Defined as the chronic inability to fall asleep, stay asleep, sleep efficiently or otherwise obtain sufficient rest, insomnia is a common clinical problem. Unfortunately, insomnia diminishes quality of life in more ways than daytime tiredness alone. Poor sleep not only impacts your energy level, but has also been linked to adverse health effects such as heart ailments, weight gain, depression and a weakened immune system, according to the National Sleep Foundation of America. Sleeplessness can also speed up the rate at which your body ages. Less sleep correlates to less growth hormone production, which your body needs to heal and repair itself. While higher levels of human growth hormone help you feel and look younger, lower levels will have the opposite effect. Additionally, insufficient rest can impair your learning and decision-making abilities as well as cause bad-temperedness and irritability, which can negatively affect your social relationships too.

Pharmacologic therapy remains the most frequently prescribed treatment for insomnia, despite troubling concerns over side effects, long-term use, habituation and tolerance. Natural treatments for insomnia, on the other hand, are safe and side effect free. Several studies have shown that they can be just as effective, and sometimes even more effective, than medications. Our team of practitioners offers multiple approaches to insomnia relief.
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Ward, SH, and LD Ward. "The Evaluation And Management Of Insomnia In Primary Care." Patient Care For The Nurse Practitioner (2006): CINAHL with Full Text.
How Can Massage Therapy Help with Insomnia?
Registered massage therapists use soft tissue techniques to help ease stress and physiological anxiety and promote relaxation so that those who previously suffered from insomnia can drift off to sleep. Tactile stimulation of skin and connective tissues causes profound physiological responses in the body’s nervous system. Essentially, the physical pressure of massage therapy is dispersed throughout the brain and interpreted as a relaxation response, which increases the response of the relaxed parasympathetic system and decreases the agitated sympathetic nervous system activity, in turn.
The nervous system is the transportation network through which your brain sends and receives information about what is happening in your body and your surrounding environment. Among other things, it directs all involuntary functions of the body, such as breathing, heartbeat, perspiration, pupil dilation and digestion. The parasympathetic division of your nervous system allows blood pressure to decrease, pulse rate to slow and energy to be conserved, all of which facilitate sleep. It becomes activated when the body does not detect a threatening environment, known as "rest and digest" situations. Oppositely, when your body is in "fight or flight" mode your sympathetic nervous system takes over and insomnia can result. When your sympathetic nervous system is triggered by stress, a challenge or an emergency situation your blood pressure increases, your heart beats faster, your digestion slows down, hormones such as cortisol and endorphins are produced and it can be difficult to sleep. Thankfully, massage therapy is also purported to offset the overproduction of stress hormones by influencing the secretion of corticotropin, which encourages calmness and sleep.
While you may not be able to consciously will your autonomic nervous system to switch into into a parasympathetic state when you want to go to bed after a stressful day, you can book a massage therapy appointment for the end of your work day.  Then you can ease into a relaxing evening and get a good night’s sleep.
The application of slow, sedating massage strokes can be extremely remedial for restlessness and sleeplessness. Known as effleurage, slow stroke techniques involve gentle rhythmic motions of gliding and sliding along the surface of the skin. These long, even strokes create a relaxing effect and encourage the return of blood to the heart. Clinical studies have proven slow stroke massage to cause significant improvements in vital signs conducive to deep sleep such as blood pressure, heart rate and finger temperature. Massage therapy’s effects of reduced physiological and psychological stress are so strong that patients are often lulled to sleep right on the massage table. The waking nightmare of insomnia can soon be a distant memory.
Aromatherapy employs the therapeutic properties of fragrant, concentrated plant extracts, known as essential oils, to promote health and wellness. Essential oils contain the life forces of herbs and/or flowers, which are credited with many beneficial properties, including the ability to reduce stress, relieve negative mental states and redress imbalances between the sympathetic and parasympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system. Essential oils are up to one hundred times stronger than the dried herbs of the same plant, which is why they are so effective. They work by inhalation and/or topical, skin (dermal) application.
Aromatherapy can be extremely effective in treating insomnia, especially when coupled with massage therapy. Your sense of smell has the power to evoke physical and emotional responses, such as relaxing and sedating your mind and body.  Essential oils applied during massage are absorbed quickly and easily into the skin. Within 20 minutes the oils enter into your blood stream through small capillaries and then circulate throughout your whole body system for up to 24 hours. Some of the best essential oils for the treatment of insomnia are basil, benzoin, chamomile, clary-sage, lavender, lemon, marjoram, neroli, nutmeg, rose, sandalwood, valerian, vetiver, and ylang ylang. It is important to consult with an aromatherapist before using any essential oils as there may be contraindications, especially when applied directly to the skin.
Loughran, Joni Keim and Rhuah Bull. Aromatherapy and Subtle Energy Techniques.Berkley, CA: Frog, Ltd., 2000.
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Harris, Melodee, and Kathy C Richards. "The Physiological And Psychological Effects Of Slow-Stroke Back Massage And Hand Massage On Relaxation In Older People." Journal Of Clinical Nursing 19.7-8 (2010): 917-926.
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How Can Acupuncture Help with Insomnia?
Acupuncture has shown great success as a natural insomnia remedy and is one of the most commonly used treatments for insomnia in China. Acupuncture has an excellent tolerability and safety profile. By improving energy flow and reducing stress, along with improving the body's ability to adapt to it, regular acupuncture can restore balance, reduce sleeplessness, increase vitality and wakefulness and improve overall functioning.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is holistic and takes into account the health of the entire body, rather than individual symptoms.  The basic premise is that there is life energy flowing through the body via channels that connect all of the body’s major organs. For example, Traditional Chinese Medicine typically associates insomnia with the heart, and also the liver when stress is involved, though acupuncture treatment is always individualized. Sleep disturbances are believed to arise when the cyclical flow of energy becomes unbalanced. To treat this acupuncture is applied by inserting fine, single-use, sterile needles at specific points on or near the surface of the skin. The needles stay in place for upwards of 30 minutes, depending, to open and release restrictions along the energy pathways and promote flow. Frequently reported benefits of acupuncture include deeper breathing, improved digestive abilities, better sleeping patterns, decrease in various pains and a general sense of well being, which can drastically improve quality of life in sleep-disturbed patients.  The cumulative therapeutic effects of a set of eight to 12 acupuncture sessions, at two to three treatments per week,is typically enough to inspire positive change for the long term.

The benefits of acupuncture have been demonstrated in many clinical tests. For example, in a study of 16 patients with severe insomnia as their chief complaint symptoms of sleep disorder improved in 15 of the patients following 10 to 12 acupuncture treatments each. Therapeutic effects were still present 3 months following the conclusion of treatment. Likewise, a German study of hospital outpatients found that 100% of participants treated for insomnia saw benefit from acupuncture without recurrences in sleep deprivation within 18 months of follow-up. Studies have also shown acupuncture to be more effective at improving sleep quality than placebo sham treatment or no treatment. Objective changes were noted in amount of sleep, time awake and sleep quality in the true acupuncture group.
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Montakab H, Langel G. The effect of acupuncture in the treatment of insomnia: clinical study of subjective and objective evaluation [in French]. Schweiz Med Wochenschr Suppl. 1994;62:49-54.
Suzanne M McDonough, et al. "Acupuncture And Reflexology For Insomnia: A Feasibility Study." Acupuncture In Medicine: Journal Of The British Medical Acupuncture Society 27.4 (2009): 163-168.
Tsay, S, J Rong, and P Lin. "Acupoints Massage In Improving The Quality Of Sleep And Quality Of Life In Patients With End-Stage Renal Disease." Journal Of Advanced Nursing 42.2 (2003): 134-142.

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