When people hear the word “acupuncture,” the most common thing that comes to mind is being prodded with needles all over the body. Sounds scary? Well, it isn’t!
What started as a form of traditional Chinese medicine is now a popular form of alternative treatment that helps with various diseases, chronic pain, and even sleep problems.
Does it really work? Read on to know how you can improve your sleep quality with acupuncture treatments.
The acupuncture principle
Chinese philosophy follows the concept of “qi” (pronounced as “chi”) which literally translates to air, and can be interpreted as the body’s life force and energy flow.
In a perfect world, a person’s qi has a balanced flow in all the body areas, and if there are any obstructions or incorrect flow of energy, it results in problems or illness.
By inserting needles or applying pressure on the acupuncture points, the normal flow of qi is being restored and allowed to move more freely.
Does it even work?
Although acupuncture isn’t considered a practice of modern or western medicine, it’s a widely accepted form of alternative medicine.
Modern studies show that performing acupuncture leads to positive effects on the body’s nervous system and immune system.
Systematic reviews of randomised controlled trials and clinical trials often show mixed results, but most studies still find acupuncture to have scientific validity.
Some healthcare practitioners are quick to dismiss the effect of acupuncture as a placebo. Still, there’s a general consensus that there’s no harm in getting the treatment (as long as you get it from a proper acupuncturist).
Acupuncture and sleep
The idea of being poked with needles to improve sleep seems quite far fetched. However, there are studies that show acupuncture works well to help improve quality of sleep.
Acupuncture works by stimulating melatonin production, which can help ease you into a sleep cycle and into deeper rest.
Another way that acupuncture is thought to induce sleep is by increasing the production of serotonin in the brain, which is a hormone that regulates mood and sleep.
In other studies, it’s believed that acupuncture aids in relieving stress and anxiety, which can cause sleep disruptions for some people.
If you’re struggling with conditions such as sleep apnea, symptoms of insomnia, or general sleeplessness, trying acupuncture could be a good idea.
One of the most common sleep disorders that is believed to be addressed by acupuncture is chronic insomnia. Acupuncture is a lot more natural compared to taking sleeping pills such as benzodiazepines, and can be a first step for treating insomnia before other options are explored.
Different types of acupuncture
Needles are the first thing that comes to mind whenever the word acupuncture is mentioned. There are actually several different means of performing acupuncture that don’t always involve being poked and prodded by needles.
The usual practice of acupuncture usually involves poking needles in the body and in the body’s extremities. Auricular acupuncture, on the other hand, incorporates the practice of placing needles in the ear.
Auricular acupuncture may be performed as a standalone treatment or can be done alongside body acupuncture to get the best results. Ear seeds are also being commonly used as a less invasive way of auricular acupuncture, while still focusing on those pressure points.
One of the more convenient alternatives to traditional acupuncture is acupressure. It requires no needles and focuses more on massaging specific areas or applying deep pressure in different acupoints.
It is believed that massaging the different pressure points allows for the same effects of acupuncture but with the convenience of being able to do it on your own wherever you may be.
You can purchase acupressure mats so you can focus on your health and wellness in the comfort of your own home.
Electroacupuncture is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a form of acupuncture that involves applying electrical currents to the needles that are poked in your body.
The idea of electroacupuncture sounds a bit intimidating, but the feeling is not far from normal acupuncture. You might feel it sting a little, but still not enough to cause you pain or harm.
It is believed that the additional electrical current allows for more stimulation of energy flow, therefore being more effective than using needles alone.
Moxibustion follows how normal body acupuncture is typically performed, but with the difference of incorporating medicinal plants and herbs on top of the needles that are prodded in your body.
The dried plant materials are added on top of the needle and consequently lit with fire to further enhance the effect of acupuncture.
Heat therapy from moxibustion provides soothing warmth and is also believed to further improve the flow of relaxing energy in the body.
Any side effects?
There shouldn’t be any adverse reactions or side effects from acupuncture. In fact, acupuncture is widely known as a low-risk form of complementary medicine. After your first session, you might experience some minor skin irritation, bruising and slight bleeding, but these are normal reactions.
Some acupuncture patients may feel dizzy and lightheaded after their first session. These effects usually go away once your body gets used to acupuncture.
What should I do?
Should you get acupuncture treatments to address poor sleep? Well, there’s no harm in trying. It’s a relatively safe procedure that may bring some rewards with little to no risk.
If you’re afraid of a few needles being stuck in your body, it’s probably not for you. Practising proper sleep hygiene would be more helpful towards improved sleep and well-being.