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  • Writer's pictureDr. Nicky Rieks, DACM, L.Ac.

Acupuncture for Improved Sleep

Sleep Series Part 2 of 3

Research and Acupuncture for Sleep

Could acupuncture be the insomnia cure? Research has shown that acupuncture can be a safe and beneficial means to help general insomnia (Yin et al., 2017). 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…" (Li et al., 2019). Other research shows women who are suffering from insomnia during perimenopause can also benefit from acupuncture (Guo, Jia, Jin, Xu, & Peng, 2018). Several research studies show acupuncture helps reduce anxiety and stress for women undergoing assisted fertility methods such as In Vetro Fertilization (Grant & Cochrane, 2014) ; (Maryam Hassanzadeh Bashtian, Robab Latifnejad Roudsari, & Ramin Sadeghi, 2017); (Wang, Yang, Song, & Ma, 2018).

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 interferes 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 (“Acupuncture Relieves Insomnia and Extends Sleep,” n.d.).

Feelings of being wired or the 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, which helps induce sleep. Acupuncture can help normalize circadian rhythms and assist with regular sleep (Huang, Kutner, & Bliwise, 2011).

Some people try over-the-counter (OTC) melatonin to help them fall asleep. More research is needed on melatonin and potential issues regarding its 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 (“Scientists pinpoint dosage of melatonin for insomnia,” n.d.). Acupuncture can help the natural secretion of melatonin and assist with better sleep.


Acupuncture Relieves Insomnia and Extends Sleep. (n.d.). Retrieved October 14, 2019, from

Grant, L.-E., & Cochrane, S. (2014). Acupuncture for the Mental and Emotional Health of Women Undergoing IVF Treatment: A Comprehensive Review. Australian Journal of Acupuncture & Chinese Medicine, 9(1), 5–12. Retrieved from

Guo, T., Jia, M., Jin, Y., Xu, N., & Peng, T. (2018). Acupuncture for perimenopausal insomnia: A systematic review and meta-analysis protocol. Medicine, 97(24), e11083.

Han, J.-S. (2004). Acupuncture and endorphins. Neuroscience Letters, 361(1–3), 258–261.

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 Medicine, 7(1), 95–102.

Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick? - Mayo Clinic. (n.d.). Retrieved October 13, 2019, from

Lack of Sleep is Affecting Americans, Finds the National Sleep Foundation | National Sleep Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2019, from

Li, S., Yin, P., Yin, X., Bogachko, A., Liang, T., Lao, L., & Xu, S. (2019). Effect of acupuncture on insomnia in menopausal women: A study protocol for a randomized controlled trial. Trials, 20(1), 308.

Maryam Hassanzadeh Bashtian, Robab Latifnejad Roudsari, & Ramin Sadeghi. (2017). Effects of Acupuncture on Anxiety in Infertile Women: A Systematic Review of the Literature. Journal of Midwifery & Reproductive Health, (1), 842.

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Sleep Statistics—Data About Sleep and Sleep Disorders. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2019,

Sleep Statistics Reveal The (Shocking) Cost To Our Health And Society. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2019, from

Wang, J.-X., Yang, Y., Song, Y., & Ma, L.-X. (2018). Positive Effect of Acupuncture and Cupping in Infertility Treatment. Medical Acupuncture, 30(2), 96–99.

Yin, X., Gou, M., Xu, J., Dong, B., Yin, P., Masquelin, F., … Xu, S. (2017). Efficacy and safety of acupuncture treatment on primary insomnia: A randomized controlled trial. Sleep Medicine, 37, 193–200.

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