How acupuncture can help perimenopausal hot flushes and sleep disturbance?

Acupuncture is traditionally used in combination with exercise, massage, dietary therapy and herbs. This means it doesn’t stand alone or separately from the lifestyle and dietary advice that you already know or have heard about. Acupuncture is a tool to use alongside these other things to bring about the balance you need to feel well.

Aggravating factors for peri/menopausal symptoms from a Chinese medicine perspective are emotional stress, overwork, smoking, irregular diet and too much tea/coffee/alcohol. The earlier we make lifestyle changes in these areas the better. We’ve heard all the good advice but sometimes we can’t access it because our lifestyle gets in the way. Acupuncture can take the top layer of stress / anxiety out of your life to allow you to make those better choices.

In Chinese medicine the Kidneys are the root of life. The Kidneys govern women’s development in 7 year cycles. This would mean periods are expected to start around 14 years old and menopause would be expected around 49 years old. The Kidney energy affects everything to do with our menstrual cycle, as well as birth, growth and reproduction, and also our hair, ears, brain, bones and our sense of fear. As we age our Kidney energy declines affecting all these areas. This energy is the fundamental water and fire (Yin and Yang) energy in the body and when out of balance we will get unwanted symptoms.

I use acupuncture based on the classic texts and theory but there is also lots of research that shows the benefits of acupuncture. It is understood to regulate oestrogen and other hormones, increase relaxation and reduce tension by altering chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins, improve blood flow in the body and change processing of pain in the brain. There are several studies that show acupuncture is effective for treating menopausal hot flushes and insomnia, such as:

When I see a new patient I will look at their tongue, take their pulses and ask lots of detailed questions about their symptoms and their general health. We use this information to make a full diagnosis and prioritise the treatment strategy.

For sleep issues I would want to know:

Do you have trouble falling asleep?

Do you drop off easily but wake a lot in the night?

What time do you wake during the night?  1-3am is very common as that is the time your brain will be processing thoughts from the day. In Chinese medicine this is attributed to the Liver energy in the body so to address this we would look at the causes of this imbalance.

Do you sleep through the night but wake very early (e.g. 4-5 am)?

All of these situations will direct us to look for different imbalances in the body and focus the treatment on the areas where the deepest issues lie. Part of this diagnosis uses the “Chinese Clock”. The idea is that our bodies should be focused on different tasks at different times of the day but when this is off balance we notice symptoms at specific times.

Chinese clock showing what the energy in the body is doing at different times of day in 2 hour blocks

If you have hot flushes I might ask:

Are they constant / very frequent?

At specific times?

Do they occur at the same time everyday?

Triggered by stress?

Worse overnight?

Where do you feel the heat? (Torso, head, face, palms)

Both sleep disturbance and hot flushes are impacted by the balance of yin and yang in the body. This is the balance of water, fluid and heat. The issues tend to be worse overnight because our bodies should be calm, quiet and still at this time. If there is not enough nourishment and calm energy in the body the heat can more easily rise up. (The analogy I often use is of a wildfire in a heatwave, when the ground is dry, compared to how hard it is to set fire to a damp forest in a more temperate climate).

As well as the physical imbalances it is always important to look at our emotional stresses. In acupuncture we don’t separate the physical and the emotional as they are too closely linked to treat in isolation. It is not always possible to remove all stresses from our lives, especially for the “sandwich generation” stuck between looking after kids and parents. With time and deeper self-awareness we can start to understand which things can be changed and which things we have to learn to accept.

Five element acupuncture is my favourite way to delve into this aspect of our lives and help you to understand why you respond in specific ways to situations around you. It can help to give you the space to think differently about things that seem fixed and irresolvable. It might not fix the causes of the emotional stress but it will reduce the impact of those stresses on your body.

Are you ready for some one to one weekly support to help you reduce the number and severity of hot flushes and improve your quality of sleep? For over 19 years I’ve been helping women during the transition into menopause feel more rested and calm. If you would like to find out more, book your Welcome to Wellness package or free 20 minute consultation here.

July 18, 2023