Many of us with insomnia, myself included would do anything… and I mean anything to get to sleep. In the past I have tried everything from over the counter drugs to meditation tapes, and even just praying to the sleep Gods to let me just get some rest.
I have been told all the tricks… no screen time an hour before bed, no lights in the room, don’t look at any clocks, breathing meditations, warm milk, and the list goes on and on. And some nights they work and others they don’t. The type of insomnia I had and still have at times is the type where I can’t fall asleep. As soon as my head hits the pillow my mind comes to life. I call it monkey brain, because it feels like my mind just swings back and forth through everything that has or could happen in my life, like monkeys swing through a jungle. And this is a very common sleep issue I see with my clients.
If you noticed I said “had and still have at times” when speaking about my insomnia. This is because my sleep issues are nowhere near what they once were in the past, but there are those nights after a stressful week and not receiving treatments or treating myself as regularly that the monkeys wake back up to play all night long. But for the most part I fall into the “had” category thanks to acupuncture. And this is truly the magic of acupuncture that drew me into the field.
So lets look a little closer at acupuncture and insomnia. For centuries acupuncture has been used to provide relief for the many different types of insomnia. These types include:
-sleep onset or difficulty falling asleep (my type)
-middle of the night, or waking and unable to fall back to sleep right away
-terminalinsomnia- waking in the very early morning and unable to fall asleep again
-sleep with vivid and disruptive dreams
-inability to fall asleep at all
In Chinese medicine each type of insomnia indicates a different imbalance within the body. And it is important to note that the treatment of each type of insomnia will be different, but it will also be different for every person, even if they have the same type, because it may manifest or be rooted in a different way. So the way I get treated for my sleep onset insomnia will be different from you even if you have the same type of insomnia. Acupuncture looks at the person as a whole, and not just at the symptom.
During your treatment you will be asked questions to figure out what type(s) of insomnia you have and what organs are in disharmony. The time you fall asleep and wake up have a role in your treatment of your insomnia, for example if you wake up every night between 1-3am the Liver is involved. Also, you will be asked about your emotions, it makes sense to many of us that emotions may be part of what keeps us awake at night but in TCM they are important because each emotion has an organ it is attached to. The Heart is related to anxiety, the Liver to stress or anger, and the Spleen is connected to worry. The goal of the treatments is to create a balance of these organs, which in turn makes it easier to fall and stay asleep.
Insomnia won’t be cured with one treatment. In general for insomnia I like to see my clients once a week for about a month or until we see substantial improvement. And then after you are on a better sleep cycle we can start cutting back to keep maintaining the results we have gotten. That is what I meant when I said still having insomnia at times. I know life gets busy and even I miss a treatment, but my body is sure to tell me when I have gone to long! When you are first starting to treat insomnia with acupuncture consistency is your best friend, it takes 21 days for your body to learn a new habit, which is why the treatments are scheduled the way they are at the start.
The great thing with acupuncture though is even after your first treatment you will receive the benefits of calmness and relaxation that many of us with insomnia haven’t experienced in a long time!
Some ways of how insomnia is looked at in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) can be shown in the following examples: these are examples and like I said one thing does not fit every person in TCM, you may fall perfectly into one of these categories, or if you are like me fit into as many as three depending on the day. For a more personal diagnosis please make an appointment!
-Heart Meridian: Emotion= anxiety, Insomnia= waking up easy; difficulty falling asleep
-Liver Meridian: Emotion= anger, stress, frustration, Insomnia= difficulty falling asleep; waking between 1-3am
-Lung Meridian: Emotion= grief, Insomnia= waking between 3-5am
-Spleen Meridian: Emotion= worry, obsessiveness, Insomnia= waking at the same time overnight; dream-disturbed sleep