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Regulate your circadian rhythm with Acupuncture to treat insomnia & anxiety

Do you have insomnia? Or do you just have anxiety? Here is the link between the two and how Acupuncture can help.

Sleep is one of those earthly experiences that each and every one of us can relate too, however some of us sleep better than others and if you fall in the latter category, this blog post is for you. Or If you love to nerd out but only have time for the Coles notes, then you’re in the right place for this acupuncture sleep study!

An estimated 35-40% of adults will struggle with insomnia at some point in their lives 1. That’s more than 1/3 of the population who don’t sleep well.

According to sleep clinics, one of the most common insomnia patterns is anxious insomnia 1. Interestingly, the research suggest there are key overlapping qualities between insomnia and anxiety making them question their relationship to one another1. However, in the world of western medicine, the DSM-IV still maintains they are two separate entities 1. The researchers suggest people who have anxiety experience significantly elevated states of arousal which may effect their ability to fall asleep, stay asleep and get quality sleep – which are all shared characteristics of insomnia1.

Within western medicine, those who study sleep know the circadian rhythm plays a large role in producing quality sleep. Scientists agree that acquiring measurements of 6-Sulphatoxymelatonin (aMT6s) a metabolite of melatonin through urine analysis at regular intervals can give insight into a person’s ability to sleep1. What I find most interesting is that people who experience insomnia have a scientifically significant decrease in the nocturnal melatonin output – when it should be highest at night1. This finding therefore becomes an important biomarker to evaluate when looking at insomnia sleep trials. Additionally, melatonin is known to have an anti-anxiety effect on mood and behaviour making an even stronger case for anxiety-associated insomnia being triggered by low nocturnal melatonin production1.

Fortunately – the western world has come up with a solution, benzodiazepines1. For some this may be a solution, but my guess is if you’re reading this, you might want to explore some of your other options.

So let’s get to the results! In a study done on 18 adults with subclinical anxiety and sleep disturbances, the participants received acupuncture 10 time over the course of 5 weeks1. The participants in order to qualify for this study needed to have experienced insomnia for the past two years and to score 50 on the Zung Anxiety Self Rating Scale1.

The results of the study found the total sleep time and sleep efficiency improved and more importantly they found stage 3 sleep scores improved as well1. I know what your thinking – what is Stage 3 sleep?

Stage 3 sleep is categorized by delta waves, which are responsible for immune modulation, growth, and deep sleep which is important in helping an individual feel well rested upon waking2. The normal range in which we spend in Stage 3 per night is approximately 7%, with an average of the participants spending only 4.2% of their time in Stage 3 prior to acupuncture1. However after acupuncture, the participants were averaging 6.1% in Stage 3 sleep which is significantly closer to the average person who does not suffer from anxious insomnia1.

Physiologically there were also measurable changes in the aMT6s, the melatonin metabolite post acupuncture. Of importance, the midnight to 8am and 8am to 3pm time frame in which melatonin levels should be at its peak in urine, increased over the course of the 5 week acupuncture treatments 1. Something to note, the day time hours 3pm-9pm and 9pm to midnight had no noticeable changes – which falls in line with a healthy circadian rhythm cycle1.

Therefore this study demonstrated two different measures in which acupuncture successfully helped in treating anxious insomnia; through increased stage 3 sleep and through the analysis of the biomarker aMT6s and its predictive nature of a healthy circadian rhythm.

Although this study only focused on acupuncture, their results were still quite impressive. At Botanical Point, we offer the combination of herbs and acupuncture which can further increase the effectiveness of these treatments! So if you’re wondering if acupuncture might help with your anxiety or insomnia, book in for an initial consult so that a complete intake of your condition can be assessed by one of our practitioners.


1. Spence, D. W., Kayumov, L., Chen, A., Lowe, A., Jain, U., Katzman, M. A., ... & Shapiro, C. M. (2004). Acupuncture increases nocturnal melatonin secretion and reduces insomnia and anxiety: a preliminary report. The Journal of neuropsychiatry and clinical neurosciences, 16(1), 19-28.

2. Suni, E. & Vyas, N. (2022). Stages of sleep. Sleep Foundation.

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