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    Acupuncture for Insomnia

    Many people suffer from insomnia at some time in their life.  It should be distinguished from disorders such as sleep apnoea, where the individual’s sleep is disturbed rather than broken by wakefulness.  Sufferers of insomnia may also complain of headaches, dizziness, chronic fatigue, emotional variability and general malaise.  The condition may arise during a particularly stressful and worrying time, and be alleviated when conditions change.  Alternatively, it may be present for many years, with some people complaining of poor sleep from childhood.

    Chronic insomnia may be defined as difficulty in sleeping three nights a week (or more) for a period of at least one month.  It may arise from an underlying health condition such as arthritis, or be due to poor sleep routines (such as working shift patterns), chronic stress,  smoking and/or drinking late at night, excessive napping during the day or even worrying about being able to sleep.  Older people normally need less sleep than younger people.

    Insomnia and TCM

    In TCM, the various patterns of insomnia are examined separately.  For example, some people complain of difficulty in getting to sleep, but are able to remain asleep once they have dropped off.  More commonly, people wake in the night, sometimes to go to the toilet but sometimes for no apparent reason.  Where people wake, it is important to determine whether or not they remain wakeful over a long period, or go straight back to sleep.  The time of waking also has a bearing on the diagnosis, since it may indicate a particular problem with a part of the body’s system.

    In Chinese medicine, the amount and quality of the sleep depend upon the state of the Mind, known as Shen.  If the Mind is properly rooted, sleep will be sound.  If, however, there is underlying weakness or imbalance in the constitution, sleep will be affected.  There is always an inter-relationship between the body and Mind:  if there is a physical imbalance the Mind may be affected, and if the Mind is agitated by emotional stress the body will respond.

    The cuses of insomnia in TCM are worry, anger, overwork, constitutional timidity, irregular or poor diet, loss of blood, post viral heat and excessive sexual activity, to mention a few.

    Each patient’s insomnia is individually assessed and a unique diagnosis given before a course of treatment is proposed.

    Is Acupuncture Helpful in the treatment of Insomnia?

    Much of the research into the treatment of insomnia with acupuncture has been done in Chinese universities; this research has shown that acupuncture can successfully be used to treat this condition.

    1 Sok et al (2003) reviewed a number of small scale studies which indicated a positive outcome for insomnia when treated with TCM.  2Spence et al (2004) found that acupuncture could help reduce the feelings of anxiety that caused insomnia reflecting clinical reports of the relaxant effects of acupuncture.  Auricular acupuncture (where the ear is needled rather than the body) has also proved effective (Chen et al , 2007).

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    Insomnia Testimonials

    Anon

    (Permissions: anonymous)

    The first time I met Vimala I told him the only thing I looked forward to was sleep. Sadly, at 46 years old, this was quite true. I have suffered from anxiety all my life (have a constant dull headache) and as I got older had symptoms of depression as well. Once I hit my forties I started experiencing feelings of extreme panic (dry mouth, racing heart, pounding head, tremors, feelings of dread, weepiness, and insomnia). Sometimes, my heart would feel like it was thundering so loudly I was convinced the people in close proximity could hear it. My appetite was non-existent therefore I was underweight and my symptoms certainly dictated my life. I was forever avoiding the situations that I was able to, particularly social, and lived in dread of those I had to face (such as work). As I work for the NHS and have a certain knowledge of medicine I managed for as long as able without prescribed medication for fear of replacing one problem with another i.e. side effects of the type of drug I knew I was likely to be prescribed if I presented with the symptoms I have described. However, in my early forties I felt if I didn’t do something I would get to the stage where I was unable to get out of bed and face the day and realised that would most certainly lead to a downward spiral of time off work and probably exacerbate the problem. I was duly prescribed antidepressants and sleeping pills, plus pain relief tablets for the constant headache. I stopped the antidepressants after about six months as they didn’t seem to help as much as I had hoped and I couldn’t cope with the side effects (flushing, night sweats and a rather numb or spaced feeling) but habitually took the pain relief and the sleeping tablets. I looked forward to sleep because it was the only relief from my symptoms.

    Three months later, and after a course of ten acupuncture sessions (I now have an acupuncture session every 3-4 weeks) I am a somewhat different (certainly calmer) person. My energy levels have risen considerably and continue to do so, my body feels very much lighter (although I have actually put on weight as my appetite is improved), my head and mind are clearer and my attitude is more positive and optimistic. I haven’t had a panic attack since my third or fourth session of acupuncture and rarely take pain relief tablets. My next challenge is to stop the sleeping tablets. I still have my old friend the headache, but it is ever decreasing in intensity and constancy. While I would not claim to be completely symptom free (I still suffer some occasional anxiety but nothing like the sheer panic and dread I used to experience), I would claim to be able to cope with it and understand it better and be able to alleviate it more successfully than I have ever been able to before.

    I embraced acupuncture as I really wanted it to work and it has, and I’ve also made other lifestyle changes (diet, exercise and try to explore what makes me the way I am) to ensure I was working with it and giving it my optimum. I wish I had done it years ago. I enjoy the sessions immensely – I would rather have acupuncture than a massage.

    When I first told Vimala all I looked forward to was sleep, he said ‘we’ll see if we can do something about that’ – and he has.

    Monica Calvert

    (Permissions: full name)

    Tinnitus, Loss of Hearing Insomnia, Anxiety, Depression, Panic/Claustrophobia.

    3 Years ago I suddenly developed very severe Tinnitus and some loss of hearing.  It happened in the night and was very frightening.  Consequently it triggered several panic attacks and insomnia (which I had never suffered from before).  Doctors and specialist both private and NHS gave me numerous tests.  They informed me that there was nothing they could do and that I would probably have tinnitus for life.  They warned me that my hearing could deteriorate further.  They said that they didn’t know what had caused it but suspected it was either a virus (I had a persistent dry cough at the time of the attack) or a side effect of the antibiotics my doctor had given me at that time.  I became very depressed as the quality of my life was severely affected.  The loud relentless ringing in my ear dominated everything.  I became anxious – worried that the tinnitus would get even worse and that I might lose my hearing altogether as the doctors said this was a possibility.   I seemed to be in a downward spiral and it was severely affecting both my working and personal life.

    The doctors had given up on me but I hadn’t given up on myself so I decided to try acupuncture as I had read that it could help tinnitus and I had found it had helped me many years ago when I suffered with dizziness.  I found Sean in Yellow Pages and went to see him.   I was extremely impressed. He deliberated my medical history thoroughly and after performing various tests and checking my “chi” (all painless) seemed confident he could help me – not only with the tinnitus, but the insomnia, anxiety, panic attacks and depression as well.  Sean’s philosophy on life is inspiring and his cheerful, positive approach is a tonic. Even after my first visit I felt a lot better.

    I found the acupuncture painless and relaxing.  Sean also gave me Chinese herbal tablets.  After the third treatment I began sleeping normally again much to my amazement as I had been suffering severe insomnia for almost 3 months.  I continued with regular treatments and gradually the tinnitus which had been driving me mad, began to lessen.  The depression lifted along with the anxiety and panic.  I began to feel like my “old” self again.  The tinnitus has been reduced by about 75% and it is now only a faint “hum” in the background and the excruciating high pitched ringing has gone.  It no longer dominates my life – I fact most of the time I don’t even notice it.. Sean gave me my life back!  I will always be grateful to him.

    Diane Duell

    (Permissions: full name)

    I have experienced the benefits of acupuncture for 13 years and have realised that to maintain a balanced state of well being is not only to attend when sensitivities occur but to go for regular “MOT’s”.

    My introduction to acupuncture was as a result of persistent chronic back pain, sciatica, insomnia and general unwellness. This had been ongoing despite help from other areas. Acupuncture not only obliterated the pain but instilled a peace I hadn’t felt for long enough. I was able to relax comfortably and natural sleep followed. Over the years Sean and his colleagues have succeeded in helping me manage this condition giving me more confidence.

    The most dramatic changes were appreciated when I asked Sean for help to rid me of a demon menopause as I didn’t wish to go down the HRT road. I was experiencing violent hot flushes day and night, joint pains and mood changes. Due to the night sweats insomnia was starting to affect the day’s activities resulting in the mood swings. With a mixture of acupuncture and Chinese herbs over a period of a few months the symptoms gradually eased. To date, the joints pains have gone, sleepy nights are more common and the hot flushes for the most part are a distant memory.

    Learning to stand still and having a more realistic approach to my life has also contributed to this change as well as joining Sean’s Tai Chi classes.

    My attitude is more positive again and life is good.

     

    Insomnia caused by other symptoms or sleep improvements as a corollary to treatment for other symptoms

    Maria Wilson

    (Permissions: full name)

    I was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and was experiencing symptoms like irritability, restlessness, insomnia, poor energy, erratic and irregular heartbeat.  For a long period of time I also suffered with anxiety and panic attacks.  It was not long before I found myself taking 8 tablets per day (inclusive of the contraceptive pill).  I decided it was time to take some action – I was on a ‘self help’ mission.  Fortunately for me, I got in touch with The Sean Barkes Clinic [Clinic of Traditional Chinese Medicine]. It was immediately apparent that I had found that much needed help.  Not only have I been treated in the form of acupuncture, I have experienced Chinese Massage and Chinese Herbal Medicine.  It is without doubt that due to this treatment I feel the best I have felt in years, my thyroid is functioning normally, I am tablet free, and have gained massive amounts of knowledge about my body.

    Mark Driffill

    (Permissions: full name)

    After a root canal procedure at the dentist, I began to experience pain in the left side of my face, radiating to my left temple and through my eye. I had Xrays at the hospital, and a consultation with the Maxillo-facial specialist, who proceeded to remove the tooth, as the filling was projecting into the bone of my upper jaw.

    The pain did not subside, and over a period of some months increased to a point where Ibuprofen was no longer sufficient pain relief, and a constant nagging pain persisted.

    Due to the Dr. telling me that there was nothing else that could be done…I needed to seek help from elsewhere. At my partner’s suggestion I sought a consultation with an acupuncturist…I knew nothing about acupuncture save that it involved needles.

    My first consultation involved a lengthy history taking of sometimes apparently unrelated personal matters, and an initial treatment. I was put at ease from the start, and whilst remaining sceptical, and a little apprehensive, I had come to ‘lose the pain’. I rested for the required time in a treatment room, full of needles which I hardly felt after they had hit the spot on insertion. The pain in my face and headache were much improved by the time I reached home, but I did have a pain in my foot!

    Subsequent visits have enabled me to reduce the amount of Ibuprofen, to at times less than half the (maximum) dose that I had been taking.

    I am still not free of the pain completely, but my sleep and personal life are already feeling the benefit, and the treatment sessions are getting further apart.

    Elena Munns

    (Permissions: full name)

    I first visited The Sean Barkes Clinic [Clinic of Traditional Chinese Medicine] for help with excessive temperature, hot flushes and night sweats.  I was so hot that I had to have a fan on high at night to keep my temperature at a level where I could sleep; even then I would wake up several times a night soaked in sweat.  Daytimes were no better as I was constantly red faced and sweating, then when I had a hot flush it got even worse.

    I am 44 years old, somewhat overweight (although I am losing weight successfully) and started dipping in and out of the menopause about 6 years ago and am now in full blown menopause.

    After my initial consultation, during which a detailed medical history was taken, a course of treatment was recommended and started.  Having been warned I would probably feel worse during the two days following my first session I was quite delighted that I started noticing an improvement in my temperature after only a day and a half.  The following weeks were quite an amazing journey, my overall temperature has dropped to a level where I can sleep at night without the fan switched on, and during the day I am no longer red faced and sweating.  I won’t pretend I don’t still have hot flushes because I do, but now they are really few and far between and are a minor inconvenience.

    Over the weeks other things have changed as well; I have had vertigo for years which has spoilt many things for me, now I have been free of vertigo for five weeks and am relishing the freedom I’ve gained.  I’ve always been one to appear happy and confident sadly it was all front, however I now have a deep sense of peace and contentment, I’m happy – enough that work colleagues and friends have commented, I have boundless confidence and have regained an enthusiasm for life that I thought was gone forever.  I no longer wake up exhausted I have energy to do all those things in life that had become such a chore.  To top all this I feel really well for the first time in years.

    If I can achieve all this in only a few short weeks then I can’t wait to see what the future holds.  One thing I do know I am very grateful to the team at the clinic for helping me in such a profound way.

    ZS

    (Permissions: initials)

    I first visited Sean one and a half years ago after struggling for 3 years with various digestives problems and irritable bowel syndrome. I was a little apprehensive about having needles stuck in me but the clinic is a very, calm place and I soon felt very much at ease. The whole process is relaxing and I could feel the energy in my body.

    The treatments very soon yielded results and I began to feel much better. After suffering from IBS for 3 years the feeling when the symptoms reduced was amazing. To be symptom free is fabulous. An added benefit was that I started to feel better overall, my mood improved and I had increased energy, I was able to sleep through the night without waking and I felt great due to the acupuncture.

    During the time of my treatment my father died and the relief that acupuncture gave me during this time was immense. It really helped me to grieve and deal with the emotions raised. Shortly afterwards I had some important decisions to make in my life and Sean, being the inspirational person he is, introduced me to chi kung and this really helped my decision making  process and to make changes in my life that has now helped me to be a more relaxed, calm person experiencing real happiness.

    References:

    1 Sok, SR., Erlen, JA., Kim, KB., (2003) Effects of acupuncture therapy on insomnia Journal of Advanced Nursing, Vol 44 No 4 pp 375-384.

    2 Spence, WD., Kayumov, L, Chen, A, Lowe, A,  Jain, U, Katzman, MA, Shen, J, Perelman, B, Shapiro, CM (2004) Acupuncture increases nocturnal melatonin secretion and reduces Insomnia and Anxiety: A Preliminary Report Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neuroscience No 16 pp 19-28.

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    Disclaimer
    The Sean Barkes Clinic does not claim to cure any conventional medical disease states.  Traditional Chinese Medicine seeks to re-establish and maintain the harmonious function of the human body-mind using tried and tested principles that have been discovered and matured over millennia.  A Western medical diagnosis provides very little by way of insight in informing a Chinese Medical diagnosis.  Patients usually recognise their own condition in terms of the medical disease category that they have been given by their GP or other conventional medical practitioner.  The research presented here is merely an indication of the potential to draw parallels between Traditional Chinese Medicine and Modern Western Medicine.

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