Clinicians undertaking a study in Porto Alegre, Brazil have found that acupuncture is effective for improving sleep quality and psychological distress in elderly patients with sleep problems. A total of 48 community-dwelling elderly patients were randomised to receive ten sessions of either true acupuncture or sham acupuncture. True acupuncture was found to be highly effective for improving subjective scores of sleep quality, depression and stress. The researchers noted that immune and neuropeptide markers commonly associated with stress and sleep impairment, were unaltered following treatment.
(Acupuncture for sleep quality, BDNF levels and immunosenescence: A randomized controlled study. Neuroscience Letters, 5 February 2015.)
Researchers at Pennsylvania State University in the US have compared the effects of reading in the hours before bedtime, either an electronic light-emitting device (LE-eBook) such as an iPad or iPhone, or a printed book. They found that people reading an LE-eBook took longer to fall asleep and had reduced evening sleepiness, reduced melatonin secretion, later timing of their circadian clock, and reduced next-morning alertness compared to when reading a printed book.
In the randomized, crossover study, twelve healthy young adults were admitted to Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for fourteen days, in order for the researchers to control for other factors. Two situations were examined: 1) reading an LE-eBook in an otherwise very dim room for around four hours before bedtime for five consecutive evenings; 2) reading a printed book in the same very dim room for around four hours before bedtime for five consecutive evenings. Blood samples were taken to allow melatonin levels to be measured, and sleep characteristics such as time taken to fall asleep and sleep stages, were all recorded.
Compared with the print-book readers, the LE-eBook readers: averaged nearly ten minutes longer to fall asleep; had significantly less rapid eye movement (REM) sleep; rated themselves as less sleepy an hour before bedtime; and, felt more sleepy the morning after reading an LE-eBook the prior evening. Furthermore, it took them longer to fully “wake up” and attain the same level of alertness.
The researchers say these results indicate that reading an LE-eBook in the hours before bedtime probably has unintended biological consequences that may adversely impact on performance, health, and safety. The mechanism would appear to be the disruptive effect of light at the blue end of the spectrum which is emitted by these screens. There are also implications for children looking at screens for evening homework and social media interaction.
(Evening use of light-emitting eReaders negatively affects sleep, circadian timing, and next-morning alertness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, on-line 22 December 2014.)
A small study undertaken by researchers at a hospital in Taiwan suggests acupuncture could be used as an alternative to the drug zolpidem. A total of 33 patients with insomnia were randomly allocated to receive either weekly acupuncture sessions (19 patients), or 10mg zolpidem (14 patients), over four weeks. At the end of the treatment period, both groups exhibited significant improvements.
(A Comparison between Acupuncture versus Zolpidem in the Treatment of Primary Insomnia. Asian Journal of Psychiatry, September 2012.)
The beneficial effects of acupuncture for insomnia in relation to sleep quality and daytime social functioning, have been backed up by the results of electronically monitoring patients’ cyclical sleep patterns.
Forty-seven patients with chronic insomnia, received four courses of electroacupuncture treatment. Patients themselves reported on various aspects of the quality of their sleep, whilst polysomnogram measurements were used to objectively assess the cyclical stages of their sleep. Electroacupuncture was found to not only improve sleep quality and daytime social functioning, but also to exert a repairing effect on disrupted sleep continuity. Furthermore, it prolonged slow wave sleep time, and rapid eye movement sleep time.
(Electroacupuncture Treatment of Chronic Insomniacs. Chinese Med Journal (Engl) Dec 2009.)
Researchers have found that acupuncture is able to assist with the problem of post-stroke insomnia, and it does so by reducing hyperactivity in the sympathetic nervous system.
Fifty-two hospitalised stroke patients with insomnia, were randomly assigned to receive either real acupuncture for three days, or sham acupuncture as a control. There was greater improvement in the group receiving real acupuncture, but additionally, measures of autonomic nervous system functioning (blood pressure and heart rate variability) suggested that sympathetic nervous system hyperactivity was reduced in the real acupuncture group.
(Intradermal Acupuncture on Shen-men and Nei-kuan Acupoints Improves Insomnia in Stroke Patients by Reducing the Sympathetic Nervous System Activity: A Randomised Clinical Trial. American Journal of Chinese Medicine 2009.)