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The All-Natural Treatment I Always Recommend For Insomnia: A Doctor Explains

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July 8, 2016

Acupuncture may not seem like an obvious choice to keep you from tossing and turning at night. Sticking needles into your skin seems like a surefire way to wake you up, not put you to sleep.

However, there is strong clinical evidence that acupuncture can be an effective treatment for insomnia.

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Acupuncture activates your parasympathetic system, or the "rest and digest" part of our nervous system. The more your body is able to slip into this relaxation state, the faster you can fall asleep when you hit the pillow. (Ideally you should be asleep within 20 minutes of lying down in bed.)

Sometimes the best sleep I get is when I fall asleep during an acupuncture treatment. It's like a super-effective cat nap that instantly restores me. My patients tell similar stories after I treat them for insomnia or even conditions unrelated to fatigue.

What to know before you make an appointment

Your acupuncturist will be placing needles in specific points along meridians, or channels running through your body. There are 12 meridians named after specific organs, but they do not necessarily have a direct correlation with how we define those organs in conventional medicine.

The following meridians relate to specific sleep issues:

  • Heart Meridian (anxiety): If you have difficulty falling asleep, or you wake up easily
  • Spleen Meridian (worry, OCD): If you wake up at the same time every night
  • Liver Meridian (anger, stress): If you wake up between 1 and 3 a.m.
  • Lung Meridian (grief): If you wake up between 3 and 5 a.m.
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While some people see results right away, it may take up to six sessions to see improvement, as acupuncture has a cumulative effect.

In an ideal world, you would be receiving acupuncture right before you go to sleep. If that's not possible, I recommend booking an acupuncture appointment in the early evening on a day you can go straight home and relax.

Have you tried acupuncture and noticed a difference in your sleep? Click here for more of my go-to sleep hacks

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Tiffany Lester, M.D.
Tiffany Lester, M.D.
Functional Medicine Doctor

Tiffany Lester, M.D. is the National Clinical Director of Community at Parsley Health San Francisco, a groundbreaking new medical practice that focuses on nutrition, prevention, and wellness. She received her bachelor's in psychology and biology from the University of Missouri, Columbia, and her medical degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Lester combines the best of both conventional and functional medicine, navigating the complexity of the body to get to the root cause of disease. She is passionate about healing chronic disease through whole foods and teaching people how simple, small shifts can have an enormous impact on their fatigue, stress, and pain levels.