Acupuncture, a form of alternative medicine, is becoming an increasingly popular method to treat many medical conditions, including sleep disorders. Acupuncture dates back thousands of years and is rooted in Eastern healing practices. It's based on a concept that all disease, including sleep problems, is the result of an imbalance of subtle energy moving throughout the body. This energy moves along 14 pathways in the body called meridians. Through the ages, practitioners have identified and charted these meridians. Treatment by an acupuncturist involves inserting very fine needles at various points along these meridians to increase, decrease, or balance the energy flow.
In the Western scientific community, there is a great deal of skepticism about the use of acupuncture, mainly because there have not been a lot of well-designed, well-controlled studies proving its effectiveness. The National Institutes of Health, however, has recently stated that there is enough evidence to indicate that acupuncture can be helpful in controlling nausea and certain types of pain.
Acupuncture has also been suggested -- and in the East, used -- as a remedy for insomnia, although scientific proof of this particular benefit is lacking. Still, acupuncture might be worth a try, especially for people suffering from chronic pain that affects their ability to get enough restful sleep.
Most people have heard about someone who has been helped by acupuncture but are reluctant to try it themselves because they fear having needles inserted into their body. But the consensus of most people who have used acupuncture is that the procedure causes little or no discomfort, and many swear by the benefits they've received. Side effects from acupuncture are also rare and appear to result mostly from treatment by unqualified practitioners.
If you decide to try acupuncture for your sleep problems, seek out a licensed practitioner, if your state governs this profession, or one certified by the National Commission for the Certification of Acupuncturists. In addition, check to be sure the acupuncturist uses sterile, disposable needles, to decrease any risk of transmission of blood-borne infectious organisms.
A close cousin of acupuncture is acupressure. Acupressure relies on the same meridian points as acupuncture, but finger pressure, rather than a needle, is used to stimulate points along the meridians to increase, decrease, or balance the energy running through the body.
On the next page, earn about how aromatherapy works, along with the benefit of aromatherapy on sleep.For more information on sleep and sleep disorders, see: