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  • Writer's pictureAnnika Brindley

Does Acupuncture Help with Insomnia?

Woman receiving Acupuncture for insomnia

Sleep deprivation is a real problem for many people. Insomnia can make it difficult to function during the day and can lead to other health problems. If you're struggling to get a good night's sleep and feel you have tried everything, you may consider acupuncture.

Acupuncture is an alternative medicine that has been around for centuries. It involves placing thin needles in the skin at specific points on the body. But does acupuncture help with insomnia? Let's take a closer look at the research.

What is Acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. Acupuncture is believed to improve the flow of energy or qi in the body and promote healing.

Acupuncture is often used to treat pain, but it may also be effective for other conditions, such as insomnia. A review of studies found that acupuncture was more effective than no treatment for improving sleep quality.

How Does Acupuncture Work?

Your body has an energy field that runs along specific pathways called meridians. Meridians are connected to different organs and tissues. During an acupuncture treatment, thin needles are inserted into your skin at particular points along these meridians.

Acupuncture stimulates the nervous system and releases chemicals in the muscles, spinal cord, and brain. These chemicals either change how pain signals are sent to the brain or release other chemicals that help reduce pain.

It's not clear exactly how acupuncture improves sleep, but it may be due to its ability to reduce stress and pain.

Acupuncture has also been found to increase serotonin levels, a brain chemical that helps regulate mood and sleep. One study also found that acupuncture improved the production of adenosine, a chemical that promotes sleep.

How Is Acupuncture Used to Treat Insomnia?

A trained practitioner usually performs acupuncture. The needles are typically inserted into the skin for 30 to 60 minutes.

There are a few different ways that acupuncture can be used to treat insomnia. One common approach is stimulating specific head, neck, and back points. These points are thought to be connected to the areas of the brain that control sleep.

Another approach is to stimulate points on the hands and feet. These points are connected to the nervous system and can help to promote relaxation.

Acupuncture may also be combined with other treatments, such as herbal medicine or massage.

Is Acupuncture Safe?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates acupuncture needles, considered medical devices. The FDA requires that acupuncture needles be manufactured and labeled according to specific standards.

Acupuncture is generally considered safe when a trained, licensed practitioner uses sterile needles. The most common side effect is mild discomfort at the site of needle insertion. Serious side effects are rare, including punctured lungs, collapsed veins, and infection.

Acupuncture should not be used by people with bleeding disorders or who are taking blood-thinning medication. It's also not recommended for pregnant women.

If you're considering acupuncture for insomnia, it's important to find a qualified practitioner. The National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine offers a directory of certified practitioners.

Does Acupuncture Hurt?

The needles used in acupuncture are much thinner than hypodermic needles. They are also solid rather than hollow, so they do not cause bleeding.

Most people feel no pain or only a brief sting when the needle is inserted. Once the needle is in place, you may feel a tingling sensation or a dull ache. These sensations should not be painful.

If you do feel pain, the practitioner may be able to adjust the needle. If not, the needle can be removed.

It also depends on how sensitive you are to pain; this could be due to individual differences in pain tolerance or the location of the needles. Some people also feel sleepy or dizzy after treatment.

Can I Have Acupuncture If I Am Afraid of Needles?

If you fear needles, you may want to try another form of treatment. However, some people with a needle phobia have overcome their fear with acupuncture.

If you try it, the practitioner will start by inserting just a few needles. The number of needles can be increased gradually over time.

You may want to try acupressure instead. This type of massage uses pressure, rather than needles, to stimulate the acupuncture points.

Acupuncture vs. Acupressure for Sleep: What Works Better?

If you have severe insomnia, acupuncture may be a better choice because it is performed by a licensed professional and can be customized to your specific needs. Acupressure, on the other hand, is a technique anyone can perform.

Acupuncture is also a more invasive treatment than acupressure, this means that it may be more effective for some people, but it also carries a higher risk of side effects.

Acupressure may be a good choice if you have mild insomnia or are needle-phobic. It's also a good option if you want to avoid the potential side effects of acupuncture.

Other Acupuncture Health Benefits

Acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. In addition to insomnia, acupuncture has been shown to be effective in treating:

● Anxiety

● Depression

● Migraines and headaches

● Fatigue

● Pain (including back pain, neck pain, and joint pain)

● PMS symptoms

● Side effects of chemotherapy

● Dental pain

Acupuncture may also be helpful for other conditions, such as fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel syndrome, and hot flashes. However, more research is needed to confirm these benefits.

How Long Does Acupuncture Take to Work for Insomnia?

Acupuncture is not a quick fix for insomnia. It is usually given once or twice a week for several weeks. The number of sessions you will need depends on the severity of your insomnia and how well you respond to treatment.

Some people notice an improvement after just a few sessions. However, six to eight sessions are often needed for the full effect. After your insomnia improves, you may need maintenance acupuncture treatments. These are typically given once a month or less often.


Acupuncture is a holistic approach to health that considers the whole person, not just the symptoms they are experiencing.

This is why acupuncture can be an effective treatment for various physical and mental conditions. If you are struggling with insomnia, acupuncture is a potential treatment option.


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