Acupuncture for insomnia certainly makes sense if you are seeking outside natural treatments for insomnia that do not involve drugs. Most acupuncturists can offer you herbal remedies as well.
Acupuncture packs its main punch through the needles. (That didn’t come out quite right, but you know what I mean — the needles are painless but their effect can be impressive.)
[Note: Acupuncture is a very complex practice and the following is a very inadequate introduction, but it is, I hope, better than no intro at all.]
How Acupuncture for Insomnia Works
Acupuncture is an ancient healing practice that goes back centuries — even millenniums — and probably originated in China, though no one knows for sure. Certainly the Chinese studied and worked with it enough to elevate it into the highly refined and complex practice that it is today. Chinese acupuncture is contained within Traditional Chinese Medicine, a broader practice that also includes herbal remedies and other treatments, plus a complex diagnostic system.
The traditional explanation of how acupuncture works is based on the principle of “qi” usually translated as “life force” or “life energy.” Qi flows through pathways in the body called “meridians.” A healthy state happens when the flow of qi is constant and uninterrupted.
However, when the flow becomes blocked along a meridian, an imbalance occurs and symptoms of poor health develop. The location and type of blockage determines which organ(s) become affected and what symptoms develop.
Acupuncture is a way to unblock the flow of qi and get back to a healthy state. This is done by inserting very thin needles into the proper points along the appropriate meridians. There are at least 2000 meridian points for acupuncture. For insomnia, there may be dozens, depending on the type of sleep problems you have and your general health and body type.
Why Training Is Important
Acupuncture is a highly customized healing method, and a full evaluation of all your symptoms must be carefully taken. It would matter, for example, whether you have initial, middle or terminal insomnia, what times you fall asleep and wake up, and how you feel both mentally and physically. In addition, your pulse would be taken, your tongue looked at, and your diet and lifestyle thoroughly discussed.
So acupuncture for insomnia helps by producing a balancing effect in the body and mind. While you may or may not relate to the concept of “qi” and the flow of energy through meridians, you don’t have to believe it or understand it to gain benefits. You can just try it out and see if it makes a difference.
In fact, the Western explanation of acupuncture somewhat dismisses the notion of qi blockage, and instead focuses on the release of helpful hormones and endorphins (pain blocking hormones) and the calming of the central nervous system. Personally, I like the traditional version better. But either way, acupuncture has shown up well in Western scientific studies that measure its effectiveness for certain conditions.
What Acupuncture for Insomnia Feels Like
It is common to experience a profound sense of relaxation when the needles first go in. I experienced this when I had acupuncture for a painful shoulder (years before I developed chronic insomnia). I remember talking to the practitioner about something while he was standing there. Then the needles went in and I just went quiet and felt a sudden and thorough sense of calmness, unusual for me at that time.
Sometimes you may also feel warmth radiating through areas of your body that previously felt stiff or painful.
These are all indications that acupuncture does affect the mind-body systems, and acupuncture for insomnia is certainly worth looking into.
How to Know If Acupuncture for Insomnia Will Help You
Acupuncture for insomnia is probably best indicated when you do NOT have serious sleep anxiety. I only say this because anxiety over sleeplessness can sometimes get so embedded in the brain that the only thing that works is a good cognitive therapy approach.
The endless loop of sleep anxiety feeds on itself and often intensifies as you seek various remedies and find they don’t work as well as you had hoped. If this is your problem, you need to deal with it first. Otherwise your other attempts at a cure will be disappointing. Once your thought processes are under better control, you can try more holistic or body-centered natural treatments for insomnia.
Acupuncture is good for nearly all other causes of insomnia, however — and is especially well indicated when your sleep has been disrupted by jet lag or some other circadian rhythm disturbance.
And since acupuncture is a whole-body, all natural treatment, it is also worth trying when pain and allergy symptoms are keeping you awake.
Hyperarousal symptoms (feeling wired and tired) are also a good indication for seeking acupuncture for insomnia. When the nervous system goes into overdrive, it is a definite sign of imbalance in your energy system, which you can feel in your fatigue, racing thoughts and fast heart rate. Acupuncture can be helpful in treating this paradoxical situation.
How to Find a Good Acupuncturist
Finding a well-trained and experienced acupuncturist who can treat insomnia may or may not be difficult, depending on where you live and how far you can travel. The first way of finding the right practitioner is through referrals. Ask your friends, relatives, coworkers, neighbors, and so on, if they know of a good acupuncturist. This is probably the most reliable way to choose someone, as you have benefit of your contact’s direct experience with this person.
The next best way of finding someone is by asking other professionals you may already be seeing. If, for example, you are already in contact with a massage therapist, chiropractor, naturopathic physician or other holistic practitioner, they will likely know of someone.
If that’s not an option, you can also contact the associations that acupuncturists often belong to. To get a listing of these organizations by state, see this page on the website of Acupuncture Today.
You can also go straight to the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine This organization has now partnered with Acufinder.com for practitioner referrals.
And finally, you can just call someone you see in an ad, on a website or the phone book. If you use this method, make sure to call more than one and to have a list of questions handy so you can make a good evaluation on the phone. Once you find someone who sounds good, you can then do a Google search to dig up as much information as you can, including educational background, experience and patient reviews. Make sure whoever you look up has met all the licensing requirements for your state or country.
While review sites for health practitioners are not always that helpful (it is so easy for friends and relatives to post positive reviews) they are still a good way to filter out anyone who seems to be outstandingly disreputable! Worth a look, anyway.