Now, it is important for me to state that the degrees of insomnia in these cases did vary with some individuals experiencing a constant 3-4 hours of sleep per night, whilst others experienced intermittent nights of no sleep throughout the weeks. It is interesting to note that although the individuals showed other signs and symptoms as well as differing palpatory findings (meridians/reflective areas/hara), all showed pressure pain at the region of Kid 16 bi-laterally & tightness at the sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM).
I found this continuity of palpatory findings (Kid 16 & SCM) extremely interesting as within the system of acupuncture I practice, the region of Kid 16 (huangshu) & the region of the right sternocleidomastoid muscle can relate to the balance of the adrenal gland and the autonomic nervous system respectively. Thus these palpatory findings of both pressure pain and spasticity/tightness can reflect to an extent the neuro-endocrine state of the individual. This is of course extremely important when treating individuals who suffer from insomnia/sleeping difficulties.
Let’s take the concept of the adrenal gland, we understand that the adrenal gland under the influence of the pituitary gland secretes cortisone from its adrenal cortex (as well as other hormones). We also know that the adrenal medulla releases neurotransmitters adrenaline and nor-adrenaline directly into the blood stream. Essentially, the desired effects of which are to increase glucose availability and increase metabolic function as well as ‘prolong’ and assist the sympathetic effect (fight or flight). Thus we can see that these systemic effects can be needed in a combat situation or if you are running for your life, however these effects are not so conducive to allowing one to fall into restful sleep.
If we view the concept of the autonomic nervous system and in particularly its anatomical relationship to the sternocleidomastoid muscle (SCM), we find that the vagus nerve which supplies parasympathetic input to our visceral organs runs under the SCM. Thus it is for this reason that a tight SCM muscle can anatomically impinge the vagus nerve and thus decrease parasympathetic (rest & digest) input to the visceral organs. Thus this too is not conducive to restful sleep.
These concepts discussed above when treated through acupuncture with the utilisation of certain acupuncture treatment strategies is how the neuro-endocrine system is able to be rebalanced and result in individuals experiencing restful sleep. Thankfully through palpation and the successful amelioration of pressure pain/spasticity experienced at said reflective areas/meridians, coupled with patient feedback week to week as to how their sleep had improved, we were able to objectively gauge the beneficial effect of the acupuncture treatment.
I believe that acupuncture has an amazing potential to regulate neuro-endocrine function and these last few weeks have further highlighted to me the importance in doing so for the effective relief of insomnia/sleep disorders.
As always feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.
Giancarlo Nerini – Licensed Acupuncturist