Get Better While you Sleep–Acupuncture Promotes the Relaxation Response

It is true, a lot of people fall asleep during an acupuncture treatment. It seems counter-intuitive—after all, they have needles in their body. But acupuncture needles are really thin, unlike most needles we are acquainted with. And during the treatment, changes occur with hormone and neurotransmitters levels which induce a deep sense of relaxation.

Some patients sleep deeply. Many others enter a pleasant state of lucid sleep in which the mind is drifting in and out of consciousness. I encourage this by treating points that I know have a relaxing effect on the mind. And then we play soft music if the patient wants it–sounds of nature like ocean waves, a running stream, or quiet instrumental music. Of course, the choice is up to the patient. I’ve had some who wanted country western or jazz, and that is fine. And some who wanted nothing at all. The lights are dimmed, and the stage is set for relaxation. Even the waiting room is set up for this experience. The patient can kick back and relax from the daily stresses of life.

I’m sure many of you have heard the term “relaxation response.” It was popularized in the 70’s by Herbert Benson, a Harvard M.D. who wrote a book on the subject. He talked about the healing response that occurs during deep relaxation. During acupuncture, the physiological changes of the relaxation response take place.

Does one need to feel this relaxed for acupuncture to work? No. Some patients have too much on their mind to relax. And others choose to stay alert and interactive. The relaxation is simply an added benefit, that is all. I’ve had patients talk on their cell phones during treatments, or interact with their significant others who came along and wanted to sit in the room with them. But the treatment still works, and in spite of themselves, many patients drift off into la-la land.

Most of my articles on this website are about medical issues. I wrote this article because some of you are nervous about the needles, or about the procedure in general, and I wanted to set your minds at ease. You will very likely really enjoy the treatment. But it is for you to experience acupuncture to discover this for yourselves.

Here are some testimonials by patients who wrote about their experiences of relaxation.

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