
According to the National Institute of Medicine, up to 70 million Americans are regularly deprived of sleep or suffer from sleep problems, says Mark Hyman, MD, author of The UltraMind Solution (Scribner, 2009). This may lead to depression, attention deficit disorder, and memory problems. Plus, sleep deprivation contributes to weight gain by increasing the hormone grehlin, which increases hunger, and decreasing appetite-suppressing hormones, Hyman says.
What I see in my practice is that we have gotten out of a rhythmic way of being in our daily lives. For optimal health, I have found it is best to follow the natural rhythm of the sun: Be active while the sun is up (the yang part of the day), and slow down and be more receptive when the sun sets (yin time). This means you may have to say no to evening social activities or hobbies to re-create a life that will sustain your health.

Follow these simple lifestyle practices to get your sleep back on track:

  • Get regular acupuncture treatments and ask your acupuncturist for an herbal formula for your specific pattern of insomnia.
  • Avoid TV or using the computer one to two hours before bedtime–both have a brain-stimulating effect.
  • Avoid substances that affect sleep, including sugar, caffeine, and alcohol.
  • Eat lean protein, complex carbohydrates and lots of vegetables to stabilize blood sugar. Low blood sugar is often why people wake up in the middle of the night.
  • Eat your last meal of the day by 7 p.m. or two to three hours before sleep so digestion is complete before bedtime.
  • Exercise daily–vigorous walking is enough!–for 30 minutes.
  • Get regular exposure to daylight for at least 20 minutes, preferably first thing in the morning to reset your sleep, mood, and energy cycles. If you live in a place without much sunlight in the winter, check out the goLITE P1. This portable device uses blue-light technology. I use it myself every morning from mid-October till mid-March to wake up my brain.
  • Keep to a regular bedtime. Turn the lights out by 10 p.m., if possible, and no later than 11 p.m.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

By Mary Saunders, LAc, Natural Solutions guest expert and founder of Boulder Community Acupuncture.