- Acupuncture and sleep

Acupuncture and sleep

According to a survey by the Office of National Statistics (ONS 2000), around 29% of adults reported experiencing sleep problems the week before an interview. Such problems are more common in women (34%) than men (24%) (ONS 2000).

Insomnia that is not due to an organic cause is defined as a condition of unsatisfactory quantity and/or quality of sleep lasting for a considerable period of time (WHO 2007). It includes difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or early final wakening.

How acupuncture can help

Reviews are consistent in showing that most trials have found acupuncture (or acupressure or related procedures) to be significantly more effective than hypnotic drugs (usually benzodiazepines). Meta-analysis supports these conclusions. On the evidence that we have, given that acupuncture appears to be at least as effective as existing conventional drugs, without their level of side effects, it could be considered as one of the therapeutic options for insomnia.

In general, acupuncture is believed to stimulate the nervous system and cause the release of neurochemical messenger molecules. The resulting biochemical changes influence the body’s homeostatic mechanisms, thus promoting physical and emotional well-being. Stimulation of certain acupuncture points has been shown to affect areas of the brain that are known to reduce sensitivity to pain and stress, as well as promoting relaxation and deactivating the ‘analytical’ brain, which is responsible for insomnia and anxiety (Hui 2010).

Research has shown that acupuncture treatment may specifically be of benefit in people with insomnia by:

  • increasing nocturnal endogenous melatonin secretion (Spence et al 2004).
  • stimulating opioid (especially b-endorphin) production and µ-opioid receptor activity (Cheng et al 2009).
  • increasing nitric oxide synthase activity and nitric oxide content, helping to promote normal function of brain tissues, which could help to regulate sleep (Gao et al 2007).
  • increasing cerebral blood flow (Yan 2010)
  • reducing sympathetic nervous system activity, hence increasing relaxation (Lee 2009a)
  • regulating levels of neurotransmitters (or their modulators) such as serotonin, noradrenaline, dopamine, GABA and neuropeptide Y; hence altering the brains’s mood chemistry to help to increase relaxation and reduce tension (Lee 2009b; Samuels 2008; Zhou 2008).

Acupuncture can be safely combined with conventional medical treatments for insomnia, such as benzodiazepines, helping to reduce their side effects and enhance their beneficial effects (Cao et al 2009).

Information from British Acupuncture Council site https://www.acupuncture.org.uk/a-to-z-of-conditions

For more information and treatment on getting a good night’s sleep, contact Hannah on;- https://www.southwellacupuncture.co.uk/contact/

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