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Acupuncture and Insomnia

by JoNell Norcini, L. Ac. M.A.O.M.


Getting a good night’s rest is one of the best pieces of advice you can follow.  But what if you are one of the millions of Americans who find that sleeping well is a real challenge?  We all suffer from sleepless nights from time to time, but chronic insomnia is a real health concern.

Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling asleep/or staying asleep for an adequate length of time.  That length of time varies from person to person but on average consists of eight hours per night.  Some of the causes of insomnia may include stress, medication side effects, pain, noise, or a change in routine or environment.

When we sleep, our bodies undergo many types of restoration, both physical and mental.  Sleep helps our bodies heal and improve brain function. When we do not sleep soundly, many types of health issues may arise.  Some of these issues are heart disease, heart attacks, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, obesity, lack of sex drive, depression, premature aging and impaired judgment. 

I believe that Americans are in tune with the importance of good sleep, so much so, that billions of dollars are being spent each year in the sleep industry.  This includes mattresses, special pillows, sound soothers, supplements and most importantly, pharmaceuticals.

It is estimated that Americans spend over $750 million dollars annually on over-the-counter sleep aids, and over $2 billion annually on prescription sleeping pills.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, nearly half of Americans report occasional insomnia and more than 20% say they suffer from insomnia almost every night. Sleep aids were designed to help those that suffer from occasional insomnia.  The problem is that people are experiencing unwanted side effects and many people are actually addicted to pharmaceuticals such as Valium, Xanax and Ambien.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is an effective alternative for treating insomnia. The physiology of insomnia according to TCM can be quite complex, but basically it involves an imbalance within the body.  TCM looks at the different types of insomnia and attaches a deeper reason as to why this particular patient is having trouble sleeping.  Once again, TCM treats the root of the problem and not just the manifestation. The following is a list of the types of insomnia that acupuncture and Chinese herbs can treat:

Difficulty falling asleep
Waking up often during the night
Waking up early and cannot fall back to sleep
Having excessive or disturbing dreams
Cannot sleep at all

A qualified acupuncturist can determine which system is out of balance and based on each person’s constitution provide a customized treatment strategy.  During an acupuncture treatment, the nervous system begins to calm down and the strategically placed needles actually remind the body of its balanced state.  Most patients will fall asleep during a treatment session. Acupuncture also addresses emotional issues which can sometimes be the cause of insomnia.  Your acupuncturist may also prescribe an herbal formula to complement your acupuncture treatment.  Acupuncture is a safe and effective way to treat insomnia.

If you are experiencing any form of insomnia, don’t face another sleepless night.  Find a qualified acupuncturist near you by visiting