October 12, 2016

By  Steve Hoffman

You are tired, sooo tired. You can barely keep your eyes open, you just want to lay down and go to sleep. Then as soon as your head hits the pillow, bang you are awake! For others, getting to sleep is not the problem. They fall asleep fine but wake up, mind racing, tossing and turning for hours until sleep finally claims them again…five minutes before the alarm goes off! If any of this sounds familiar, you are not alone. It is estimated that one in three people suffer from some form of insomnia and it costs this country up to $63 billion dollars a year. I believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg because it does not factor in the moodiness and irritability that comes along with the insomnia. The lack of engagement or enjoyment of life because you are just so tired. The ups and downs of a few cups of coffee in the morning and a few drinks at night to get you to sleep. If you are suffering with insomnia, acupuncture is a safe, natural, effective way of helping you get the sleep that your body so desperately needs. 

So what are some good acupuncture points for insomnia? I am going to list five of the most effective points below and describe what they do from an oriental medicine perspective. While insomnia is a complicated issue and an individualized treatment plan, tailored to your needs is best, massaging these points prior to going to sleep is a great way to help you get to sleep and stay asleep. 

An Mian

an-mianThis is an “extra” point that is not located on a meridian. To find this point, go to the back of your head at the base of the skull. Move from the center line out until your finger finds a depression (this is GB20 which I talked about in my 8/31/16 blog). Continue moving your finger forward until you dip in to another depression, behind the ear lobe. The point is located right in between these two depressions. The translated name of the point is “peaceful sleep” and as you might imagine, it is good for insomnia. It is also indicated for headaches, palpitations and emotional problems. 

Stomach 36 (ST36)

stomach-36Named Zu San Li or “Leg Three Miles”, this point is said to give you the energy to walk another three miles! The point is located on the leg below the knee. If you place your four fingers below your knee cap, the point is located at this level, one fingers breadth to the outside of your shin bone. This point is widely used to increase a patient’s energy or Qi. So what does energy have to do with sleep? Well, the point is also said to build blood (and Qi is used in Chinese medicine build blood so without sufficient Qi there will not be sufficient blood). What about sleep? Well in Chinese medicine, the Shen or the spirit requires a place to reside when we are sleeping, and where does it reside? In the Heart and in the blood! So when the blood is deficient, the spirit is said to wander, causing sleeplessness. If we think about it, many of us who suffer from insomnia are “wired and tired”. Exhausted but can’t get a good night sleep. This is where we actually need energy to allow us to sleep well. 

Pericardium 6 (PC6)

pc-6This point is located about three fingers up from the wrist crease and is named Nei Guan or Inner Pass. It is indicated for, anxiety, palpitations, emotional problems, insomnia and irritability among other things. It is said to calm the Heart and the spirit. You may be familiar with this point if you suffer from motion sickness. The bands that they sell that go on the wrist to help with motion sickness go on this point. It is easy to see why calming a person would help with motion sickness and also helps them sleep.


ht-7The name of this point is Shen Men or “Spirit Gate” and is specifically indicated for insomnia. It is also indicated for irritability, palpitations, mania, and dementia, among other things. The point is located on the pinky side of the wrist crease, on the inside of the ligament that attaches the hand to the arm. Gates have a special importance in Chinese medicine and when gates that should be open are closed, or vice versa, energy is either not flowing correctly or not contained correctly. By opening or closing these gates, the body is brought back in to balance. And when a gate is associated with the spirit, things like sleep can be affected. 

Yin Tang

Yin TangThis point is an “extra” point and while it is not technically part of a meridian, it does lie on the same line as the Governing Vessel points. It is located right in between the eyebrows and the name translates to Hall of Impression. This point is indicated for headaches and insomnia among other things. It is an incredibly calming point and I actually have patients request that I do this point. It is said to calm the spirit. If you ever wondered why it feels so good to rub your forehead when you are having a stressful day, this point is part of the reason! 

Spirits and Qi and blood, OH MY! If I’ve left you all feeling a bit dizzy and maybe out there in the ether, you have to remember when and how this medicine developed. Science, poetry, art and philosophy were kind of co-mingled. They also did not have microscopes or computers or the understanding of chemistry and biology that we take for granted today. So things like Qi and spirits were very real parts of the explanation for the workings of what these healers saw in their clinics. Seeing the very real effects of these points on a daily basis sometimes has me wondering about how far off these people really were! 

Insomnia can be debilitating and can rob you of your enjoyment of life. If you suffer from chronic insomnia, get help and these points can be great homework to get you off to sleep!

Princeton Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine

Our patients know just how effective treatments are for these and a host of other problems. Steven Hoffman, a New Jersey Licensed Acupuncturist and Diplomate in Oriental Medicine, will provide you with a thorough intake and evaluation and a clear, comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan that will insure that your goals are met or exceeded. Do you want to move past these or other problems? We will help you thrive not just survive!

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