Perfectly sandwiched between "snacks" and "my cats" on my list of priorities is "sleep." Never a partier, always a homebody, sleep has been everything to me throughout the years — anything less than six hours of sleep per night and I am a mess the next morning. So when the dreaded insomnia hits, you better believe that it really throws me off my routine. According to research, between 50 and 70 million people in American alone suffer from insomnia, a sleep disorder marked by the habitual inability to sleep. Insomnia can even affect life outside of the bedroom as well, contributing to the development of certain ailments and diseases such as heartburn, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disorders, kidney disease, mental health problems, neurological disorders, respiratory problems, and more. But what exactly causes insomnia? And can a natural remedy, such as acupuncture, help?
What Causes Insomnia?
Based on research done by the National Sleep Foundation, "insomnia can be caused by psychiatric and medical conditions, unhealthy sleep habits, specific substances, and/or certain biological factors," with its psychiatric contributors pointing to anxiety and depression. The sleep condition may be a marked symptom of depression, experienced by an estimated 16 million people in the US alone, with the risk of insomnia much higher in individuals who are living with depression. Furthermore, insomnia can actually trigger or worsen depression as a whole. Another mental illness, anxiety, is also connected to the inability to sleep. Much like its cousin depression, many people blame anxiety as the cause of poor sleeping habits and restlessness.
Can Acupuncture Help With Insomnia?
Aliksandra Keller, LAc, MS, MA, RYT, explains that acupuncture can absolutely help with insomnia. "There are many root causes for insomnia, but, generally, insomnia has to do with the energy balance of the heart and the emotions," she says. "Acupuncture helps restore the body's natural balance by connecting us more deeply to the subtlety of our own sensory experience. In other words, it helps bring a new level of consciousness to what we are truly feeling and sensing, as well as helping us to process our emotions. The law of polarity reminds us that where there is excess, we can also find deficiency. In the case of insomnia, needles would be inserted to help the body clear its excess and subsequently tonify its deficiency."
"When the nervous system responds to the needles the parasympathetic — the processing center, and the sympathetic — fight or flight — nervous system, balance out and begin sending out endorphins and chemicals, which tell the brain that the body needs regulation and to be scanned," Mona Dan, LAc, MTOM, herbalist, acupuncturist, and founder of Vie Healing acupuncture in Beverly Hills, CA, shares. "This scanning process is healing."
What to Do When You Don't Have an Acupuncturist Handy
If you aren't able to get to an acupuncturist quickly, or don't have one accessible to you, don't worry — the second best thing to acupuncture is acupressure, which can easily be done virtually anywhere. Acupressure is an ancient Chinese healing method where pressure is put on certain points in the body to help relieve pain or other ailments. These are some acupressure points that may help with insomnia when light pressure is applied, as shared by Mona: SPLEEN 9, PC 6, and POINT ZERO.