Acupuncture for Sleep ApneaSnoring can be an annoying condition but it may also be a sign of something more serious, such as sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is when someone stops breathing for short intervals of time while they are sleeping. This lack of breathing comes and goes throughout the night never waking the person up but could result in unexplained exhaustion during the day as well as other possible symptoms.

There are a variety of medicines and cumbersome breathing machine devices prescribed to alleviate sleep apnea, which could be a lifelong commitment.

Acupuncture for sleep apnea may be a natural solution that rebalances and resets the stuck life force energy or qi (chee) that is causing sleep apnea and snoring. It is believed that acupuncture is capable of unique anti-inflammatory effects as well as the stimulation of serotonergic (serotonin producing) pathways.

Improving sleep patterns, enhancing digestive strength, deep breathing capability and reducing stress are some of the top goals for acupuncture to decrease or hopefully eliminate sleep apnea.

Adding in some simple lifestyle changes such as losing weight, increasing exercise, limiting or eliminating vices such as tobacco and alcohol, changing sleeping positions and adjusting diet can increase acupuncture’s effects.

Three Types
Sleep apnea is diagnosed at three levels: Obstructive, Central and Complex. Symptoms include loud snoring, restless sleep, high blood pressure, headaches, reflux, impotence and daytime exhaustion.

Obstructive – This is the most common form of sleep apnea known as OSA. It occurs when the soft tissue in the rear of the throat collapses and closes during sleep. OSA is often due to decreased muscle tone, weight gain/obesity or a structural anomaly which narrows the breathing pathway.

Central – The brain normally triggers muscles to breathe. However, with central sleep apnea the brain intermittently fails this essential function. CO2 levels are not registered and a breathing imbalance ensues.

Complex or Mixed – When a person with OSA attempts to use a sleeping tool such as a continuous positive airway pressure or CPAP device and it does not solve the problem, this may indicate that they may also have central or mixed sleep apnea.

In the Lab
A one of a kind study titled, ‘Treatment of moderate obstructive sleep apnea syndrome with acupuncture: a randomized, placebo-controlled pilot trial’ showed some positive results of acupuncture for sleep apnea.

Published in Sleep Medicine (1/8/07), researchers at the sleep division of Universidade Federal de São Paulo Brazil conducted a two year study using manual acupuncture (MA) and electroacupuncture (EA) on the sleep pattern of patients presenting with moderate obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).

Lead study author, Dr. Anaflávia O. Freire, wrote of the “dramatic” effect acupuncture had on the strengthening of the genioglossus, or muscles of the tongue.

The American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) describes the effects of the study,

“After treatment, patients’ tongues were three or four times stronger than those of patients in the control group. Tongue strength was measured by electromyography, a technique of metering electrical activity in the muscle at rest and then as it is contracted…Presumably a stronger genioglossus reduces the likelihood of the sleeper’s tongue dropping back and blocking the airway. Acupuncture also appeared to reduce inflammation in the genioglossus”

The study conclusion stated that,

“Acupuncture is more effective than sham acupuncture in ameliorating the respiratory events of patients presenting with moderate OSAS.”

Pointing in the Right Direction
The specific points that may be used when seeing an acupuncturist for sleep apnea vary. They are located throughout the body and when manipulated, over time or sometimes immediately, such points may have beneficial effects.

These points include:
Lung: LU 6, LU 7 – Mid inside lower arm and wrist.
Liver: LI 4, LI 20 – Top of bicep, side of nose.
Governing vessel: GV20 – Top of the head.
Conception vessel: CV23 – Top of Adam’s apple.
Stomach: ST36, ST40 – Below the knee, mid shin.
Spleen: SP6 – Above outside (lateral) ankle.
Kidney: K6 – Front lateral ankle.

What is Looked For
Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM) approaches health challenges through specific clues each individual presents. It is not like the conventional “one size fits all” model that conventional medicine demands so as to make as much money with minimal time and cost consuming treatment. An acupuncturist trained in CCM will try to determine why the airway is blocked or the brain is missing important breathing cues.

Such concerns might include if qi is being stagnated by:

  • Excess dampness
  • Phlegm
  • Blood stasis
  • External warm or cold influences

It takes a keen eye and innate sense for the proper acupuncture protocol to be applied. In addition, herbal and homeopathic remedies may be added for an extra boost.

Auriculotherapy is the practice of using acupuncture points only on the outer portion of the ear. The acupuncturist views the ear as the body’s own tiny microsystem. Here, an entire map of the organs and other body parts is followed for precise needle placement. Auriculotherapy may be a good first attempt approach when treating sleep apnea.

It is more essential than ever to use acupuncture for sleep apnea given recent studies that are beginning to link lack of sleep to potential accumulation for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Calm your body and your brain through a committed acupuncture program to stop you from sounding like you’re sawing wood all night and falling asleep at your desk the next day. At Integrative Med Solutions, we will design an acupuncture and naturopathic treatment program that works for you. In many cases, insurance covers portions of the acupuncture treatment. Allow us to support you to achieve optimal health.  To make an appointment or find out more about how acupuncture and naturopathic medicine can benefit you, please call our office at 914.337.2980 or CLICK HERE to schedule an online appointment.

*Please CLICK HERE to see a current list of Insurance Companies that commonly carry acupuncture benefits for its members. Please call 914.337.2980 or securely email to verify your specific benefits. If you are emailing, please include your full name, date of birth and insurance identification card number.

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