I get asked pretty frequently about alternative therapies to treat sleep problems. While drugs do have their place in treating some types of sleep disorders, there's something to be said for the array of so-called alternative methods that don't entail pharmaceuticals but do, in fact, support restful sleep.
- Acupuncture, for example, has been used to treat insomnia for centuries in China, and clinical studies have shown that acupuncture may have a beneficial effect on insomnia compared with Western medication. And for those who need more solid proof, a recent study just confirmed this finding again.
- Accupressure, which is based on acupuncture but does not entail needles (instead, physical pressure is applied to the acupuncture points), also has shown promise in helping people beat insomnia. And another recent study confirmed this when it looked at the sleep-friendly effects that acupressure had on people who live in long-term care facilities. Acupressure on the HT7 point (a particular point on the body) may improve insomnia for up to 2 weeks after the intervention.
But alternative methods to pharmaceutical or even over the counter medication go far beyond just acupuncture and acupressure. When you consider all the other drug-free strategies for restful sleep, you'll find that the vast majority of techniques used to support sleep hygiene could be considered "alternative", such as:
- Aromatherapy: employing the power of scent to lull you to sleep.
- Sound machines: employing the power of white noise.
- Taking a warm bath or sitting in a hot tub or sauna before bedtime.
And my favorite one of all: quitting all forms of work and stimulating activities within an hour of bedtime and just relaxing. And there's nothing "alternative" about that.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™
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