Serenity Now: Healing The Natural Way
By Deborah Rothman, L.Ac., Dipl. Ac.
My patients who suffer from insomnia either come in because they feel awful, or because their spouse is tired of being woken up from their constant tossing and turning! Difficulty achieving a full night of sleep plagues many people worldwide, at various ages and stages. While there are different symptoms of various types of insomnia, one thing they all have in common is overwhelming frustration and complete and utter exhaustion. Many people describe themselves as walking around like zombies, unable to focus or continue with a single train of thought because they are simply so fatigued.
Some individuals have difficulty falling asleep. Others fall asleep as soon as their head hits the pillow, but then wake up and often experience difficulty falling back asleep. Still others fall asleep without difficulty and stay asleep, yet they still feel exhausted in the morning, as though the quality and depth of their sleep was not sufficient for them to rejuvenate. Waking often to urinate is yet another issue but stems from a different root cause entirely. A good night’s sleep is essential for one to rejuvenate in both body and spirit. Our organs and meridians and the Qi that flows within must retreat and rest at night, in order to be able to work and operate optimally by day.
There are numerous pharmaceutical remedies easily available today on the market. Ambien being the most well-known, as well as Lunesta, and there’s melatonin which is available without a prescription. Ambien was brought to market in the U.S. in 1993. It has remained one of the top-selling drugs in the U.S. year after year. It is extremely habit-forming. Many people, once they start with Ambien, are afraid to even attempt to fall asleep without their crutch. Very often the side effects carry over into their day and they find themselves groggy throughout the morning. They can experience some lightheadedness and fogginess. They may also feel dried out in their nasal passages, eyes, or throat, or experience stomach upset and muscle pain. Some people experience sleep-walking while taking Ambien and exhibit certain behaviors that they may regret and have no recollection of upon waking. There are other dangerous side effects as well. Watching TV commercials for prescription medications gives a glimpse of this. The benefits of a medication are usually presented in about five seconds, and then the warning of possible harmful, sometimes deadly, side effects seems to go on endlessly. If it weren’t true, it might be comical.
Ambien is a benzodiazepine which works as a hypnotic. It sedates and relaxes, thus allowing people to fall asleep and stay asleep more easily. However, it is addictive. Since the drug was initially released, the FDA has already reduced the recommended dosage because of the side effects, efficacy, and addiction. It is important to understand that the medications are treating the symptoms alone, not stopping the issue from recurring.
Acupuncture evaluates insomnia differently. Diagnosis is obtained not just by the presentation of symptoms of insomnia alone, but by a combination of clues the patient provides about their overall wellbeing. For example, a person who wakes often is usually overthinking and stressed about something going on in their work or family life. These thoughts don’t allow the mind to quit, and thus keep the person awake. In this example, using acupuncture points that allow for calming and helping deal with the stress is essential to ensuring a more continuous sleep pattern. Other people find it most difficult to wind down from their nonstop hectic day, to be able to suddenly shut it all down and get into a good sleep. There are different treatments that are customized and tailored to the individual.
One superstar acupuncture point that helps treat insomnia is “An Mian.” Its literal translation is “Peaceful Sleep.” Acupuncture points were initially discovered over 4,000 years ago. An Mian is an acupuncture point that is not located on one of the 12 primary meridians that course through the body. Instead, it is known as an “extra point.” This means it is a point that was found in clinic by actual experience with patients. Not only does it work for helping achieve a better more restful, continuous sleep, but it also serves to relax the patient as well and is most useful in stress relief, and even with vertigo symptoms. The point itself is located posterior to the earlobe on the side of the neck. This point has been found to promote a deeper, more restful sleep. It works on the part of the sleep cycle known as the slow wave sleep, by activating distinct opioid receptors in the brain.
When using acupuncture, you are not only treating a symptom, but getting to the root of the problem to stop it from recurring. I have had great success in my practice treating patients who suffer from insomnia. They cannot believe the amazing response they have and how much more productive they become when fully functional after a restful night’s sleep. It isn’t by chance that the drug name Ambien is reminiscent of the acupuncture point An Mian, which was found thousands of years before. The pharmaceutical companies used the name, well aware of the miraculous effect the acupuncture point had and wanted to continue suit.
Sometimes it may seem easier and faster to pop a pill rather than begin a journey of holistic healing. The question only you can answer is: are you looking for a one-night solution? Are you willing to suffer the grogginess the next day with possible scary side effects? Perhaps instead you are ready to embark on a journey of tranquility where a restful night’s sleep will help ensure a productive, happier, more content individual day after day. Your spouse will thank you for it!
Deborah Rothman is a licensed acupuncturist and a diplomate of acupuncture with a private practice in Woodmere. Comments and questions are welcome. She can be reached at 516-203-4500 or deborah@AcuZen.com. Please visit www.AcuZen.com and follow Acuâ€‘Zen on Facebook.