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How to Cure Insomnia with Acupuncture

acupuncture needles on a stone plate with herbs
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Poking yourself with sharp objects might not seem like the most effective way to improve your sleep, but first impressions are often misleading.

The Bulletproof approach is to try what is supposed to work, and if it doesn’t, then go outside the box to try what shouldn’t work. Acupuncture for sleep problems is a perfect example. I’ve worked to improve my sleep efficiency for years, and have tried just about everything under the sun, from EEG neurofeedback, to smart drugs, to (surprisingly) honey (more on that in a future post). Many of these techniques have worked, and some haven’t, and you can find most of them in my sleep hacking posts.

One of the sleep improvement techniques that has consistently proven to be effective for me, and many others, is acupuncture.

As Chris Kresser has written, acupuncture has gained an undeserved reputation for being an unsupported practice with no evidence behind it. The truth is that acupuncture not only works on the basis of pure self-experimentation and Chinese medicine – there’s also strong clinical evidence behind acupuncture for sleep. In fact, I consider acupuncturists to be some of the first biohackers, and the idea that a needle can modulate the flow of electrons in your skin is not hard to believe at all.

 

The Evidence Behind Acupuncture for Insomnia

A preliminary report in 2004 found that in patients with anxiety, acupuncture increased nighttime melatonin production and total sleep time. The patients who received acupuncture also fell asleep faster, were less aroused at night, and were less stressed. The researchers concluded that, “Acupuncture treatment may be of value for some categories of anxious patients with insomnia.”

Another study found that acupuncture improves sleep quality in patients with HIV, among whom sleep disturbance is a common problem. The researchers found that, “Sleep activity and sleep quality significantly improved following 5 weeks of individualized acupuncture…”

Other studies have shown that acupuncture works for people without health problems, too. A study in 1999 found that acupuncture improved sleep quality in normal people with insomnia. Sleep hackers, pay attention!

Another benefit of acupuncture is relief from chronic pain, which is a common contributor to sleeplessness.

My extensive self-testing confirms these findings. I started using acupuncture to improve my mental performance, and found that it noticeably improved my sleep quality as well. In fact, I’m at my most productive on the days I do acupuncture, both at work and in bed when it’s time to sleep.

 

3 Steps to Using Acupuncture for Sleep Hacking

If you’re interested in trying acupuncture to improve your sleep, here are the steps you need to take:

  1. Find a qualified acupuncturist. There are several websites that you can use to search for an acupuncturist in your area, with acufinder.com being one of the most popular.
  2. Make sure you “click” with your practitioner. Acupuncture is about more than just needles – you have to be comfortable and confident in the person’s healing abilities. This isn’t to say that an acupuncturist you don’t like won’t help, but you’ll get more out of the experience if you like them and they understand your body and mind.
  3. Give the process an honest effort, and at least several treatments before you decide if it helps or not. Sometimes it takes several visits before you notice major changes, and other times the improvements are immediate and lasting. I’ve never had an acupuncture experience that wasn’t hugely noticeable, but I see very well qualified people and I’m trained to be in touch with my nervous system.

Acupuncture may not seem like the best way to improve your sleep, but research and my personal biohacking experiments have shown that it is. While it’s received a reputation for being a bit “woowoo,” acupuncture can actually be an effective way to improve your sleep quality.

Have you, or are you going to try acupuncture? What have you used it for? Did it improve your sleep? I appreciate your comments.

 

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  • http://www.facebook.com/mark.brady3 Mark Brady

    Dave, have you checked out Accuscope/Myopulse therapy? Definitely a biohack! It’s basically Accupunture without the needles. I’ve had a pretty brutal pectoral injury for 3 years now and the Myopulse really calms the uneassiness and twitching of my pectoral.

    Only recently have I started doing Accupunture on that area, I started with the Myopulse, but the needles do an amazing job! It’s a meditative experience. I can really feel the blood/Qi flowing and helping the injury heal.

    Accupunture gets two thumbs up from me!

    • Dave Asprey

      No, the accupulse sounds related to Tibetan diagnostic methods (different pulse locations). There is so much data available!
      Sent from an iphone. That means it’s spelled wrong…and I’m probably lost. You understand… -Dave

      • http://www.facebook.com/mark.brady3 Mark Brady

        “The Acuscope & Myopulse detect abnormal nerve fiber impulses due to subtle electrical blockages and imbalances that occur in tender points called trigger points in muscles or at specific points along Accenture meridians. The Acuscope establishes a two way communication between its computers circuitry and the area of the patient’s body being treated. It measures such things as tissue
        conductivity, which is generally low in an area of pain.

        It treats by introducing a gentle current in waveforms
        similar to the body’s own electrical currents. This increases the electrical activity of the affected tissue so that cells can begin the
        work of self repair.

        It may seem like the Acuscope & Myopulse instruments heal the tissue. They do not. Both make the body heal itself by stimulating not only the blood supply and oxygen to the area, but also
        stimulating cellular regeneration.”

        From: http://www.acuscopemyopulse.com/

  • http://www.facebook.com/ameer.rosic.1 Ameer Rosic

    Insomnia is also simply fixed through Chronobiologcial repair of environment and sleeping Genes.

    • Lia

      what kind of treatment is this? I have never heard of it before.

  • Brent

    Dave,

    My wife just got her Wellness FX results back. She is 27, 5’1 and 115 lbs and a former pro athlete.

    Here are her numbers and I wanted to get your thoughts:

    Total Cholesterol: 348 LDL-C: 229 HDL-C:108 Triglycerides: 55 vLDL-C: 11 LP(a): 1 Apo B: 170

    Alanine aminotransferase: 80 (Supposed to be under 40) Aspartate aminotransferase: 43 (Supposed to be under 32) BUN/Creatinine Ratio: 26 (Supposed to be under 26) Dehydration??

    Any thoughts would be appreciated! I love her HDL, Triglycerides, and vLDL, but the the Apo B and total LDL concern me.

    Her CRP level is .46.

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  • Judy

    I began using accupuncture to manage my atrial fibrillation, after reading the results of an Italian study. It has been fantastic to manage the a. fib, and dramatically reduce arthritis pain in my knees, hips, back and feet. I too, feel great energy and clarity after a treatment. My thinking when I began was that it was worth a try. Stopped for a few weeks, and found I became somewhat symptomatic again. Now I go once a week. And the time spent in meditation during the treatment can’t be bad for me either.

  • SeanR

    Interestingly, the US military is now training a number of Medical Doctors, including Psychiatrists, in accupuncture for the treatment of PTSD and other psychological and psychiatric conditions. I personally benefitted greatly from accupuncture as a means to improve my sleep. When you get a practitioner who can explain they why’s and how’s of the treatment, even the biggest skeptic could be converted.

  • Pinhead Mike

    I’m going to give this a shot. There’s more it can do for you than improve sleep, although that’s definitely a biggie for me. I had a cantankerous old grandfather who tried acupuncture. It relieved his chronic CNS issues better than any drug he ever took. That is all the proof I’ll need as to its effectiveness.

    I’m more of a DIY guy though, so I reckon I’ll fork out the cash just to experience a professional’s standard of work. Then I’ll experiment with self-acupressure and gradually work up to self-acupuncture, until I can do it myself to a similar standard.

    Dave, you’re an inspiration.

  • flor nike

    I haven’t try this one but I’m having a problem with my sleeping :(
    flor

  • Dy

    I read this with I interest as I suffer insomnia and had acupuncture yesterday. Last nights sleep was the worst I’ve had in a long time. :( pretty frustrated. Do you think it can take a few times to work?

  • http://www.darmflora-aufbauen.info/ Ole

    I am an acupuncturist since many years. And I do agree. There is nothing besides acupuncture that works as well for deep sleep. Ok maybe hiking mountains or swimming in the ocean for several days in a row. But both of those take too much time.
    I must add though, that the right points and the right needling technique has to be used. Also it is deliberately kept secret but anyone can safely learn most of the sleep inducing points themselves without ANY danger whatsoever.

    -Ole

    • Steve Fuller

      I’ve been DIYing it myself for over 8 years. My ex was a practitioner. While I learned quite a bit from her, most I picked up through my own research. The applications used for sleep were always “hit or miss” for me. If you have any suggestions for the “right needling technique” I’m all ears…literally and figuratively… ;)

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  • http://www.mosaferian.blogfa.com/ Hossein

    Thank you for your informative and beneficial website

  • FSU Mom Among the Gators

    Researching to see if acupuncture will help cure my daughter’s insomnia as she does not sleep a wink without Ambien and needs to come off it. Sleeplessness started with three babies in less than 5 years who didn’t sleep at night, keeping Mom awake for days and then years. Add to the lack of sleep anxiety and then depression until now she cannot sleep at all without heavy med. A sleep aid from CVS does nothing! I don’t know why it hasn’t occurred to us to try acupuncture as she was successfully treated a few months ago to cure a year long episode of eye twitching (which I thought was impossible but done in 2 or 3 visits.) You don’t have to convince us that acupuncture works, so this is our answer for insomnia. Thanks for backing up my thinking on this…..worth the $95 per session.

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