Fighting the morning call
How often have you spent your night intimidated by the sound of your bedroom clock? It’s ticking sounds the footsteps of the approaching daylight. Desperately hoping that the whisper of sleep will drown out the ticking herald of the alarm bell?
For some people, sleep disturbance is a singular experience on the night before the first date or after drinking too much caffeine during the day. For many others, to sleep is a marathon. The good news is that there is emerging evidence that acupuncture, a novel approach to sleep disorders, may help you sleep!
Who else having trouble sleep?
If you struggle with sleep, you are not alone. According to a nation-wide survey of Australian adults by the Sleep Health Foundation, around 33-45% of Australians complained of disturbances in sleep2.
Despite the mundane sounding condition of ‘sleep disorders’, which sounds quite benign especially without a fancy latin sobriquet, anyone who has experienced this condition understands the torture of this ephemeral struggle. Sleep disturbances can often lead to serious consequences in quality of life, increased accidents at work, increased absenteeism, decreased work productivity and deteriorating personal and professional relationships8. Unfortunately, sleep disorders are largely under-diagnosed5.
How is sleep quality influenced?
Sleep disorder does not necessarily mean a medically diagnosed insomnia5. Insomnia is generally defined as more than 1 month of reduced sleep quality which occur more than 3 times a week which results in daytime impairment6. However, sleep disorders can have extensive burden on personal, social, and professional life without meeting the specific criteria for a medical diagnosis8. Additionally, as previously discussed, sleep disorders are largely under diagnosed5.
There are several factors which can contribute to poor sleep10:
- Sleep duration: number of hours spent in sleep
- Sleep disturbance: how much sleep is interrupted
- Sleep latency: how long sleep can be maintained
- Sleep efficiency: how easy it is to fall asleep
Can acupuncture help me sleep?
Acupuncture is a novel method in approaching sleep disorders. Emerging research indicates some promising benefits of acupuncture in helping manage sleep disorders. Acupuncture has been suggested to improve general sleep quality and quality of life, especially by improving sleep duration and sleep efficacy7,9. Acupuncture has also been found to be more beneficial than no treatment and better than sham treatment3,7. Some studies found acupuncture was superior to medication in improving sleep quality, and some studies in improving sleep duration for more than 3 hours but no meaningful differences between acupuncture and medication for average sleep duration3,7.
The potential benefits of acupuncture have been suggested to be more pronounced when it is used in conjunction with other therapies. Compared to acupuncture alone, acupuncture together with pharmaceutical interventions and exercise have been found to be more beneficial in improving sleep quality3.
Does it hurt?
Acupuncture for sleep conditions is mostly very gentle. Acupuncture needles are single use, stainless steel and usually 0.18-0.20mm thick. Adverse events are also rare and are usually limited to a prickling sensation on insertion of the needle, bruising and spot bleeding7. Moreover, in a review of world-wide surveys, up to 86% of participants reported feelings of relaxation after acupuncture treatment4.
Many Australians experience poor quality of sleep which can lead to detrimental consequences in personal, social and professional life. Acupuncture is a low-risk, novel approach to sleep disorders with emerging evidence to support its benefits in improving sleep quality. Acupuncture just might be the ‘prick of the spindle’ for your slumber.
Where can I get acupuncture to help me sleep?
Daniel is an acupuncturist at Healthspace Kingsford with a keen interest in helping the community sleep better. Health Space is an integrative multi-disciplinary team dedicated to bettering the health of our communities. At Kingsford, we have passionate and experienced team of acupuncturists who can answer your questions and sing you a lullaby with our needles.
- Acquavella, J., Mehra, R., Bron, M., Suomi, J. M. H., & Hess, G. P. (2020). Prevalence of narcolepsy and other sleep disorders and frequency of diagnostic tests from 2013–2016 in insured patients actively seeking care. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 16(8), 1255-1263.
- Adams, R., Appleton, S., Taylor, A., McEvoy, D., & Antic, N. (2016). Report to the sleep health foundation 2016 sleep health survey of Australian adults. The Adelaide Institute for Sleep Health.
- Cao, H., Pan, X., Li, H., & Liu, J. (2009). Acupuncture for treatment of insomnia: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials. The journal of alternative and complementary medicine, 15(11), 1171-1186.
- Ernst, E., & White, A. R. (2001). Prospective studies of the safety of acupuncture: a systematic review. The American journal of medicine, 110(6), 481-485.
- Fido, A., & Ghali, A. (2008). Detrimental effects of variable work shifts on quality of sleep, general health and work performance. Medical Principles and Practice, 17(6), 453-457.
- Roth, T. (2007). Insomnia: definition, prevalence, etiology, and consequences. Journal of clinical sleep medicine, 3(5 suppl), S7-S10.
- Shergis, J. L., Ni, X., Jackson, M. L., Zhang, A. L., Guo, X., Li, Y., … & Xue, C. C. (2016). A systematic review of acupuncture for sleep quality in people with insomnia. Complementary therapies in medicine, 26, 11-20.
- Yazdi, Z., Sadeghniiat-Haghighi, K., Loukzadeh, Z., Elmizadeh, K., & Abbasi, M. (2014). Prevalence of sleep disorders and their impacts on occupational performance: a comparison between shift workers and nonshift workers. Sleep disorders, 2014.
- Yin, X., Gou, M., Xu, J., Dong, B., Yin, P., Masquelin, F., … & Xu, S. (2017). Efficacy and safety of acupuncture treatment on primary insomnia: a randomized controlled trial. Sleep medicine, 37, 193-200.
- Zhong, Q. Y., Gelaye, B., Sánchez, S. E., & Williams, M. A. (2015). Psychometric properties of the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) in a cohort of Peruvian pregnant women. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 11(8), 869-877.