Judy Bowen-Jones

Insomnia & Sleep Problems

Insufficient sleep can make us feel tired and irritable and adversely affect our concentration during the day

Chronic sleep problems can lead to chronic health problems. Studies suggest that inadequate sleep may adversely affect our immune system. Many of the major restorative functions in the body like muscle growth, tissue repair, protein synthesis, and growth hormone release occur predominantly or only during sleep.

There are different kinds of Insomnia:

  • Difficulty falling asleep (sleep-onset insomnia) – the most common type
  • Waking up in the night and not being able to get back to sleep
  • Waking up too early in the morning and not being able to get back to sleep
  • Not feeling refreshed after sleep

Almost everyone has problems sleeping at some point in their lives. Possible causes:

  • During or after stressful situations such as money or work worries, or death of a loved one.
  • Psychological problems, such as anxiety, panic disorder or PTSD, Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
  • Underlying physical problems such as IBS, fibromyalgia, arthritis, hyperactive thyroid, respiratory or urinary problems, chronic pain.
  • Use and misuse of drugs such as alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and recreational drugs or medicines

The first step in treating insomnia is to determine the underlying cause. For short term insomnia your GP will advise you on good sleep habits and, if lack of sleep is severely affecting you during the day, you may be prescribed a short course of sleeping pills. Sleeping pills can help provide relief from the symptoms in the short term but do not address the underlying cause. If you have long-term insomnia, cognitive behavioural therapy may also be recommended.

Acupuncture for Insomnia

In clinical research trials, acupuncture for insomnia appears to be at least as effective as existing conventional drugs without the side effects and should be considered as one of the therapeutic options for insomnia.

Acupuncture may specifically benefit people with insomnia by:

  • Increasing production of nocturnal melatonin, a hormone believed to regulate sleep
  • Stimulating natural opioids which reduce anxiety and pain
  • Promoting normal function of brain tissues
  • Calming sympathetic nervous activity, promoting relaxation
  • Altering the brain’s mood chemistry to calm and reduce tension

See also:

Treating Insomnia

“Many of my patients report that they sleep better after acupuncture. Subsequently they feel less tired and more energised. For those suffering from insomnia, acupuncture can help provide the impetus to help develop positive sleep patterns. Patients say this can make a huge difference to their health and quality of life. Following an intensive programme of acupuncture for chronic insomnia over a period of weeks, one of my patients went to for a regular check up with his GP for long term hypertension and weight problems. He discovered that both his blood pressure and weight had come down significantly. They were both amazed at the results.”

Research Fact Sheets

For more information see the British Acupuncture Council Research Fact Sheet below.