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Insomnia has become incredibly prevalent in our society. There’s data that suggests approximately 30% of the general adult population of the globe suffers from one or more of the indicators of insomnia: difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or sleep that isn’t restorative. What’s more, 10% of the general population finds their daytime performance impaired by their insomnia. The consequences of insomnia are far-reaching and severe, including impaired physical, cognitive, emotional, and social well-being. For a very detailed review on the benefits of sleep that’s written for someone with almost no prior knowledge, check out “Why We Sleep” by Matthew Walker, a phenomenal read. In short, when you’re not sleeping enough, you’re reducing your life expectancy.
People who have battled with insomnia for long periods of time understand how treatment-resistant it can be. There are a number of problems with pharmaceuticals that are meant to put you to sleep – so called “sleeping pills”. The biggest problem with these is that they seem to put you in a state of unconsciousness, not a state of sleep. That means that taking sleeping pills can actually deprive you of a number of sleep’s useful benefits. You can learn more about the different types of sleeping pills by reading this article. In brief, they all operate slightly differently, should be used under the direction of a doctor, and should be discontinued carefully.
There are a number of reasons why a patient might not want to resort to the use of pharmaceuticals to treat their insomnia. There are a number of other treatments available; one of the most effective seems to be cognitive behavioural therapy. While CBT is effective, it’s also hard work, and it might be useful to find a variety of tools to assist you while you’re undergoing the therapy. There are a number of other ways to improve your sleep habits and all of them can be aided by consultations with medical professionals.
Acupuncture and Insomnia
One of the things that makes insomnia so challenging to treat is that it can have multiple causes, ranging from poor sleeping habits to mental health disorders. That means that, more often than not, a holistic approach to the problem is necessary. When you’re looking for a holistic solution to a problem, it’s important to find a number of different tools and techniques that you can use simultaneously. One of the most important considerations when finding such tools and techniques is whether or not they are low-risk and whether or not they have negative interactions with one another.
This is what makes acupuncture such an excellent method for treating insomnia. The process is incredibly safe and can be used in conjunction with a number of other therapies. As is often the case with acupuncture, it’s one piece of the holistic treatment puzzle.
Having established that acupuncture is safe, the next step is to evaluate whether or not it’s effective.
One of the problems with studying the effectiveness of acupuncture is that studies are, by the nature of acupuncture, difficult to conduct. That’s in part because there is little established literature in English on why acupuncture works, though there are plenty of studies showing that it does work for a variety of conditions. That said, there are a number of reasonably high-quality studies we can look at to demonstrate acupuncture’s efficacy in treating insomnia.
The first of these is a metastudy which reviewed a number of complementary medicines and their effect on insomnia. Of the various studies they reviewed, they found four which were of adequate rigor for their purposes; two of these studies demonstrated that acupuncture is an effective way of treating insomnia, equivalent to a pharmaceutical (clonazepam) in its effectiveness.
Another study, which looked at 46 randomized trials, found that acupuncture was more effective than no or sham treatment in treating insomnia. What’s more, the same study found that while acupuncture was about as effective as medication in treating insomnia, acupuncture and medication together were more effective than either alone.
Why Acupuncture Is Effective
The reasons that acupuncture is effective for treating acupuncture are a bit unclear, for the same reasons that clinical trials are hard to conduct; exactly why acupuncture works for most things isn’t obvious. There are a lot of theories, most of them revolve around that acupuncture stimulates your body’s natural responses to pain, causing your body to release endorphins and serotonin.
We might look to the underlying causes of some insomnia to explain acupuncture’s effectiveness. We know that acupuncture may help relieve depression and reduce chronic pain. These two conditions are often associated with insomnia; if they’re the root cause of your insomnia, treating them will probably help you improve your sleep.
Almost all the studies reviewed in this article suggest acupuncture is best used as part of a holistic treatment. That means if you’re considering acupuncture, you shouldn’t discontinue other treatments right away; rather, you should talk to your doctor and the rest of your medical team. Let them know you’re considering acupuncture as a treatment option so they can assess how effective it is at aiding your sleep and whether or not there might be any negative effects from the combination of acupuncture and a medication you’re taking.
Over the course of this article, there’s been a brief discussion about the negative effects of insomnia. They are vast, they are problematic, and they’re affecting large swaths of our population. Invest in yourself by investing in finding solutions for your insomnia. When you start getting a good night’s sleep again, you’ll notice the improvements immediately and be happier for them.