When Beauty Sleep’s Elusive, Try Acupuncture

Sleep. It sounds so simple.

ByABC News
November 14, 2014, 9:10 AM

— -- Sleep. It sounds so simple. But for the millions of Americans that suffer from sleep deprivation, it’s a very complex issue.

With a job, two kids and living a life at the breakneck pace that is New York City, I never thought I’d have trouble sleeping. And the truth is, I have no trouble falling asleep. But I can’t stay asleep. So I decided to give acupuncture a try.

“After acupuncture, there’s a change in the brain that’s visible on a MRI,” said Dr. Yemeng Chen, the president of the New York College of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

With campuses in New York City and Long Island, the school has graduated more than 500 acupuncturists. Chen said that even traditional medical doctors seek out acupuncture training to complement their expertise.

But won’t it hurt? Chen said that one of the acupuncture points related to sleep issues is in the ear. He proposes putting two needles in my ear. Inside my ear.

“For sure, no one likes needles," Chen said. "But this is thin and tiny. We insert in acupuncture points, those related to nerve endings. The patient won’t feel severe pain.”

So maybe a little pain.

The first thing Chen ordered me to do was stick out my tongue. He said I was dehydrated, which was a shock to me. I drink about 70 ounces of water every day. But interestingly, I do feel thirsty much of the time.

Chen then put about 20 needles on me, from my ears to my forehead to my wrists and ankles. The only one that made me truly uncomfortable was the one in my left ankle, which Chen said was indicative of some sort of blockage that is affecting my sleep, probably in my liver. When I told him I typically wake up every night 45 minutes after initially falling asleep, he was further convinced of circulatory system block.

Some find the road to sleep is immediate. One patient in Chen’s waiting room said, “When I’m here, I fall asleep very easily. It’s a nice nap, very refreshing.”

I didn’t fall asleep during my session, but was relaxed, though it was difficult to say whether that was because of the well-placed needles or being separated from my iPhone in a dimly-lit room for 20 minutes. Even if this is my only go at acupuncture, I learned a valuable lesson: Don't take my phone to bed.