The Science of Insomnia and How Acupuncture Affects It

last one awake

We live in a fast-paced, modern world that creates high stress levels, leaving many people tossing and turning late into the night. While everyone experiences a night or two of bad sleep due to stressful situations or an upset stomach, when the condition becomes more frequent or even chronic it could be considered insomnia.


Most people have experienced the symptoms of insomnia; you probably recognize them:


      problems falling asleep

      frequent waking during the night with trouble falling asleep again

      early waking

      feeling tired and fatigued in the morning


Losing a night or two of sleep once in a while isn’t worrisome. Thomas Roth stated in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, "the consequences of insomnia cannot merely be the normal consequence of sleep loss." It’s when that sleep loss truly becomes sleep deprivation, and you’re suffering mentally, physically, and emotionally, that intervention may be needed.


Sleep deprivation causes the neurons in the brain to slow down, which you'll notice by the decrease in your decision-making skills, reasoning abilities, and reaction times. Different parts of the brain suffer in different ways. For example, the emotional center of the brain becomes more sensitive to negative stimuli while the reasoning part of your brain becomes less active, contributing to anxiety and depression. The body also doesn't have the time it needs to heal and becomes more sensitive to pain.


Prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, anxiety, and depression amongst other diseases and illnesses. If sleep deprivation regularly causes harmful effects in your daily life, there are ways to get the rest you need.


Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective treatment to reduce the symptoms of insomnia. By focusing on specific pressure points on the body, acupuncture regulates the nervous system to treat many different illnesses. But when it comes to insomnia, acupuncture helps treat conditions like anxiety that contribute to sleeplessness. Reducing stress through natural means helps you physically and mentally relax at night for better sleep.


Acupuncture has also been shown to increase the release of melatonin, a critical sleep-inducing hormone. The combination of lower anxiety and more sleep hormone gives many people an advantage over the causes of their sleeplessness.


Acupuncture can also be used in conjunction with good sleep habits like:


      Keeping a Consistent Bedtime: The body runs regular 24-hour cycles. By maintaining a consistent bedtime, you allow the body to stay in sync with these regular cycles and release sleep hormones at the same time every day.

      Developing a Relaxing Bedtime Routine: A relaxing bedtime routine works as an effective stress management tool. The repetition gives the brain time to recognize when to release sleep hormones while the body releases stress and anxiety. Just be sure to perform your bedtime routine in the same order and at the same time every day.

      Avoiding Stimulants:  Stimulants like caffeine block sleep hormones. They should be avoided at least four hours before bedtime.

      Turning Off Electronics: The light from electronics with bright screens can suppress the release of sleep hormones. Try to turn them off at least two to three hours before bed to prevent sleep disruptions.



To fall and stay asleep, you’ll also need a comfortable mattress. Your mattress should be free of lumps and valleys while supporting your preferred sleep position. At night, the bedroom should be kept cool, dark, and quiet to create optimal sleep conditions. With the right preparation, you can reduce the symptoms of insomnia, get more sleep, and start feeling like yourself again.

Samantha (Sam) Kent is a researcher for Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.