What does inserting needles have to do with sleep? Turns out, a lot.
What is Acupuncture?
Acupuncture is a technique that involves inserting needles into the skin to stimulate certain parts of the body, and has been used for health conditions like pain, allergies, stress, depression, and insomnia. The needles are placed on meridians, or pathways where life energy (qi) flows, according to Chinese medicine.
Importance of sleep
As if a bad night’s sleep isn’t enough proof, research continues to show just how important sleep is and how a lack of sleep can be harmful.
Sleep deprivation is known to increase oxidative stress and increase anxiety levels. When patients do not sleep enough or deeply enough, this dysfunction can affect their blood pressure, heart rate, mental status, hormones, and immune function. In addition, adults who sleep less than seven hours are more likely to report chronic health conditions, including depression, arthritis, diabetes, and asthma
Insomnia is one of the most common sleep disorders, occurring in 40% of adults. Symptoms of insomnia include difficulty falling asleep, sleep latency of more than 30 minutes, and a sleep efficiency of less than 85%. Identifying the underlying causes – such as stress and anxiety - of insomnia can be the key to treatment.
- A 2009 study by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine assessed 46 randomized trials and concluded that acupuncture was beneficial when compared to no treatment and superior to medications, with total sleep duration increased for greater than three hours. Acupuncture in addition to medications showed better effects than medications alone on total sleep. The acupuncture treatment had no serious adverse effects.
- A 2013 study analyzed 180 people with primary insomnia and found that traditional acupuncture was more effective at increasing sleep quality and daytime functioning than sham acupuncture or the sedative medication estazolam.
- Similarly, a 2019 review of nine studies involving 1,000 people with insomnia caused by chronic pain concluded that acupuncture was better at improving sleep quality compared with placebo treatment or medication.
- A 2020 study of 90 people with depression and insomnia found that 3 weekly sessions of electroacupuncture, a type of acupuncture that uses electric currents, for 8 weeks improved sleep quality, sleep efficiency, total sleep time, and depression.
Acupuncture is thought to work as a neuromodulator, toning down the brain’s perception of oof sensory signals. According to a study, "Acupuncture modulates the imbalance between the parasympathetic and sympathetic activity." The parasympathetic system and sympathetic system make up the autonomic nervous system, which oversees regulation of the functions of our internal organs. Our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is also known as Rest & Digest, while our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is often referred to as the Fight, Flight or Freeze response. Acupuncture can also help stimulate the release of natural melatonin in the body, improving sleep. By retracing our bodies to the parasympathetic side, our body can better relax and therefore, fall asleep.
Sleep is a crucial process of restoration for the body, and a bad night’s sleep can turn into a bad day! Our acupuncturist Joe Bonacci has seen how acupuncture allows patients to take back control of their bodies. Call us at (609) 512-1468 for questions or to book an appointment.
- Pires GN, Bezerra AG, Tufik S, Andersen ML. Effects of acute sleep deprivation on state anxiety levels: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sleep Med. 2016;24:109-118. doi:10.1016/j.sleep.2016.07.019
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sleep and sleep disorders: data & statistics. Reviewed May 2, 2017. Accessed March 24, 2021. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/data_statistics.html
- Adkins EC, DeYonker O, Duffecy J, Hooker SA, Baron KG. Predictors of intervention interest among individuals with short sleep duration. J Clin Sleep Med. 2019;15(8):1143-1148. doi:10.5664/jcsm.7808