Why am I waking up between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. every day?

June 19, 2023

Why am I waking up between 3:00 and 4:00 a.m. every day?

If you have ever been in my clinic, you know that I start every acupuncture session with the question, "how was your sleep last night?"

Sleep is important. Sleep is so important that I've added a whole chapter on it in my book The Fertility Book. It is the place of rest and repair and the foundation of a productive day.  While there are various approaches to address sleep problems, acupuncture seems to be at the top of the list of preferred modalities.

Acupuncture is believed to stimulate the body's natural healing processes, restore balance, and promote overall wellness. By targeting specific acupuncture points, practitioners aim to unblock energy pathways and regulate the flow of Qi, the vital life force in traditional Chinese medicine. This holistic approach to wellness can have positive effects on sleep. Here's how acupuncture may help improve sleep quality:

    1. Regulating Circadian Rhythms: Acupuncture has been shown to influence the release of neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and melatonin, which play crucial roles in regulating sleep-wake cycles. By balancing these chemicals, acupuncture may help regulate circadian rhythms, promoting a more natural sleep pattern.

    2. Reducing Anxiety and Stress: Chronic stress and anxiety are common culprits of sleep disturbances. Acupuncture has been found to stimulate the production of endorphins, the body's natural painkillers, and mood enhancers. This can help reduce stress and anxiety levels, promoting a state of relaxation conducive to restful sleep.

    3. Addressing Insomnia: Studies have suggested that acupuncture may be beneficial in addressing insomnia, a sleep disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep. By targeting specific acupuncture points associated with insomnia, this therapy may help regulate sleep duration and improve sleep quality.

    4. Addressing Nightly Disruptions and Waking Too Early:  High cortisol levels may be causing you to wake up before you are ready. Cortisol is the hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. It is essential for normal metabolic functions like blood sugar regulation and inflammation response.  However, high levels of cortisol at night can disrupt sleep patterns and lead to waking early.

So how do I get better sleep?  Acupuncture offers a potential natural remedy for sleep-related issues by addressing imbalances within the body and promoting relaxation. Existing studies suggest that acupuncture can positively impact sleep quality, although more research is always needed. If you struggle with sleep problems, consider acupuncture!

Some other things to consider in your quest for restful sleep: 

--Refrain from eating or drinking 2-3 hours before bed

--Keep electronics out of the bedroom

--Invest in comfortable bedding

--Sleep in a cool room

I hope this helps!  Thank you for reading.

Dr. Tamara


Cao, H., Pan, X., Li, H., & Liu, J. . Acupuncture for Treatment of Insomnia: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, (2009)15(11), 1171-1186. 

Cong Wang, Wen-lin Xu, Guan-wu Li, Cong Fu, Jin-jin Li, Jing Wang, Xin-yu Chen, Zhen Liu & Yun-fei Chen. "Impact of Acupuncture on Sleep and Comorbid Symptoms for Chronic Insomnia: A Randomized Clinical Trial", Nature and Science of Sleep, (2021) 13:, 1807-1822

Spence DW, Kayumov L, Chen A, et al. "Acupuncture increases nocturnal melatonin secretion and reduces insomnia and anxiety: A preliminary report." Journal of Neuropsychiatry Clinical Neuroscience. (2004);16(1):19-28.

Yu XT, Yang WJ, Zhao N, et al. "Acupuncture for delayed sleep-wake phase disorder: a randomized controlled trial." Zhongguo Zhen jiu = Chinese Acupuncture & Moxibustion. (2023) Mar;43(3):245-251