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Acupuncture in treating Insomnia

Updated: Apr 1, 2023

Acupuncture is a technique that involves inserting needles into the skin to stimulate certain areas of the body.

The practice of acupuncture has grown in popularity as a treatment for a variety of health conditions, like allergies, asthma, stress, depression, and insomnia.

Here’s what the research has to say about the types and benefits of acupuncture for sleep, along with tips for finding a practitioner.

Benefits of acupuncture for sleep

There’s evidence to recommend acupuncture for the treatment of chronic pain, they say there isn’t enough research yet on its effects on other health conditions, such as insomnia.

That doesn’t mean acupuncture definitely doesn’t help people to sleep better — or even that it hasn’t been studied. Although more research is needed, acupuncture may be a helpful treatment for symptoms of:

  • sleep disturbances

  • sleep apnea

  • insomnia

  • pain

  • anxiety

  • depression

  • restless legs syndrome

General Insomnia:

Everyone has trouble sleeping from time to time. You may be among the estimated 1 in 3 people with insomnia if poor sleep affects your ability to function during the day.

Insomnia symptoms can last for a few days to months or longer and include:

  • having a hard time falling asleep

  • waking up during the night and finding it difficult to fall back asleep

  • waking up early

Causes for insomnia vary and may include:

  • medical conditions, such as sleep apnea

  • mental health disorders, such as anxiety

  • chronic pain

  • irregular sleep schedules

  • no known medical, psychiatric, or environmental cause (known as primary insomnia)

Related treatments besides acupuncture:

  • Acupressure is the method of applying pressure to acupuncture points along meridian pathways.

  • Reflexology is a type of massage that involves applying different amounts of pressure to the feet, hands, and ears.

  • Ear seeds are small metal “seeds” that adhere to the ear to stimulate certain points on the body.

  • Cupping therapy involves placing cups on the skin to create suction.

  • Electroacupuncture is a form of acupuncture using electrical currents.

  • Moxibustion is the practice of burning a small cone or stick made of ground mugwort leaves at certain points.

If you decide to try acupuncture for sleep, expect:

  • a thorough intake from your practitioner, including medical history

  • a roughly 60-minute session

  • 20 to 30 needles inserted in varying points

  • your practitioner may choose to place needles or seeds in the ears

  • your practitioner may choose to supplement with cupping therapy or moxibustion

There are more than 350 acupuncture points on meridians that correspond to 20 meridians, Sowards says. During each 60-minute acupuncture session, about 20 to 30 needles are inserted into certain points. Practitioners first diagnose the root cause of a client’s problem. For example, they may determine that sleep problems are related to stress. They’ll then select acupuncture points that correspond to that diagnosis.

Acupuncture is a form of TCM that involves inserting needles into certain points on the body that correspond with energy channels known as meridians. Acupuncture shows promise for treating sleep problems, like insomnia. Some western medicine

doctors recommend acupuncture as a safe alternative to medications.

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