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Acupuncture for Insomnia

Ongoing difficulty sleeping is called insomnia and there are different types and patterns. Some people have trouble falling asleep while others can’t stay asleep. Some are woken from frequent dreams while others can’t stop their minds from spinning. Some wake up at the same time every night, some fall back to sleep again, other don’t.

Acupuncture looks at these different types in terms of patterns of energy or qi, so regardless of what shape your insomnia takes there will be an explanation. Acupuncture can be extremely helpful for combating insomnia and treatment is always tailored to the type of insomnia you are suffering from in relationship to your specific habits and lifestyle. Once you have a better sense of what you are dealing with, you can choose more targeted techniques for addressing it.

Can't Fall Asleep

If you’re having a hard time falling asleep — as opposed to waking in the middle of the night — acupuncture would say it is usually an indicator of one of two things: either your gall bladder energy (qi) is excessive and rising, or you are dealing with deficient heart qi.

Stressed out gall bladder
The Chinese medicine clock says our gall bladder qi is strongest from 11pm-1am, so if you can’t fall asleep until 1am, it could be because your gall bladder system is all amped up. The gall bladder is often impacted by stress, so a good long-term plan for dealing with insomnia is to reduce your stress. A more immediate solution is to massage the sides of your head, an area were the gall bladder channel runs. Scrub the temporal region of the head — above and behind the ears, within the hairline — followed by rubbing or squeezing the tops of your shoulders. This can help clear some of the excess energy away from the mind so that you can rest.

Heart qi deficient
The inability to fall asleep due to heart qi deficiency usually involves anxiety. In these cases, stress may not be the underlying issue. It is more likely to be general overwhelm from too much happening in our lives. Anxiety with insomnia is a great indicator that it is time for a practice such as meditation, mindfulness, prayer, yoga, tai chi, or qigong — anything to help calm your mind and give yourself a break from all that is happening. For those with insomnia of the Heart qi deficiency kind shut down all devices, eliminate the glow of LED lights from the room, and perhaps try a  bit of light reading and drinking a cup of chamomile tea before turning off the lights.

Tips to help Insomnia

Draw The ‘Yang’ Energy Down
An acupressure technique for addressing insomnia is to stimulate an acupuncture point located on the bottom of the foot called Bubbling Spring. Massage, rub, tap or simply press this point with your thumb for a couple of minutes before bed. This helps to draw the ‘yang’ energy down, out of the head to the most ‘yin’ point on the body.

In the same vein give yourself a foot bath:
1. Fill your bath, a bucket, or other container with hot water (hot-tub hot!)
2. Stick your feet in at least up to the ankles
3. Soak for 10-15 minutes
it’s important to make this the last thing you do before bed. Put the pot/bucket at the end of the bed, sit on the bed and soak you feet soak, have a towel ready to dry off, and then head straight to sleep.

Belly breathing - with the aid of a stone
Breathing into the belly is another way to bring energy down from the head and calm the mind before bed. Do this by lying on your back with a large smooth rock on your abdomen. If you don’t have one handy, a thick book will also work as well. With deep inhalations, your abdomen will expand, and the rock will rise. Exhaling, feel the rock to sink down towards your spine. This focuses your awareness on the sensations deep in the abdomen and allows the  rhythm of your breath to naturally deepen. This has a calming effect on mind and body.  If you fall asleep, you will wake up in the morning and find you are sleeping next to a rock!

Bed Time Drinks:
In Beatrix Potter’s classic children’s story, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, old Mrs Rabbit puts Peter to bed with a cup of chamomile tea after his narrow escape in Mr McGregor's garden. Well, research shows that ‘mother rabbit’ was pretty smart as camomile's ability to reduce anxiety and combat insomnia is presently of particular interest to medical researchers. Or try adding a handful of walnuts to the classic bedtime milk drink. Grind them up and mix with your favourite milk—almond, coconut, or whatever you prefer. Walnuts contain melatonin, the hormone that helps control your daily sleep-wake cycles.

If you think a hot toddy may help you get a better night’s sleep - think again. Although alcohol may allow you to fall asleep quicker and sleep more deeply initially, it reduces rapid eye movement sleep resulting in over all poorer quality - and often disrupted sleep - over the night as a whole.

Avoid caffeinated drinks - black tea and coffee - after 3pm. Caffeine is a stimulant and as well as tea and coffee it is also found dark chocolate - so take note, it is an easy one to over look!

Do Nothing
Sometimes the best cure for insomnia is allowing ourselves to do nothing. Many of us are distracted constantly throughout the day. Talking on the phone, listening to the radio while driving, screens and TV constantly on at home and in public places. And there’s always work to be done and life to live. Many of us are constantly over stimulated and do not give ourselves the opportunity to digest all the things we’ve experienced during the day. If we don’t give our body and mind space to stop and process, the chances are it will it take it from us at night. I suggest to busy people with insomnia that they spend 10 minutes a day doing nothing. Just lay on the ground with no stimulation and let your mind wander to anywhere it needs to be.

Accept your sleeplessness
When all else fails, accept that you cannot sleep, it can happen that worrying about not being able to sleep becomes a source of stress in itself. Try and be okay with it if you cannot fall asleep— relax and surrender to the process. You can always catch a short nap or go to bed earlier the next day.

How Acupunuctre Helps Insomnia

  • Increases secretion of melatonin and other hormone that helps regulate sleep
  • Reduces 'fight and 'flight' nervous system activity and deactivates the 'analytical' brain
  • Promotes normal function of brain tissues
  • Increases cerebral blood flow
  • Regulates levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin which alter the brain’s mood chemistry to help to increase relaxation and reduce tension
  • Safely combines with conventional drug treatments enhancing their beneficial effects and reducing side effects.