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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.