Sleep problems are more common than many people realise. The Sleep Health Foundation found that almost 60% of Australians regularly experience trouble falling or staying asleep, and 14.8 per cent of Australians have chronic insomnia.  Insomnia can include; difficulty falling asleep, waking frequently during the night, premature awakening and non-restorative sleep.  See the Sleep Health Foundation Fact Sheets.

Insomnia impairs people’s function during the day and causes problems with concentration, mood and work efficiency.  Insomnia also increases the risks of psychological problems and physical health problems (Jackson et al, 2014 cited Shergis et al. 2015).

Western pharmacological treatment for insomnia includes benzodiazepines, or zopiclone, however these medications have side effects such as drowsiness during the day and they lose their clinical effectiveness after long-term use.  Due to concerns about the side-effects of these medications, acupuncture has become a popular choice for patients with chronic insomnia.

How does Acupuncture help Insomnia?

Chinese medicine has a long history of treating insomnia and restless sleep. Modern science is beginning to provide evidence of how acupuncture influence sleeps.  Studies have shown that acupuncture increases the bodies’ natural release of melatonin and serotonin (Mandiroglu & Ozdilekcan, 2016).  There is also evidence that acupuncture can suppress central nervous system activity by activating GABA receptors (Lee et al., cited Shergis et al.,2015).

Recent studies have found that there is evidence acupuncture is more effective than standard pharmacological treatment for the treatment of insomnia (Shergis et al., 2015).

In Chinese Medicine, night-time is seen as a yin time, when the yang withdraws and settles down and the body can rest and rejuvenate.  Sleep is poor when yin and yang are not in balance, or when the mind or shen is not at peace.

Chinese medicine differentiates insomnia into three categories:

  • Difficulty falling asleep;
  • Not able to stay asleep frequent waking or early waking; and
  • Vivid dreams disturbing sleep.

Other problems which can cause insomnia and which can be treated with Chinese medicine include;

  • Too much stress;
  • Digestion problems;
  • Liver problems;
  • Chronic pain
  • Anxiety/depression

Acupuncture points will be chosen according to the individual’s pattern of disharmony, to rebalance yin and yang and calm the mind.

How many Acupuncture Treatments are needed to improve insomnia?

Often patients feel very relaxed during their first acupuncture treatment and will have good quality sleep for two days before another session is required.  After six treatments, longer- term improvements can be seen.

At Acunatural Health, we often treat clients who are struggling with insomnia.  Last November, ‘Adam’ (*not his real name), received acupuncture for insomnia.  Adam was having difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep.  With a stressful job, two young children and a third on the way the responsibilities of home and work were keeping him awake.  In addition, Adam was suffering headaches and this was also affecting his sleep. ‘Adam’ attended acupuncture once a week and also took Chinese Herbal medicine.  After five sessions ‘Adam’ was falling asleep easily and said that he “felt like himself again” just in time to enjoy Christmas with his family.

Call or email Jane at Acunatural Health if you have any questions about how acupuncture can improve your sleep and relieve your insomnia.


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Shergis, J.L., Ni, X., Jackson, M.L., Zhang, A.L., Gui, X., Li, Y., Lu, C., Xue, C.C. (2016). A systematic review of acupuncture for sleep quality in people with insomnia. Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 11-20.

Sleep Health Foundation, The Leading National Advocate for Sleep Health. (2019). Annual Report 2019.

Zhao, K. (2013). Acupuncture for the Treatment of Insomnia. Neurobiology of Acupuncture, 217–234. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-411545-3.00011-0