By: Vanessa Vogel Batt, L.Ac., MSTOM
Sleep disorders occur when difficulties and complications interfere with the quality and length of sleep. One reason why it is so important to consistently have a proper night's sleep is because without it, other medical issues may worsen. Even a single restless night can leave one feeling mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted.
While a complete catalogue of sleep disorders is long and varied, the following list contains some of the most common ones that respond well to treatment with acupuncture and Oriental medicine:
According to acupuncture and Oriental medicine, the cycles of sleeping and waking demonstrate the dynamic interplay of yin and yang forces. Yin qualities include contraction, cold, inactivity and nighttime. Yang qualities are represented by expansion, heat, activity and daytime. During sleep and states of relaxation, yin exercises the dominant force. After yin energy has refreshed the body and mind, it is then time for yang energy to increase. When yang springs into action, it is now possible to wake up restored and ready for the day.
One way in which a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine may help a patient regain control of their sleep is by balancing the body's internal forces of yin and yang through the use of acupuncture. For example, if a disharmony is discovered in the Yang Qiao channel, manifesting as an overabundance of yang energy, and since this energy is always active, it would be appropriate to decrease yang and increase yin. This can help alleviate symptoms of certain sleep disorders, such as insomnia. A channel is an invisible pathway on which energy is necessary for healing flows. The Yang Qiao channel has traditionally been used to address sleep pathologies.
However, in some cases, there is also an emotional component that must be addressed. A study entitled "Acupuncture Increases Nocturnal Secretion and Reduces Insomnia and Anxiety: A Preliminary Report", printed in the 2004 edition of the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, yielded some very encouraging conclusions. The test subjects, all of whom complained of insomnia and anxiety, received regular acupuncture treatments for a total of five weeks.
Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland that controls the waking and sleeping cycles. It was documented that the patients' nightly levels of melatonin production increased, which, in turn, caused a rise in the amount of time spent dozing. This also resulted in a better quality of sleep than before the treatments began. At the same time the length and quality of sleep improved, there was a significant reduction in their levels of anxiety. This led the researchers to conclude that acupuncture is a valuable and effective treatment for certain kinds of insomnia.
If you can't seem to get a good night's sleep, either due to worry, overthinking, physical pain, or external circumstances, consider a consultation with a practitioner of acupuncture and Oriental medicine. Even if you exhibit some rather extreme symptoms, such as walking or even eating while in a sleep state, remember that a practitioner may be able to help in these cases as well.