Insomnia is an awful experience – most people have had it at least once in their lifetime –
but chronic insomnia is really awful. Chronic insomnia, along with the stress it creates, is really bad for your health. Sleep is vitally important for your emotional, physical, and mental well being. The National Institute of Health has a great article on why sleep is really important to every aspect of a healthy body.
Insomnia is definitely something I treat in my clinic – either as the main complaint, or as a part of the situation, as with menopause and peri-menopause, where there are a constellation of symptoms causing difficulty. Acupuncture, Chinese herbs and supplements are quite effective at treating insomnia, and there’s also usually homework for my patients with lifestyle and possibly dietary changes.
As I’ve said before, one of the beautiful aspects of Chinese medicine is that it isn’t a cookie cutter approach. Everyone who has insomnia, doesn’t have the exact same presentation – some people can’t fall asleep, some people can’t stay asleep and some people can’t do either. Some people have vivid, active dreams, or restless legs, or have night sweats which wake them or disrupt sleep. All of these factors are important in determining what can reverse that person’s insomnia.
Sometimes blood sugar is an issue – if you are someone who eats a diet high in carbohydrates and you eat dinner early, say at 5 or 6 pm, and then the next meal you have is the next day at 6:30 or 7, your body is going about 12 hours without food. If your blood sugar is not stable, because you have either historically or recently eaten more carbohydrates, you can wake in the middle of the night due to a drop in your blood sugar. Usually in this situation stress plays a part as well. High stress plus high carbs equals a body that is burned out and running often on fumes.
My job as your acupuncturist is to determine what type of insomnia you have – or types, if that’s the case. Not everyone is hot at night, but if you are, and waking up, my job is to help your body be cooler (which is often due to a hormonal imbalance, and balancing hormones is part of my treatment plan). If you have vivid dreams, my job is to design and execute a treatment plan that can calm your spirit, so at night you can fall asleep and not be woken by stressful or scary nightmares.
Supplements and herbs are very helpful for regulating sleep. A few of the ones I commonly recommend include melatonin, which is a hormone your body should be producing, in the pineal gland, to regulate your circadian rhythm. Not everyone has enough melatonin, and so supplementing with it can help some people. Again, this isn’t the right supplement for everyone, and the dose is important. Many people thing more is better, when in fact it is the correct dose that is key. Magnesium can also help people sleep – and I often recommend a supplement called Natural Calm to help people fall and stay asleep. However, if you are on prescription medications please check with your doctor or pharmacist before adding magnesium/Natural Calm, to your daily supplement routine.
Chinese herbal formulas are also part of my recommendation for treating insomnia as well – and again, it isn’t a one size fits all situation. When you come in for treatment, part of the process is determining your individual health needs and applying the correct herbal formula to address those needs.
The final reason I want to encourage insomniacs to seek acupuncture is that acupuncture, and herbs, can help address the stress that comes along with chronic insomnia. Ironically, not knowing if you are going to sleep creates stress for people every night when they really need to be winding down for bed. And effective acupuncture treatment can help the body start to understand that such a reaction is not necessary by calming the nervous system. I also give patients other instructions on what to do in the evening before bed, to help the body get ready for sleep.
These are general guidelines; everyone’s body is unique. Please contact me for a consultation for your specific needs.