Acupuncture and Insomnia

Acupuncture, along with Chinese herbs, work to treat insomnia in as little as two or three treatments

Insomnia is a prevalent condition for most people in the United States. There are millions who struggle to fall or stay asleep. While for most people the problem may be periodic, there are those who struggle with sleep problems far much more frequently.

The numbers suggest that many adults within the ages of 19-45 struggle with sleeping problems. 30 to 35% of adults go through brief bouts of insomnia while 15 to 20% have insomnia that last for at least 3 months. 10% of adults in the United States have chronic insomnia which affects them a minimum of three times a week for 3 months.

According to Sahoo Saddichha (2010), the condition is not addressed properly in medical circles and, therefore remains under-treated and under-diagnosed even though it affects a large spectrum of the population. According to the study, the condition mostly affects the female gender, white population, and people who have been treated for some kind of psychiatric condition.

The good news is that we have been treating insomnia effectively for years with acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine. Let’s look at some of the causes and conventional treatments for insomnia before exploring how we address it holistically at our Margate clinic.

Insomnia pathogenesis

Insomnia is known to originate from a state of “hyperarousal.” This is when an individual remains in an elevated state of mind through the day and into the night thus making it hard to sleep. This premise is supported by the observation that insomniacs have an increased metabolic rate, when compared to regular sleepers (Bonnet & Arand, 1997; Stepanski et al., 1988).

In another study, it was observed that insomniacs rate higher on the hyperarousal scale. Their arousal rate remained high, even throughout the day, after they had trouble falling asleep from the prior day (Pavlova et al., 2001; Bonnet &  Arand, 1995). The condition is not life-threatening in many instances but can lead to other conditions which endanger the person’s life, such as depression.

Chronic insomnia is usually brought about by life events that are stressful or changes in sleeping habits. By treating the underlying  causes, one can resolve the condition even though it may stay around for years after the onset.

Some  common causes of the disease include:

  1. Work or travel schedule – this usually affects the circadian  cycle, which functions as an internal clock that directs your sleep-wake cycle,  body temperature and metabolism. Long travels across different time zones, or  early, late or changing shifts at work are among the reasons for insomnia in  this case.
  2. Stress – traumatic life events can also bring about insomnia.  Anxiety over finances, work, school, family or health can cause the mind to remain active during the night thus inhibiting sleep. The same happens in the  case of unfortunate events such as death of a loved one, loss of a job, or divorce.
  3. Eating too much just before going to sleep – eating a heavy  meal before going to sleep can also cause you not to fall asleep easily as the body is not comfortable. Heartburn and other issues involved with diet can also keep you awake as there is a backflow of food and acid to the esophagus.
  4. Poor sleeping habits – such habits include stimulating activities before going to sleep, irregular schedule for sleeping, working from bed or being in an uncomfortable sleeping environment. Video games, TV, smartphones and other electronic gadgets used during bed time can also bring about insomnia. Other causes of the condition include the use of caffeine, alcohol or nicotine.

Symptoms of insomnia

Insomnia is a disorder that is often brushed off by the sufferer since it may not be apparent to the person that they are suffering from the condition. In most cases, people seek medical attention after the condition has become too problematic to ignore.

     Some of the symptoms of insomnia include;

  • Trouble falling asleep when you go to bed
  • Waking up in the middle of the night
  • Waking up earlier than usual
  • Feeling tired even after having a whole night’s sleep
  • Sleepiness or feeling tired during the day
  • Anxiety, irritability and depression
  • Proneness to error and/or accidents
  • Difficulty in concentration

Western treatments for insomnia

The treatment of insomnia using western medical approaches is based on the underlying cause. Resolving the underlying cause usually curbs  the condition. When related to an identified medical condition, treatment for the disease is usually the first mode of treatment. Treatment in other cases may involve medical therapy or non-medical therapy or a combination of both. There are also many over the counter sleep remedies that are popular but the question arises if they are safe to take long term. Some may even have unwanted side effects. Medications are at times prescribed such as Ambien and even Xanax. They can be effective but can also be addictive, and they also come with unwanted side effects.

Acupuncture and the treatment of insomnia

Acupuncture is one of the practices used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The ancient therapy has been used by the Chinese to treat a myriad of conditions either as the main form of treatment or in  combination with others treatments, such as Chinese herbal medicine. The western world has accepted acupuncture as an alternative treatment for many conditions thanks to research showing encouraging results and trials which have worked.

Acupuncture utilizes an internal energy of the body known as Qi. This energy is harnessed through the acupuncture points in the body which  are like junctions for the energy. The proper flow of this energy has physical, spiritual and mental benefits. Acupuncture is used to reclaim the regular flow of this energy for different physical and mental results.

Research citing support for acupuncture as a treatment for insomnia

In one study carried out by Huijuan Cao et al. (2009), 46 trials involving 3811 patients were executed to analyze the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating insomnia. Analysis during the study showed that patients using acupuncture treatment to cure insomnia showed signs of improvement within weeks. The study showed a sleep increment of more than 3 hours. The general agreement was that there were no side effects to the  treatment.

Hollifield et al. (2007) conducted a study to show the effects of acupuncture in treating insomnia caused by post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The study showed that acupuncture treatment produced positive results and could be a viable non-exposure treatment for insomnia caused by PTSD.

Sohyune Sok,1 and Kwuy  Bun Kim (2005) from the University of Korea also carried out a study to observe the effects of auricular acupuncture in treating insomnia in the elderly. Patients using acupuncture treatment showed increased sleep scores compared to the control. Auricular acupressure therapy, administered on these trials,  also showed that patients gained other benefits from the therapy such as an improved ability to recall past events, as well as recovery from physical and physiological dysfunction.

In a study to investigate the effect of electro acupuncture on primary insomnia, Wing-Fai Yeung et al. demonstrated that patients undergoing acupuncture treatment showed an advantage over those under placebo treatment. The study involved 60 volunteers and results were collected using individual questionnaires and sleep diaries among others.

If you are suffering with insomnia let us help. It is a common condition treated in our clinic and we have had amazing results with our patients over the years. Call us to schedule a free consultation today. We are located in Margate Florida, just minutes from Coral Springs, Coconut Creek and Tamarac Florida.




  1. Sahoo Saddichha; Diagnosis and treatment of chronic insomnia. 2010
  2. Bonnet MH, Arand DL. Hyperarousal and insomnia. Sleep Medicine Reviews. 1997;1:97–108.
  3. Schwartz S, McDowell AW, Cole SR, Cornoni-Huntley J, Hays JC, Blazer D. Insomnia and heart disease: a review of epidemiologic studies. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 1999;47:313–333.
  4. Pavlova M, Berg O, Gleason R, Walker F, Roberts S, Regestein Q. Self-reported hyperarousal traits among insomnia patients. Journal of Psychosomatic Research. 2001;51:435–441.
  5. Sohyune Sok, and Kwuy Bun Kim; Effects of Auricular Acupuncture on Insomnia in Korean Elderly. 2005
  6. Hollifield, Michael MD, Sinclair-Lian, Nityamo, Warner, Teddy D. PhD, Hammerschlag, Richard PhD; Acupuncture for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial. Journal of Nervous & Mental Disease: June 2007 – Volume 195 – Issue 6 – pp 504-513
  7. Wing-Fai Yeung, BCM, BSc , Ka-Fai Chung, MBBS; MRCPsych ,Shi-Ping Zhang, MB, PhD, Tuan-Gee Yap, MBBS, PhD , Andrew C.K. Law, MD, PhD, FRCPC; Electroacupuncture for Primary Insomnia: A Randomized Controlled Trial. (2009) 32 (8): 1039-1047.