Oddly, sleeplessness seems to be something to brag about. But lately, there’s been a turnaround in the attitude of “live like an insomniac.” While Silicon Valley types still brag of being able to get by on little sleep, this badge of honor is taking a hit. This is due to a new emphasis and understanding of the importance and value of sleep. Whether willfully or not by choice, one thing is certain: no one who’s ever truly suffered from insomnia brags about sleeplessness.
Estimates vary on how many people suffer from insomnia, but all agree that the numbers are universally high. Statistics range from 60 million Americans, with about one in three people having at least a mild form of insomnia. Chronic insomnia, the most severe type, affects about ten to 15 percent of the adult population.
Insomnia causes severe consequences, which can be both physical and psychological. In addition, insomnia results in a loss of over $60 billion in work productivity. It is such a widespread woe that among other efforts to publicize the problem, every March there is an annual Insomnia Awareness Day, instituted by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).
What is Insomnia?
Insomnia is defined by several components. These include:
- Inability/difficulty to fall asleep and stay asleep
- Frequently waking during the night
- Waking up too early and being unable to fall back asleep
There are also different types of insomnia. Acute insomnia is temporary sleep disruption, which tends to resolve on its own. It may be due to physical circumstances, such as discomfort from a physical condition or illness, or due to stressful life events, such as bad news or nervousness before a test or presentation.
Chronic insomnia is that which occurs at least several nights a week and lasts at least three months. It can happen for a variety of reasons (see causes below). Often, chronic insomniacs benefit from treatment to get back on track to improved sleep.
Symptoms of Insomnia
Typical symptoms are familiar to most of us at one time or another and include:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Decreased performance in job or school
- Depression, anxiety, irritability
- Lack of coordination, causing errors or accidents
- Low energy or motivation
- Mood disturbance
- Poor focus and concentration
- Tension headaches
Causes of Insomnia
Insomnia is characterized by an extensive number of causes, from physical and emotional to circumstantial (such as jet lag or sleep routine change). Sometimes, there is a medical condition that causes chronic insomnia, while various events can spur acute insomnia.
Some causes of insomnia include:
- Disruption to circadian rhythm (the “internal body clock”), such as jet lag or changes in job shifts)
- Lifestyle habits (irregular sleeping routine, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco)
- Psychological issues (depression, anxiety disorders, bipolar disorder)
Some medical conditions that can cause insomnia include the following:
- Acid reflux disease (GERD)
- Chronic pain
- Congestive heart failure
- Endocrine issues (e.g. hyperthyroidism)
- Nasal or sinus allergies
Those at higher risk of insomnia include women, due possibly to hormonal shifts during the menstrual cycle or menopause; those over age 60 (insomnia increases with age); those under high stress or with irregular schedules (travelers, those with changing work shifts); those with mental or physical health conditions.
Acupuncture for Insomnia
Acupuncture treatment has been widely studied as a remedy for insomnia. In fact, hundreds of clinical evaluations confirm that acupuncture successfully treats not only insomnia but other conditions that may be the cause of it (e.g. anxiety, depression, migraine headache, etc.).
Studies of acupuncture have found, among other things, that the practice of acupuncture increases the types of central nervous system hormones that contribute to relaxation and well-being, such as beta-endorphins, serotonin and noradrenaline. This may be part of the reason for the success of acupuncture in the treatment of insomnia.
What’s more, for those who have relied on sleep medications for insomnia, which have serious side effects, including dependency, and are often limited in their effectiveness, acupuncture is non-addictive and free of side-effects.
A November 2009 article published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine reviewed 46 randomized trials involving 3,8111 patients. While still recommending further large and rigorous trials for confirmation, this analysis revealed acupuncture to be effective in the treatment of insomnia.
At Spinal Rehabilitation and Wellness Center, in Dumont New Jersey, we are experts in assessing patients for various relevant conditions and administering acupuncture treatments. Our experienced staff features expertise in acupuncture, including membership in the American Association of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AAAOM).
For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.