Tag Archive for: sleep apnea

Acupuncture for Sleep Apnea

Acupuncture for Sleep Apnea

Can a Holistic Approach Lead to Better Sleep?

Among the myriad uses of acupuncture, a standard modality in Traditional Chinese Medicine, one area of growing interest is its potential to alleviate symptoms of sleep apnea, a common and potentially severe sleep disorder involving abnormal breathing patterns during sleep.

This comprehensive blog post will explore the three types of sleep apnea.

The causes, symptoms, and the growing body of evidence suggest acupuncture could be an effective way of increasing sleep quality and a natural means to enhance sleep for those affected by this disorder.

We’ll also touch on herbal support that complements acupuncture treatment.

Understanding Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a prevalent disorder characterized by repeated interruption of breathing during sleep. These pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes and occur multiple times during the night, resulting in poor sleep quality.

The three main types of sleep apnea are obstructive sleep apnea, central sleep apnea, and complex sleep apnea syndrome, each with distinct underlying causes.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common form and is marked by the relaxation of the throat muscles, causing a blockage of the upper airway. This can lead to loud snoring and the inability to obtain deep sleep, resulting in daytime fatigue, reduced cognitive function, and other health issues.

Central Sleep Apnea (CSA)

Central Sleep Apnea occurs when the brain fails to send the appropriate signals to the muscles that control breathing. This lack of respiratory effort can lead to trouble sleeping and subsequent symptoms.

Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome

Complex Sleep Apnea Syndrome is a combination of obstructive and central sleep apnea and often occurs when a patient begins using a CPAP machine to treat obstructive sleep apnea syndrome.

The impact of sleep apnea on overall health cannot be overstated. Beyond the apparent effects of sleep deprivation, sleep apnea is linked to severe health concerns, including heart disease, diabetes, cognitive impairment, and complications in surgery and anesthesia cases.

Unpacking the Causes and Symptoms of Sleep Apnea

Several factors can contribute to the development of sleep apnea.

  • Risk Factors: These can include excess weight, neck circumference, narrowed airway, family history, use of alcohol or sedatives, smoking, and age.
  • Anatomical Factors: Enlarged tonsils, a small lower jaw, a large tongue, and nasal congestion can contribute to airway obstruction.
  • Neuromuscular Conditions: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and other neuromuscular disorders can affect respiratory muscle function.
  • Hormonal Factors: Imbalances in hormones, particularly in menopause, and disorders such as hypothyroidism can potentially contribute to sleep apnea.(1)

Characterizing the symptoms of sleep apnea is critical for diagnosis and treatment.

  • Excessive Fatigue: Sleep apnea patients often experience severe fatigue, leading to persistent daytime drowsiness and irritability.
  • Disrupted Sleep: sleep apnea can cause interruptions in breathing, leading to fragmented and restless sleep, ultimately preventing restful sleep.
  • Daytime Sleepiness: Many people with sleep apnea exhibit excessive sleepiness throughout the day, impacting their overall wellness and daytime functioning.
    Snoring: Loud snoring is a common symptom associated with sleep apnea, potentially accompanied by periods of reduced breathing or oxygen deprivation during the night.
  • Restless Sleep: People with sleep apnea may exhibit restless nighttime sleep, such as tossing, turning, kicking, thrashing, or jerking.

How Acupuncture Can Help with Sleep Apnea

Acupuncture treatment for treating sleep apnea has shown promising results in improving sleep quality and reducing symptoms. Opposed to the standard of care for sleep apnea, which is the continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device specifically for patients with obstructive sleep, acupuncture achieves results through a holistic approach that addresses acupuncture points along specific meridians related to sleep and respiratory function. Studies with a randomized controlled clinical trial indicate that acupuncture may improve specific sleep parameters, such as the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) and mean oxygen saturation (SaO2).

Improving Sleep Parameters:

By stimulating precise points on the body, acupuncture has shown promise in clinically significant reductions of severity and frequency of apnea events and promoting better oxygen levels during sleep.

Respiratory Function Enhancement:

Acupuncture research suggests that acupuncture strengthens the muscles involved in respiration, particularly when combined with electro-acupuncture, improving airway patency and reducing the likelihood of breathing interruptions.

Stress Reduction and Relaxation:

Acupuncture is well-known for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety, which are often associated with sleep disturbances. By promoting a relaxed state, this therapy may help calm the mind and prepare the body for a restful night’s sleep.

Muscle Strengthening:

In some instances, electro-stimulation during acupuncture can bolster the soft palate and tongue muscles, potentially preventing their collapse and the subsequent airway blockage that characterizes obstructive sleep apnea.

Book a FREE 15-minute consultation with one of our qualified acupuncturists to explore how this treatment could work for you.

Herbal Allies in the Battle for Better Sleep

In conjunction with acupuncture, herbal medicine is another popular modality in Chinese medicine. Certain herbs have been traditionally used to promote sleep and address the conditions contributing to sleep apnea.

Valerian: A popular remedy for sleep disorders, valerian root is known for its soothing effects, which can help sleep and reduce the number of awakenings during the night.

Ashwagandha: This adaptogenic herb supports the body’s ability to handle stress, potentially reducing anxiety and nervous system excitement that can contribute to sleep disturbances.

Shankapushpi: An herb used in Ayurvedic medicine believed to have a calming effect on the mind and nervous system, Shankapushpi may help reduce the mental hyperactivity that keeps sufferers from drifting into restful sleep.

Passionflower: With its mild sedative properties, passionflower can help people with sleep apnea relax and achieve a deeper, more restorative sleep.

While herbal remedies offer a natural approach to addressing sleep apnea, consulting with a practitioner well-versed in herbal medicine is essential to ensure proper usage and dosage.

Herbal Medicine & Acupuncture for Sleep Apnea

The application of acupuncture and herbal medicine in managing sleep apnea underscores the significance of a holistic approach to health. We recommend acupuncture because individuals can experience a more comprehensive and tailored care regimen by integrating acupuncture as a complementary and alternative treatment to CPAP treatment of obstructive sleep.

If you are considering applying acupuncture or herbal support for sleep apnea, working with a licensed and experienced acupuncture practitioner is crucial. Each individual’s case is unique, and a personalized treatment plan that considers the disorder’s severity, the patient’s overall health, and other contributing factors is vital for a successful outcome.

At Lokahi Acupuncture, our focus is on the patient’s individualized care. We thoroughly assess your health concerns and collaborate to design a personalized treatment plan that includes acupuncture, herbs, and lifestyle recommendations to help you regain control of your sleep and, ultimately, your life.

If you’d like to explore the potential of how acupuncture strengthens your quality of life, book an appointment with us. We’re dedicated to your well-being and look forward to being part of your path to better health.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation or learn more about our services.

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(1) electro-stimulation during acupuncture can strengthen the soft palate and tongue muscles, potentially preventing their collapse and the resulting airway blockage in obstructive sleep apnea.