Treating Insomnia with Acupuncture

By Dr. Dongfeng Zhou, AP, DAOM

Treating Insomnia with Acupuncture

If you find it difficult to sleep or stay asleep for 4-6 hours every day, then you have insomnia. Another way to look at it is that it takes you about 30 minutes to fall asleep.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 70 million Americans are struggling with insomnia and other sleep-related disorders. It affects all genders and ages. With respect to gender distribution, statistics show that it affects more women than men. More often than not, people can suffer from short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic) insomnia. When you are suffering from the acute type, it lasts between a night and three weeks. On the other hand, chronic insomnia stays between 3 nights in one week and 3 months. In some cases, it lasts forever.

Types of Insomnia

It is broadly divided into two.

  • Primary Insomnia: Here, you don’t have any underlying health and lifestyle problems. In other words, you just realized that you cannot sleep or stay asleep for a long time. When this happens, the resulting effects include dozing off in daytime, fatigue, and irritability. The major causes are stress linked to everyday events, sudden changes to sleep schedule, environmental disturbances (noise, light, high temperature, etc.), genetic factors, and a host of other factors. This condition may last forever.

  • Secondary Insomnia: If you are suffering from secondary insomnia, it simply means you are having a hard time falling asleep or staying sleeping because you have certain health issues. These health challenges could be pain, anxiety, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s disease, heartburn, respiratory issues like asthma, allergies, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, substance use (such as alcohol), cancer, arthritis, depression, etc.

Symptoms and at-Risk People

If you are struggling with the condition, you are likely to experience one or more of the following:

  • Stay awake (in bed) for a long time before falling asleep

  • Napping during productive time

  • Waking up early before others

  • Fatigue and grumpiness

  • Sleeping only for a short period of time

  • You cannot concentrate or remember events/things

  • Feeling that you haven’t slept at all

But then, who is at risk?

Having come thus far, you already know that it is more common in women than men. Other people who are prone to the disorder include:

  • People who undergo a lot of stress

  • Those who go through emotional distress

  • Long-distance travelers and low-income earners

  • People living certain health conditions (as specified earlier)

  • Those who have inactive lifestyles.

In the United States, researchers have revealed that young and middle-aged African Americans are at higher risk of developing the disorder. Studies have also shown that the Caucasians are more likely to fall asleep faster than their African American counterparts.


If not for the negative effects of sleeplessness, nobody would be worried about it. However, experts are worried sick about the adverse effects of the disorder on people living with it. As you already know, your body and brain need to rest so they can repair themselves. This way, they perform optimally. Insomnia-induced complications include anxiety, inability to focus, grumpiness, terribly slow reaction, obesity, high blood pressure, irritability, depression, mood changes, feeling you haven’t gotten enough rest after waking from sleep, increased mistakes and accidents, etc.

Why Acupuncture Treats Insomnia

According to the traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) precepts, people suffer from sleeplessness due to certain external factors that affect their moods and emotions. Other factors that TCM points to as the causes are insufficient body nutrients, poor blood circulation, and internal organ issues. From the standpoint of medical sciences, the Chinese remedy serves as the neuromodulator. In clear terms, the Chinese healing technique lowers the brain’s perception of sensory signals, such as pains and other factors that lead to restiveness. With different parts of the brain working like a functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), the traditional Chinese treatment helps to calm the entire system. You may be wondering, “How successful is acupuncture for insomnia?” Well, health experts at the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health say there is evidence that acupuncture can help improve your sleep quality. They believe that the traditional Chinese therapy is an alternative to medications like benzodiazepines.

How Acupuncture for Insomnia Works

For a sneak peek at how it works, you should expect the following:

  • A thorough checkup from the practitioner, including your medical history

  • To undergo a 60-minute session

  • About 20-30 sterile, disposable needles inserted into your body to identify the acupoints

  • The expert may place some needles or seeds around your ear region

  • He or she may complement the treatment with the cupping therapy, moxibustion or herbs

  • The herbs include jujube, lingzhi mushroom, honey, dried longan, etc.

  • The acupuncture points for insomnia depend on its root cause

  • People often feel tired after each session

  • A treatment of 2-3 times per week for 10 sessions is considered 1 course and the chronic type may require more than a course

  • Most times, you start feeling its positive effects after 4-6 weeks.

Final Thoughts

In this article, you have learned about insomnia, its causes and how it affects your life. You have also seen how acupuncture treatment  can help you improve your sleep. Indeed, acupuncture is one of the treatment options available to people grappling with sleeplessness. Most times, practitioners will diagnose the root cause of the problem before treating it because acupuncture has several applications. Therefore, selecting the acupoints that correspond with the diagnosis becomes pretty easy. For instance, if the practitioner finds out that pain is the cause of your sleeplessness, he or she will select acupoints that correspond to the diagnosis. Treating the disorder simply means that the expert creates a balance in our body. Patients rarely complain of poor sleep after acupuncture. Do you experience insomnia? If so, our acupuncturists in Fort Lauderdale, Davie, Plantation and surrounding areas are waiting to help you. Contact us now…


  1. Moawad H. Primary insomnia: a lifelong problem. Revised September 11, 2020. Accessed October 14, 2021.

  2. Robinson J. Insomnia. Revised July 21, 2021. Accessed October 13, 2021.

  3. De Bellefonds C. How acupuncture can optimize your sleep patterns and free you from insomnia. Revised May 28, 2021. Accessed October 13, 2021.

  4. Thongyam L. Acupuncture – another treatment option for insomnia. Revised December 3, 2020. Accessed October 13, 2021.

  5. Flack R. What is acupuncture like? Revised January 30, 2019. Accessed October 14, 2021.




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