What is insomnia?
Insomnia relates to many different types of disrupted sleep. Whether it is short or long term, it can impact your everyday life considerably.
The main characteristics of insomnia are difficulty falling asleep at night or failure to stay asleep. It is one of the most common issues in society. It can cause many other problems such as prolonged fatigue, inefficiency, cognitive decline, tension, and anxiety, all of which can affect social harmony and stability (1).
What are the common signs and symptoms?
- Having difficulty falling asleep
- Waking up several times during the night and staying awake
- Waking up before your alarm goes off and being unable to go back to sleep
- Suffering from tension headaches
- Not feeling refreshed when you wake up in the morning
- Having poor concentration during the day
- Feeling fatigued throughout the day
- Worrying about sleeping(4)
What are the types of insomnia
- Short-term insomnia can be anything from a few nights to a few weeks of inadequate sleep. It can happen with worries or anxiety and other emotional
- ‘Chronic’, or long-term insomnia, involves having at least three nights of lousy sleep per week over the course of a month or longer, and is often due to anxiety, other sleeping problems or even pregnancy.
- Primary insomnia, also known as idiopathic insomnia, is a sleeping disorder without a known medical, environmental or psychological cause.
- Secondary insomnia happens in conjunction with another disease or dysfunction, such as chronic pain, depression, heart disease, anxiety (3).
What causes insomnia?
There are lots of different reasons why you might have insomnia. In some cases, it can be a symptom of other health issues. Some other causes are:
- Stress related to your work, study or personal life
- Environmental factors, such as the temperature, lighting or noise levels in your bedroom
- Using technology (mobile phone, laptop, tablet, television) right before bed
- Interruptions to your regular sleep routine, such as jetlag or studying late at night
- Suffering from a mental illness, such as depression
- Drug use, including alcohol and caffeine.
How is it treated conventionally?
First of all, the doctor will suggest good sleep hygiene for all types of insomnia. Good sleep hygiene means establishing a regular sleep routine by:
- Going to bed and rising at the same time each day
- Optimising the sleep environment, for example:
- Ensuring the bedroom is dark enough
- Avoiding stimulants or substances that disrupt sleep
- Ensuring adequate exercise during the day
- Exposure to natural light and darkness
- Keeping pre-bedtime activities like smartphone use to a minimum.
Practising good sleep hygiene and reducing stress might be enough to help some cases of acute and mild insomnia. Any underlying conditions or health issues contributing to insomnia will also need to be investigated and addressed.
If conservative methods are not effective, insomnia is additionally treated with:
- Medication (benzodiazepines, antidepressants, antipsychotics, antihistamines, melatonin)
- Referral to a counsellor or psychologist if anxiety, depression or other mental health issues are affecting sleep.
- Cognitive behavioural therapy including stimulus control therapy, relaxation exercises, sleep restriction, and light therapy.
- Admission to a sleep clinic to diagnose a severe sleep disorder.
How can acupuncture help with insomnia?
More and more people are turning to acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine to alleviate sleep issues.
East Asian medical practitioners believe that a healthy flow of energy (Qi) through channels or Qi pathways (meridians) inside the body promotes good health and wellbeing. If this energy flow is blocked, it can lead to pain, discomfort, and illness. Acupuncturists use thin needles strategically placed at specific points along the meridians to remove these blockages and restore the body’s energy flow. Treatments can help restore balance, alleviate pain, stress, anxiety, enhance sleep, and improve overall wellbeing.
Studies have shown that acupuncture can help with insomnia in several ways:
- Increase secretion of nocturnal endogenous melatonin (a hormone that regulates the sleep cycle).
- Increase blood flow in the cerebrum
- Lower sympathetic nervous system activity, therefore, increasing relaxation
- Regulate blood levels of serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine, which help to reduce mental tension and increase the relaxation response
A clinical study from 2017 evaluated the safety and efficacy of acupuncture treatment for primary insomnia. Two groups were divided into an acupuncture group and a control group who received sham acupuncture. The participants received treatments three times per week for four weeks. They were observed by sleep monitors and regular questionnaires for eight weeks.
The study found that the acupuncture group had a significant improvement in the Insomnia Severity Index at both weeks and four weeks post-treatment. Scores also improved for sleep efficiency, total sleep time and self-rating depression scale. The study concluded that acupuncture treatment effectively increases insomnia patients’ sleep quality and improves their psychological health (2).
How can Ondol Clinic help?
Insomnia is a multifactorial condition that needs to be approached from different angles. Besides guidance on sleep hygiene practices, we offer gentle Japanese acupuncture, prescription of herbal medicine and supplements, and nutritional advice at our clinic.
In our initial consultation, we do a comprehensive assessment of your health and develop an individual treatment plan tailored to your particular situation and needs. Stress management and relaxation are an essential part of our holistic approach. Chinese herbal formulas – if needed – are made up in granulated form at our premises.
If you have any further questions or would like more information on how acupuncture can help with insomnia, or to make a booking, please call us on 3371 0100 or visit www.ondol.com.au/make-a-booking/
1. Zhang, M, Zhao, J et al. 2019, ‘Effectiveness and safety of acupuncture for insomnia’, Medicine (Baltimore), vol. 98, no. 45.
2. Yin, X, Minghi, G et al. 2017, ‘Efficacy and safety of acupuncture treatment on primary insomnia: a randomized controlled trial’, Sleep medicine, vol. 37, pp. 193-200.
3. Liu, F, You, J et al. 2019, ‘Acupuncture for chronic pain-related insomnia: a systematic review and meta-analysis’, Hindawi evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine’, vol. 2019.
4. Reach Out 2021, ‘Insomnia’, <https://au.reachout.com/articles/insomnia?gclid=CjwKCAiAkJKCBhAyEiwAKQBCkhJR07lqo8efHIjMGGwre949zFfncPwCfZrLCG5miif0mZ>.