Do you find it difficult to get to sleep? Are you waking up frequently during the night? Is it affecting your work?

Insomnia is a chronic condition that affects its sufferers both on a mental and physical level. It often comes with a range of other symptoms, which are secondary or as a result of the insufficient rest. All these symptoms and the pattern of the insomnia itself give vital clues to the practitioner to uncover your individual diagnosis and treatment plan.

Whether your insomnia stems from a lifestyle pattern or eating habits, emotional factors or trauma, together we can work towards a solution. Acupuncture has a calming and soothing effect, by relieving muscle tension and stress. Various points on the body have the specific function of promoting sleep and relaxation, which is the first step towards a good night’s rest.

In combination with targeted questioning, I will diagnose you using your pulse and tongue and then formulate an individualised treatment strategy to meet your needs. The line of questioning usually involves analysing your insomnia pattern, i.e. do you have problems falling asleep or do you wake up at night? What happens when you wake up at night (do you get night sweats, palpitations, feel hot/cold, need the toilet etc). Once I have an idea, I will then expand my questioning to your general health and wellbeing, symptoms you may experience during the day and so on.

In the presence of chronic sleeping problems there is often a pattern of tension in the body that builds up and maintains the vicious circle. As an example of this, many people who suffer from sleeping problems due to stress and anxiety in particular, tend to clench their jaw or grind their teeth at night, causing tension in the jaw, base of the scull, neck and shoulders, as well as around the clavicle. The knock on effect tends to be headaches, blocked ears, or tightness and discomfort.

Acupuncture helps break this pattern, facilitating deeper relaxation, and therefore better sleep. Because of the tendency of the muscles to tense up again, it’s does take time to break the cycle, but short term effects can be noted within the first 1-3 treatments.

Self help advice

Diet can be an important factor in quality of sleep. If you have problems with sleep, avoid eating hot/spicy food, and eating late at night. Alcohol and caffeine can also disrupt natural sleeping patterns so should be avoided or reduced.

There are a variety of foods that are beneficial in promoting a good night’s rest. Foods high in tryptophan are particularly beneficial. Tryptophan is an amino acid used to promote the manufacture of serotonin in the body. As carbohydrates are a natural relaxant, the combination of the two is said to be particularly successful (drbenkim.com/best-foods-sleep.html).

Healthy foods that are naturally rich in tryptophan include:

St. John’s wort, quinoa, spirulina (ref?), whole grains, including rice, beans, lentils, chickpeas, nuts, eggs, sunflower and sesame seeds, miso, raw dairy products and unsweetened soy milk. Some of the above are also classified as healthy carbohydrates so all you need is a bit of creativity in mixing these up for a delicious evening snack or light meal.

Relaxation techniques – there should be something out there to suit everyone. The most simple, and one I often recommend to my clients, is lying in bed for 5 mins, being aware of any tension in the body, making yourself as comfortable as possible. Place your hands on your abdomen, and take deep breaths (be careful not to force it). Your abdomen should rise and fall with your breath.

Another wonderful technique involves a similar awareness of the body. Lie in bed, get comfortable. Put your focus on each body part, starting with your toes. Tense your toes up, and then relax them, do the same with the ankles, calves/shins and so on travelling all the way up your body. This will take your mind off any issues and bring you into the here and now.

The most important thing to remember here is that you have to keep this going for a few days/weeks before experiencing the full benefit. Repeating the same behavior every night is embedding a new muscle memory, and it will take you less and less time to achieve deep relaxation.

Gentle stretching – trying to eliminate areas of tension is a great way to achieve relaxation. If you have a pre-existing problem that you think could get aggravated by doing this, please consult with your GP or physiotherapist.

We mustn’t forget that sleep is a very complex science, and other treatments may be necessary, such as therapy or counseling, review of medication (certain medication can cause nightmares – beta blockers, anti-hypertensives, and anti-depressants to name a few). It may be useful to consult your GP, if you feel there is cause for concern, or your lack of sleep prevents you from leading a relatively normal life.

Please contact me to discuss your case or to book an appointment.