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Can acupuncture help me sleep?

Updated: May 3

Two children meant I quickly understood how the lack of sleep robbed me of my physical and mental wellbeing.

After someone commented on my coffee consumption after the birth of my second baby I said

" it is either I drink more coffee, or I have to give this child away.... "

But I know my children will grow older and be less inclined to come into my room at 2 am, 3 am, 4 am, 5 am.

But, what if you just can't get to sleep? Or you get to sleep and then wake up frequently in the night?

So I wanted to investigate how Chinese Medicine views insomnia. But I also wanted to offer you some other tools I have found along this journey to understand sleep more.

This blog will look at:

I really hope you enjoy this - if you have any questions please feel free to message me.

Love from Andrea


Healthy sleep habits

Sleep health is really important and may help with any sleep issues you are having.

  1. Bedtime routine: In Chinese Medicine try to be asleep by 11 pm. You should be aiming to get up around 7 am which is the time of the Stomach and for breakfast. I will add at the bottom of this blog the Chinese clock. Often if you wake at the same time, night after night, this is very important information for your acupuncturist.

  2. Relax & wind down: Create a ritual that you enjoy. This might be taking a bath, reading, meditation, yoga, facemask.

  3. Declutter to distress: Marie Kondo your space - only have items that bring you joy. That makes you feel welcome and not too distracted.

  4. Get rid of devices: at least 1 hour before bedtime.

  5. Pick up a book: Reading is a lovely way to spend that last hour before bedtime. If you'd like to read a book about sleep, I highly recommend Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams

  6. Bedding: (including quilts and pillows) allows you to create a bed that gives you a space to relax.

  7. Sleep Masks / Herbs:

    1. Have you tried Sleep Masks?

    2. There are a variety of pillow sprays that purportedly help with sleep.

    3. Or Pukka Herbs have a night time tea

    4. Alternatively, have you tried essential oils? Check out this guide from doTERRA

  8. Limit caffeine intake: Caffeine and stimulants are not recommended any time after lunch if you struggle with sleep.

  9. Acupressure: And we cannot forget some acupressure points. Try applying pressure to these points and see if they help

  10. 'Preferred' sleep position, according to TCM.


Acupressure for insomnia

Points are not pills. When we select an acupuncture point it is part of a wider prescription of what is going on with you. If you continue reading you will see there are many patterns associated with insomnia or disturbed sleep and your acupuncturist will take all those signs and symptoms into account.

But that being said these three acupuncture points are specifically indicated for sleep.

You can apply pressure to some of these points by rubbing them for five minutes.


The best position for sleep according to Chinese Medicine

Do you know how you sleep? I have a particular way I lie to sleep. I suspect you might do as well? So, what does this mean for you, according to Chinese Medicine?

I always sleep on my right side, but not necessarily in the best position. Interestingly this description below really resonates with me. I am quite deficient, but I am working on this with food and acupuncture.


Food suggestions for insomnia

I took these food recommendations from @theneuronutrition [instagram]. She does caveat her suggestions with a lack of evidence to support their efficacy. But we do know that these two brain chemicals, serotonin and melatonin, are very important for sleep and the foods she suggests are meant to boost levels.

Foods naturally rich in serotonin are turkey, eggs, pumpkin seeds and kiwi.

Foods for melatonin include cows milk, cherries and magnesium.

In a double-blind randomised control trial in 2012, they found

Supplementation of magnesium appears to improve subjective and objective measures of insomnia in elderly people and may become a useful instrument in managing sleep disorders in the elderly, which could also be extended as a helpful aid to the general population.

I have also looked at foods that calm the Mind according to Chinese Medicine principles. Paul Pitchford, Healing with Whole Foods is an amazing book.

Foods he suggests are whole wheat, mulberries, dill, chamomile and reishi mushroom.


Acupuncture for Insomnia: How Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at insomnia

For those of you who are interested in the acupuncture view of insomnia below are the patterns, treatment principles, and points we might consider together with the signs and symptoms they might present.

It is really important to note that nobody is ever a textbook version. We are complicated and exciting and we would need a complete view of an individual before making a diagnosis just based on the below.


What your dreams mean in Chinese medicine

I have been dreaming about swimming pools. But less about swimming and more about the dream of having one. I have no idea why. I don't even enjoy swimming.

But perhaps I am dreaming more about being abroad and enjoying some sunshine on my face.

Do you dream? Do any of these dreams resonate with you?


The Chinese clock

If you have trouble sleeping, the likelihood is that your acupuncturist is going to want to know if you regularly wake at the same time.

Because this may mean something.

Each of the Yin and Yang Chinese organs has a 2-hour window within the 24-hour clock.

It is why acupuncturists will suggest you try and eat between 7 am and 9 am. It is the desired time for you to receive the optimum energy from your food being received by the stomach.

And conversely, at the other end of the day, the peak time for bedtime is between 9 pm and 11 pm, because after 11 pm this is when your body needs to be sleeping and repairing.

So what does it mean if you regularly wake at 1 am? On its own maybe not much, but we would use this sign to build a wider picture of your health. It might correspond that we are seeing some pictures of Liver patterns.

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