Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture for Insomnia and Sleep Disorders

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Chinese Herbs and Acupuncture treatments for insomnia and sleep disorders are a perfect pathway to finding much-needed rest. While Western medicine deals with sleep problems through the use of pharmaceuticals—which don’t address the root of sleep problems, and can be addictive—Traditional Chinese Medicine takes a holistic route. Chinese Medicine examines the underlying source of sleep problems, and can thereby cure both the symptoms and the root of the imbalance. An acupuncturist investigates what energetic deficiencies a person has that may be causing the sleep disturbance. Once a diagnosis is made, the patient receives individualized acupuncture treatments. Herbs often also can be prescribed to address both the sleep problem and its underlying cause.

According to a 2004 study by the National Sleep Foundation, insomnia, sleeping problems and sleep disorders affect 75% of the American population. While most experts recommend 7-9 hours of sleep per day, most adults get under seven on a regular basis. When we do sleep, the quality of our sleep is also compromised; half the adults polled mentioned having problems with disturbed or restless sleep. Poor sleep can compromise a person’s overall health, immune function, ability to focus, emotional well-being, and ability to manage stress…and New York City—a town abuzz with stress and business—is a particularly ripe environment for sleep problems to take their toll.

Sleep disturbances can have many causes, and sleep problems can take many different forms. Sleep problems may be related to stress, anxiety, pain, allergies, digestive problems, cardiovascular problems, and hormonal imbalances. Many medications can also disrupt a healthy sleep cycle. People with insomnia may have a difficult time quieting their mind when they are trying to sleep. They may experience difficulties falling asleep, or have easily-disturbed or restless sleep.

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In addition to acupuncture and herbs, there are several things that can be done to support more-restful sleep. Implementing even one or two changes can make a huge difference to the ability to fall and stay asleep.

  • Avoid alcohol. Although alcohol will make people drowsy, the effect is short lived and people will often wake up several hours later, unable to fall back asleep. Alcohol will also keep a person from falling into the deeper stages of sleep, where the body does most of its de-stressing and healing.
  • Avoid before-bed snacks, particularly heavy grains and sugars. This will raise blood sugar and inhibit sleep. Later, when blood sugar drops too low, you might wake up and not be able to fall back asleep.
  • Sleep in complete darkness or as close as possible. If there is even the tiniest bit of light in the room it can disrupt the body’s circadian rhythm and the brain’s production of melatonin and seratonin. There also should be as little light as possible in the bathroom if you get up in the middle of the night.
  • Read something light before bed. This will help you to relax. Avoid mysteries or suspense novels or you may find yourself too stimulated to fall asleep.
  • No TV right before bed. It is too stimulating to the brain and it will take longer to fall asleep.
  • Try journaling. If you often lay in bed with your mind racing, it might be helpful keep a journal and write down your thoughts before bed.
  • Keep your feet warm in bed. Due to the fact that this body part has the poorest circulation, feet often feel cold before the rest of the body. Thermoregulation — the body’s heat distribution system — is strongly linked to sleep cycles, so using socks or a hot water bottle can reduce night wakings.
  • Make certain to exercise regularly. Exercising for at least 30 minutes everyday can help a person fall asleep. However, exercising too close to bedtime may keep you awake.
  • Try meditation. When you meditate, you receive many benefits. One is that you become more relaxed. Another is that people who meditate have more melatonin in their bodies.
  • Get to bed earlier. Prior to the widespread use of electricity, people would go to bed shortly after sundown, as most animals do, and which nature intended for humans as well.
  • Avoid caffeine. If you do drink some coffee or tea, make sure your last cup is at least a few hours before you plan on getting into bed.
  • If you are menopausal or perimenopausal, get checked out by a good natural medicine physician. The hormonal changes at this time may cause problems like sleep irregularities if not properly addressed.
  • Finally, establish a bedtime routine that works for you. Whether you enjoy mediation, deep breathing, taking a bath with lavender aromatherapy oils, or drinking a cup of herbal tea, the key is to find something that makes you feel relaxed, then repeat it each night to help you release the day’s tensions.
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