Can Acupuncture Support Your Body Clock for Better Sleep?

Need Help Sleeping Better?

Most people have heard that acupuncture can help alleviate your back or neck pain, but did you know that acupuncture also helps you get some high-quality shuteye?

Insomnia, sleep apnea and interrupted sleep are becoming more common with rising stress levels and jam-packed schedules, and many people find it difficult to unwind at night and get the deep rest they so desperately need.

If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, or waking at 3am unable to fall back asleep, you might want to consider that acupuncture could be the answer!

What is the circadian rhythm?

Your sleep cycle is regulated by a complex series of events in your nervous, hormone and chemical systems – collectively producing what is known as the body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm.

Simply put, the circadian rhythm guides the sleep-wake cycles of the body and also guides metabolism and the balance of hormones. That means, during the day your body would normally be energized and focused to tackle that to-do list, and after the work day is done be able to easily wind down and enter a more calm and relaxed mode.

Easier said than done for most of us!

The good news is that acupuncture can help regulate all of these aspects to bring homeostasis (or internal balance) to the body through affecting both the circadian rhythm, hormones as well as the mind-gut connection.

The 3 main culprits of sleepless nights

There are several culprits of your sleepless nights and here are some of the big players:

1. Chronic Stress and Anxiety – Increased Cortisol Levels

Our adrenals secrete the hormone cortisol when we are in a state of fight-or-flight (extreme stress). This is a natural response to danger. Unfortunately, the high impact of stress in our daily lives leads to misinterpretations of stress in our hormonal system and a spiral of excess cortisol throughout the entire day. As a result, our cortisol levels become too high throughout the day AND night. This leads to fatigue during the day and restlessness at nights – the exact opposite of what we want for productive days and restful nights!

2. Your Gut Might be Keeping You Up – The Microbiome Connection

Current research is showing a clear connection between gut health and proper circadian rhythms. Another reason to up your nutrition game! In fact, some melatonin (your sleep hormone) is made in the gut and it can’t be made properly if our gut bacteria are not healthy. This is why so many of the patients I see for insomnia, start by cleaning out their diets with one of my simple meal plans.

3. Hormone irregularities – Women are Masters of changing hormones

In my clinic, women are much more likely to complain of sleep problems and this is no surprise knowing how important hormone regulation is to a good sleep cycle!

Women are masters of changing hormones: Hello pregnancy, menstrual cycles and menopause! These hormonal changes play a big role in sleep disturbances.

So, what are some simple ways that you can create a better bedtime routine?

Come in for some Acupuncture!

Acupuncture is the trifecta of supporting good sleep by decreasing stress and anxiety, repairing the gut biome and balancing hormones to help get your sleep cycle back on track.

But, before your next appointment, here are my favorite sleep hygiene tips for how to get started today to get you in the right direction:

Women are masters of changing hormones: Hello pregnancy, menstrual cycles and menopause! These hormonal changes play a big role in sleep disturbances.

  • Create a habit and rhythm to your sleep cycle. Go to bed every day at the same time and get up around the same time every day. Our body loves predicable cycles. When we eat and sleep at the same time each day, our body knows what to do and when to do it.

  • Hit the sack at the right time. The best time to go to sleep each night is between 9p and 11p, but absolute latest before midnight. The hours we get early in the night are usually our deepest, so getting to bed on time is essential to waking up feeling rested.

  • Ditch the screens 1 hour before bed. I know this is a tough one for many of my patients who are used to winding down in front of the TV before bed. Most people don’t realize that our eyes translate the light on the screen as daylight, so this really mixes up our melatonin cycles. Melatonin naturally rises when our eyes are exposed to darkness and this helps us rest. Try journaling or catching up on a good book you’ve been longing to read.

  • Make sure you eat enough protein at dinner to keep your blood sugar even overnight. Unregulated blood sugar can cause a whole host of problems, and one of them is disrupted sleep. Again, eating on a regular schedule will help your body know what to do and when. If you suspect that you have a blood sugar issue, make sure you eat a low glycemic, high protein dinner to keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the night.

  • Create a Pre-Sleep Routine to help you wind down. I’m a huge fan of short meditations before bed to clear my mind and help me relax. For some of my patients, it is a warm bath, essential oils or giving yourself a foot massage. Whatever it is that helps you relax, try a consistent routine the last 15 minutes before bed each night. Your body will thank you!

Looking for interesting research of the gut-mind connection?

Rhythm and bugs: Circadian clocks, gut microbiota, and entericin infections
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4721637/

The Gut-Circadian Rhythm Connection
https://kresserinstitute.com/gut-circadian-rhythm-connection/

Hi! I'm Angela

Acupuncturist, Herbalist, Integrative Wellness Consultant and Mood-Gut expert.

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