Acupuncture and Insomnia

acupuncture for insomnia - Eleanor Breen Acupuncture, Bristol
Sleep is important, and yet so many of us struggle to get enough. It is thought that as many of 1 in 3 of us experience insomnia, a condition of unsatisfactory sleep, whether that be due to difficulty falling asleep, waking early or through the night, or shallow restless sleep. We need sleep for its restorative powers, both physically and mentally.  The body carries out many healing and maintenance processes while we sleep.  Not only can sleepless nights leave us fatigued and cognitively impaired throughout the day, but long term lack of sleep can be associated with mood disturbances, a reduced quality of life and can predispose us to illness. Sleeplessness is one of the most debilitating and demoralizing symptoms we can experience.

Acupuncture treatment

All is not lost. Acupuncture is a fantastic treatment for insomnia. Trouble sleeping is one of the most common problems that clients come to me with. Even in people who do not recognize or mention sleep as a problem, acupuncture has a tendency to produce more restful nights. This often goes unnoticed until asked about on a follow-up visit. I often hear people say: “You know, now that you mention it, I have been sleeping a lot better since I started coming for acupuncture.”

Acupuncture has an extremely calming effect on the nervous system, and over time, it can help to correct the imbalances causing insomnia without creating side effects. In fact, besides improved sleep, people often report a greater sense of well-being and an overall improvement in health.

From a Chinese medicine perspective there are a number of well established patterns which explain why the mind refuses to close down at night even though the person is physically exhausted. Insomnia doesn’t have a single specified treatment, and each person who cannot sleep does so in a way that is unique to them. Diagnosis will focus on the individual, understanding their particular experience and treating accordingly.

Often, patients come to an acupuncturist reporting insomnia because of other emotional issues they are facing. These emotions can often surface as insomnia, anxiety, or mild depression. As the stresses of modern life take their toll, our minds can no longer relax and our sleep becomes disturbed. In these cases treatment will be focussed on addressing and releasing these emotions.

See here a BBC news interview with an acupuncturist and GP explaining the benefits of acupuncture for insomnia:

The evidence

In a study conducted at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto and published in the Journal of Neuropsychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, researchers found acupuncture to be an effective treatment for anxiety and insomnia.

The researchers wrote that five weeks of acupuncture treatment was associated with a significant nocturnal increase in endogenous melatonin secretion and significant improvements in polysomnographic measures of sleep onset latency, arousal index, total sleep time, and sleep efficiency. Significant reductions in anxiety scores were also found. “These objective findings are consistent with clinical reports of acupuncture’s relaxant effects,” they concluded.

Other studies have confirmed that acupuncture treatment normalizes melatonin production for insomniacs.

Studies have found that acupuncture increases certain central nervous system hormones, which may explain why there is such a positive association between insomnia and acupuncture therapy in research studies.

The British Acupuncture Council has a fact sheet on insomnia with further research, click here to view.

What you can do

Alongside having acupuncture treatment there are a number of changes you can make to improve your sleep. here’s 5 top tips:

  1. Exercise: ideally every day. This positive stress will tire out your body in a good way. However make sure you exercise long before going to bed (preferably at least 3 hours) so that your nervous system has time to settle down
  2. Don’t work before bed: Excessive thinking at night can over-stimulate your mind causing insomnia. Phones and computer screens also emit ‘blue light’ which suppress sleep hormones. Stop work at least 2 hours before bed to allow your mind to relax
  3. Food & drink: Don’t drink caffeinated or alcoholic beverages near your bedtime, try and avoid caffeine after lunch,  and avoid large meals for a couple of hours before bed
  4. Quiet the Mind: Wind down by reading or bathing before bedtime. Try breathing exercises, meditation, and other forms of relaxation to help your insomnia.
  5. Keep on schedule: go to bed at the same time every night. Our natural body clock means that sleep hormones will be released at the right time as long as we keep to a routine

To find out more about how acupuncture could help you have a better nights sleep, call me for a chat on 07834 160906, or drop me an email

Eleanor Breen Acupuncture, Bristol

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The Energy of Spring: A great surge….

Its the first official day of Spring today, and in the last couple of weeks you have probably noticed the change in the energy around us.

Spring is a time for change, a shift in energy from the quiet introspection of winter. In nature seeds sprout, buds open, and the sun warms the earth. There is a sense of renewal and new life all around. In Chinese medicine, Spring is associated with ‘Wood’ energy of the Liver. After the hibernation of winter Wood energy brings an energetic time of growth and movement, a time for creativity and ideas, new plans.

Our spring energy naturally surges forwards, needing to grow and move. If this is constrained, either by continued cold weather, or even by a lack of direction in our lives, we can feel frustrated or depressed. Physically we can experience headaches and neck tension, inflexibility in our joints.

There are ways we can shift our constrained energy. If you are feeling a little pent up, get outside and move! This will allow all that stuck energy to move properly through your body. Being open to change and starting something new can allow that energy to flow. If you’re still feeling stuck, acupuncture can help, relieving the tension, giving you vision and inspiration and allowing you to be open to change.

Eleanor Breen Acupuncture, Bristol

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Breathe Bristol Open Day: Friday 21 March

Breathe Bristol Yoga and Therapy Centre Open Day
This Friday at Breathe Bristol Yoga and Therapy Centre, we are having an Open Day

We would like everyone to come and join us for:

  • Free 30 minute yoga sessions all day
  • Free Ear-Acupuncture taster sessions for relaxation
  • Tea and Cake!

Pop in to see what we do and find out more about us. 7.30am to 7.30pm

Breathe Bristol Yoga and Therapy Centre is a haven of peace and relaxation in the heart of the old city next to St Nicholas market. Offering various therapies and Yoga classes all day, you can take time out from your busy work day to focus on your health and wellbeing.

See find out more

Eleanor Breen Acupuncture, Bristol

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Now is the time to start hay fever treatment

Spring is on its way! But while many people are looking forward to enjoying the summer ahead, for 20% of our population it not such an enjoyable season. For those that suffer with hay fever, or seasonal rhinitis,  it can be a miserable time of year.

But sufferers should know that this need not be the case. Acupuncture can both relieve the symptoms of hayfever and prevent your immune system over reacting to the pollen in the first place. It can be used successfully during the hay fever season but is most effective as a preventative treatment. It is advised to seek treatment before the hay fever season starts, in early spring, to support the immune system for the coming spring and summer.

Aisling (34) describes her experience of acupuncture:
“I’ve suffered from chronic hayfever since I was 11 years old with some years being so bad that I’m pretty much house bound for days at a time. I’ve tried EVERYTHING… from local honey to steroids with varying degrees of success (and side effects!). I tried acupuncture as a last resort two years ago and it’s genuinely the only thing that has worked. I don’t have to remember to take antihistamines every day, there are no side effects and it’s the most effective treatment that I’ve come across yet.”

Acupuncture focuses on treating “the Root and the Branch.” This means that treatment during the hay fever season will address the immediate symptoms, the itchy eyes, the stuffy nose etc, but most importantly preventative treatment will focus on treating the cause of your hay fever. The diagnosis will look at how your body responds to triggers, and why your immune system has such an extreme response to something as seemingly harmless as pollen.

Acupuncture treatment focuses on treating fundamental imbalances within a person, so regulation of the immune system will be a natural part of most treatment. Because of this, people who come for acupuncture for other reasons can often report an improvement in their hay fever symptoms. Tom (34) found that this was the case:

“After 5 summer of suffering from Hay fever quite badly I had been having acupuncture throughout winter and spring for other reasons but got to the time of year it would usually start and no symptoms at all – for the last 4/5yrs now!”

For more information and details of scientific research into the use of acupuncture for Hay fever visit the British Acupuncture Council


Eleanor Breen Acupuncture, Bristol

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Its Acupuncture Awareness Week! First treatment just £20

This week is Acupuncture Awareness Week, find out more here:

Strictly Come Dancing star Camilla Dallerup talks here about how acupuncture has helped her back pain throughout her career:

First treatment just £20!
To celebrate acupuncture awareness week, contact me this week and your first treatment will be just £20. Just mention the Acupuncture Awareness Week offer


Eleanor Breen Acupuncture, Bristol

What is Gua sha?

Gua sha (pronounced ‘gwa shah’) is a traditional Chinese technique that I use regularly when people have muscle tension and pain, especially in the neck and shoulders, or a number of other conditions including headaches or viruses.

Gua literally translates as ‘scraping’. Gua sha involves repeated pressured strokes over oiled skin with a smooth edge, that results in the appearance of small red petechiae called ‘sha’. The gua sha instrument is usually made of bone, ceramic or jade.

The results look painful but actually this doesn’t hurt at all…. it feels like a strong deep massage and you feel immediate relief from pain, stiffness, fever, etc.., and the red marks or ‘sha’ will fade in 2 to 3 days.

Gua sha is used to move stagnant blood and lymph , promoting better circulation and metabolic processes. It is also used to remove toxins from the body

I find this technique especially effective for people with neck and shoulder pain, often caused by sitting at a computer. This tension can even lead to headaches, or numbness and pain in their arms and hands. Gua sha can often make a quite dramatic impact on somebody’s pain

See this video for a demonstration of the technique: ( as you can see the person feels no pain even though it looks dramatic

To find out more about whether gua sha could help you, please get in touch and we can chat about your situation


Eleanor Breen Acupuncture, Bristol

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My acupuncture room at Breathe Bristol


Eleanor Breen Acupuncture at Breathe Bristol

Here’s my lovely new acupuncture room at Breathe Bristol Yoga and Therapy Centre in St Nicholas Market Bristol.

Very exciting!


Eleanor Breen Acupuncture, Bristol


Fantastic new Yoga Centre in Bristol City Centre


Breathe Bristol is the new yoga and therapy centre in Bristol city centre’s St Nick’s market where I have my new clinic.

Have a look at their website to see everything they offer, including really affordable yoga classes with fantastic teachers, and therapies including acupuncture (me!), massage, hypnotherapy and psychotherapy.

The city centre location means its really accessible for those working in town to pop to on their lunch break or before or after work. Why not take some time out from your busy stressful day to really look after yourself.


Eleanor Breen Acupuncture

Eleanor Breen Acupuncture is now in the City Centre

I am pleased to say that after a few months of waiting I am finally in my 2 new wonderful clinics in central Bristol

My main base will be at Breathe Bristol yoga studios, 3 All Saints Court, St Nicholas market, BS1 1JN

On Mondays I will also be at the lovely South Bristol Osteopaths off Queen Square

I’m very excited to be somewhere so vibrant and i’m looking forward to being able to help many more people now i am more conveniently based.

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Happy Chinese New Year: Year of the Wood Horse

So what does Chinese tradition say that this means for us?

The Wood Horse is said to be an auspicious year with a strong convergence of yang energy -the charismatic Horse and the Wood element.

This is a big shift from the last 2 years of Water energy. In five element theory Water is the energetic equivalent of winter, a time of deep introspection, whereas Wood is Springtime, representing growth and determination.  

The Horse is a symbol of traveling, competition and victory so the Wood Horse brings a fast-paced burst of extroverted forward propulsion, full of uplift, optimism and compelling inspiration. The Horse energy inspires powerful intuition and an indomitable surge towards freedom in every aspect of life. This is a year to follow your intuition fearlessly like never before.

The main warning this year seems to be in making big decisions – choose wisely and swiftly, because once things start rolling this year, they may be hard to stop!


Eleanor Breen Acupunture, Bristol

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