Ditch the Zombie Life and Feel Human Again; Acupuncture and Self-Care for Improved Sleep Sleep Series: 2 of 3

Research and Acupuncture for Sleep

Could acupuncture be the zombie cure? Research has shown that acupuncture can be a safe and beneficial means to help general insomnia. For those suffering from poor quality of sleep due to menopause, recent clinical trial results “…confirm(ed) that acupuncture is effective and safe for the treatment on(sic) insomnia in menopausal women…” Other research shows women who are suffering from insomnia during perimenopause can also benefit from acupuncture.  Several research studies show acupuncture helps reduce anxiety and stress for women undergoing assisted fertility methods such as In Vetro Fertilization. Phew, no zombie babies, just human ones.

How Acupuncture Works

Acupuncture is not magic, it is science. Studies have shown that acupuncture increases beta-endorphins, serotonin, noradrenaline, and adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which are all central nervous system hormones. Those suffering from pain that is interfering with sleep benefit as acupuncture increases beta-endorphins that reduce pain and discomfort (Han, 2004). Many people are familiar with serotonin as a natural mood stabilizer and sleep regulator.  Serotonin promotes sleep and relaxes the body, and acupuncture has been demonstrated in several studies to increase serotonin levels. Feelings of being wired or inability to turn your brain off at night are partly related to noradrenaline, the primary stress hormone associated with “fight or flight” responses. Acupuncture can help flip that “fight or flight” response to one of “rest and digest” allowing you a better night’s sleep. Circadian rhythms are our body’s internal clock and decide when we sleep and when we wake. ACTH is part of that internal clock where levels of ACTH are lower in the evening and higher in the morning. ACTH can be thought of as the opposite of melatonin that helps induce sleep. Acupuncture can help normalize circadian rhythms and assist with regular sleep (Huang, Kutner, & Bliwise, 2011).


Acupuncture is not magic, it is science.


Some people try over the counter (OTC) melatonin to help them fall asleep. More research is needed on melatonin and potential issues regarding the safety of use. Melatonin is produced naturally in the brain, so people do not always consider the safety of an OTC version. OTC melatonin is a supplement and not regulated by the FDA. Many OTC melatonin doses are about ten times higher than the recommended dose of 0.3 milligrams. Acupuncture can help the natural secretion of melatonin and assist with better sleep.  


Give acupuncture a try when you are ready to abandon the zombie life and start with a few of the sleep hygiene tips posted in Sleep Series post 3 of 3. Expect to commit to acupuncture as most studies reference two sessions per week for no fewer than five weeks. It is not surprising that studies referencing success rates with acupuncture have a period of dedication in which improvements are gained. Acupuncture is a cumulative process. Just like a prescription or physical therapy, you may notice improvements early on, but the dedication in finishing the series is where the long-term gains are discovered. Before you know it, you will be feeling human again.  

Sleep Series Part 3 of 3 on “Ditch the Zombie Life and Feel Human Again; Acupuncture and Self-Care for Improved Sleep” will cover Self-Care Tips.

References without active link: Huang, W., Kutner, N., & Bliwise, D. L. (2011). Autonomic activation in insomnia: The case for acupuncture. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: JCSM: Official Publication of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine7(1), 95–102.

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Dr. Nicky Rieks, DACM, L.Ac. Dipl.Ac.

Dr. Nicky Rieks, DACM, L.Ac. Dipl.Ac.

Dr. Nicky is a Doctor of Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine and a licensed acupuncturist in the state of Minnesota. She treats people of all ages, and for a diversity of health issues, including pain relief, injuries, stress, anxiety & depression, digestive and respiratory complaints, fatigue & sleep issues, skin conditions, fertility and women’s health.