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  • Dr. Tamara Kung, ND

Acupuncture in Practice: Insomnia

Sleep deprivation is one of the most significant factors contributing to poor health, physical performance and mental performance.


We are the only species that deliberately restricts our sleep. And similar to how our body's are not evolved to being sedentary (with a long list of adverse health conditions coming from this), we are also not well adapted to being sleep deprived.


One of the biggest experiments involving 1.6 billion people annually occurs during Daylight Savings. Studies have shown that there is a 24% increase in acute heart attacks the day after we lose one hour of sleep in the spring, while there is a 21% reduction in heart attacks with an hour gained in the fall.


Sleep deprivation has also been linked with more immediate effects such as lowering testosterone. A study found that men who slept 5 hours or less in a single night had the sperm count of men 10-15 years older than them. This not only has implications for sexual performance and fertility, but also for increasing muscle mass, strength, and bone density.


In women, similar impairments to fertility are found with lowered levels of hormones needed for heathy egg maturation.


Chronic sleep deprivation has also stimulated investigation into various health outcomes such cancer, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and all-cause mortality.


Bottom line? Sleep needs to be a priority in order to improve and optimize all aspects of health, and selves.


"...[in] the West, ...[we] rarely reinvest our energy, spending our Qi wildly and using our energy credit card liberally... leading to depletion and an increasing in the number of chronic diseases.

- John Hicks, Co-founder of the College of Integrated Chinese Medicine


Naturopathic medicine offers an array of tools to help those suffering from insomnia, and the most foundational is diligent practice in good sleep hygiene - read our previous article here to clean up your sleep!


As an adjunct to lifestyle, I find using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) helpful in supporting sleep in terms of duration and quality.


According to TCM, substances make up the person, and include Jing our inherited energy from parents, increased/ decreased by the quality of our food, drinks, and air we breathe, Qi which is our daily energy that helps us move, transform (ie. food into energy), and keep warm, Shen is our mind/ spirit, which has to do with our sleep, thinking, memory, and consciousness, Blood which nourishes our body and roots our mind aka Shen.


The Chinese say that during the day, the mind is naturally directed outwards, but at night it comes back inside to the Blood (specifically from the heart). If Blood is deficient, then the mind/ Shen will not find it's "bed" comfortable, making sleep difficult.


Often, in TCM, other symptoms that go alongside with insomnia include poor memory and focus, palpitations, pale complexion, and/or being easily startled.


To alleviate insomnia, TCM commonly emphasizes nourishing Blood as part of treatment.


Common acupuncture points include:

  • Heart 7 which nourishes heart Qi, and Blood - located on the pinky side of your wrist.

  • SP 6 which nourishes Blood - located on the inner part of your lower calf, 3 finger breadths above your medial malleolus.

  • Kidney 3, 6 both of which nourishes Yin - 3 is located between your achilles tendon and medial malleolus, and 6 in the depression right below the medial malleolus.

Additional foods that nourish blood include red beets, jujubes, sweet potato, barley, mushrooms, and figs!


While these points are helpful, we often consider the individual, which may explain the cause of their insomnia attributed to various other pattern imbalances.


I love helping my patients feel, and look their best, by matching individualized acupuncture with dietary counseling! Book an appointment if you have, or know someone who is suffering from sleep deprivation that is impairing their quality of life and longevity. Email me at tamara.a.kung@gmail.com



Reference:


Kloss, J. D., Perlis, M. L., Zamzow, J. A., Culnan, E. J., & Gracia, C. R. (2015). Sleep, sleep disturbance, and fertility in women. Sleep medicine reviews, 22, 78–87. doi:10.1016/j.smrv.2014.10.005


John, H. (2013). Principles of Chinese herbal medicine (revised edition). Philadelphia, PA: Singing Dragon.


Sandhu A, Seth M, Gurm H.S. Daylight savings time and myocardial infarction

British Medial Journal: Open Heart 2014;1:e000019. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2013-000019


University of Chicago Medical Center. (2011, June 1). Sleep loss dramatically lowers testosterone in healthy young men. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 25, 2019 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/05/110531162142.htm



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