Pain, whether chronic or acute, can get in the way of normal activity, contributing to decreasing activity levels. That same pain can contribute to sleep disruptions and poor sleep quality. Lack of sleep can lead to illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Pain management and relief are key to a healthy lifestyle, including getting a full seven to nine hours of sleep.
Reduced Pain Perception
Acupuncture has been used for thousands of years to treat any number of ailments. Modern studies have shown that it’s a viable way to manage pain. In a 2012 analysis, scientists set out to discover if acupuncture made a difference in pain perception in four areas: back and neck pain, osteoarthritis, chronic headaches, and shoulder pain. Acupuncture’s effects were compared to no acupuncture treatment and sham or fake acupuncture. Results indicated that true acupuncture can consistently reduce all kinds of pain perception.
Further studies support that evidence. In another study, acupuncture was explored as a means of joint relief associated with the drugs taken to treat breast cancer. Acupuncture successfully reduced joint pain. It proved to be a mental boost as well. Oncologists working with participants found that their patients appreciated a proactive way to treat their pain.
Less Pain, Better Sleep
Acupuncture can help with sleep too. Of course, if you reduce pain, you’re going to sleep better. But, acupuncture’s benefits go beyond pain relief into other sleep disruptors, most notably anxiety and stress. Acupuncture can be used to affect the part of the brain that processes emotions. It’s a natural, drug-free way to bring anxiety under control. Better sleep also comes with less anxiety.
As you sleep better, your pain perception can be further reduced too. Several studies have shown that the more sleep you get, the less pain you perceive as it improves pain tolerance. Whether you use acupuncture to treat pain or to reduce stress, you’re going to improve the quality of your sleep. It’s a win-win for both sleep and pain reduction.
Solid Sleep Habits
You may not get the full benefits of acupuncture if your sleep habits are standing in the way. Everything in your life from the food you eat to the amount of time you spend outside can affect the quality and timing of your sleep cycle. Set yourself up for long-term success by:
Keeping a Consistent Bedtime: The body loves a predictable schedule. Go to bed on time to help the body’s circadian rhythms adapt to your preferred bedtime.
Use a Nighttime Routine: A regular nightly routine further strengthens your nighttime patterns, which helps the brain correctly time the sleep cycle. You can also use a nightly routine to relieve tension and stress. Try a warm bath or meditation to calm the body and the mind. Whatever you choose, be consistent and perform the routine in the same order every night.
Get Comfortable: The right mattress can drastically improve the quality of your sleep and reduce morning pain. Your weight and sleep style—stomach, back, or side—affect the kind of mattress support you need. If your mattress is old or if it puts pressure on your pain points, it might be time for a new one.
Increase Time Outside: The body uses natural light to sync the sleep cycle with the Earth’s day/night pattern. Make sure you’re getting plenty of light during the day and reduce exposure to bright light at night.
Acupuncture can improve your sleep by reducing pain and treating anxiety. When it’s used in conjunction with good sleep habits, you’re on track for better sleep and long-term health.
Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. Her preferred research topics are health and wellness, so Amy’s a regular reader of Scientific American and Nature. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.
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