Reduce Stress with Acupuncture and Healthy Sleep Habits

While we enjoy the benefits of the most advanced technology in history, our modern society also experiences increasing levels of stress and sleep deprivation. Whether stress comes from work, family, health, or financial circumstances, it can seriously interfere with your mental and physical well-being.

The Stress-Sleep Deprivation Cycle
Stress and sleep deprivation have an interconnected and tumultuous relationship. Like the chicken and the egg, it can be hard to pinpoint which comes first. Stress often causes sleeplessness. For the average adult, sleep deprivation starts any time you get less than seven hours of sleep. Once you’re in that state, the body begins to change how it works.

Lack of sleep causes the emotional center of the brain to become over sensitive to negative emotions and thoughts. While at the same time, the part of the brain responsible for higher reasoning functions becomes less active. This change in emotional balance leads to more stress and the cycle continues. Or, you may spend a few nights tossing and turning for no reason at all but find your stress levels going up because your emotions are out of balance due to lack of sleep. Either way, stress and sleep deprivation feed each other, and sometimes it can be hard to stop the cycle.

Breaking the Cycle with Acupuncture
Acupuncture has been shown to be an effective way to reduce stress, which in turn can improve your ability to fall and stay asleep. A study published in Endocrinology explored the effects of electroacupuncture on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA), the part of the body responsible for the release of stress hormones. The study focused on acupuncture’s ability to treat stress that was already in progress. When acupuncture needles were applied to the correct points on the body, it reduces the number of stress hormones released by the HPA in rats.

Acupuncture can also work to reduce anxiety while increasing the release of vital sleep hormones like melatonin. One study found that after five weeks of acupuncture treatments, participants not only had less anxiety but they also had higher levels of melatonin in their systems, which improved their ability to fall and stay asleep while increasing their total time slept.

Develop Healthy Sleep Habits
As stress gets reduced, healthy sleep habits can support your efforts to get better sleep. A healthy sleep environment should include as little light and sound as possible with cool temperatures between 60 to 68 degrees. Habits that promote good sleep include:

  • A Regular Bedtime: Going to bed at the same time every night helps your body develop a sleep schedule and know when to release sleep hormones.
  • A Relaxing Bedtime Routine: Sometimes the mind and body need a chance to wind down before sleeping. A relaxing bedtime routine allows you to release stress and tension from the day and can help trigger the release of sleep hormones.
    Regularly Spaced and Timed Meals: Eating your meals on a regular schedule can support your body’s sleep-wake schedule. Try to avoid high-fat heavy foods before bed.
  • Increased Exposure to Natural Light: Natural light helps your body establish a consistent sleep-wake cycle. Try taking a walk or sitting on your front porch to get some extra light exposure during the day.

 

Ellie Porter

Guest writer for Tao to Wellness
Managing Editor | SleepHelp.org
ellie@sleephelp.org