Oct 22, 2021 9:00 AM

Read time: 3 minutes

Author: Melissa Zappa, MAcOM, LAc

Melissa Zappa, MAcOM, LAc and an acupuncture patient
Melissa Zappa, MAcOM, LAc and an acupuncture patient

There are few simple pleasures in life better than getting a good night’s sleep.

A challenge many people with cancer—and their loved ones—face with a cancer diagnosis and treatment is disruption of the body’s natural sleep cycle. Insomnia may include difficulty falling or staying asleep. The effects on your health can be profound.

Insomnia may cause fatigue, irritability, and impaired memory or concentration. It is associated with reduced quality of life. Irregular or insufficient sleep has also been shown to activate the fight or flight stress response in the brain. The chronic stress of insomnia can affect your cardiovascular system (causing high blood pressure), metabolism (diabetes and obesity), ability to regulate hormones, and immune system to fight illness and infections.

Studies also show a strong relationship between insomnia, chronic pain, gastrointestinal symptoms, and neurologic problems. All of these issues are already a challenge for people with cancer. There is also a connection between insomnia, depression, anxiety, and mood disorders.

In short, quality sleep is an essential part of a successful cancer treatment plan. Luckily, acupuncture has been safely and effectively used to improve sleep quality for thousands of years.

Acupuncture FAQs

What is acupuncture?

Acupuncture is a therapeutic technique adapted from traditional Chinese medicine. Trained practitioners insert hair-thin, sterile, single-use needles at specific points on the body to help promote healing and a sense of well-being.

Does acupuncture hurt?

Most people do not find treatments painful. In fact, most people find them to be relaxing.

Is acupuncture safe?

Yes. Acupuncture at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) is safe for people who are, or have been, treated for cancer. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves all needles. The needles are sterile, used once, and then thrown away.

How can acupuncture help cancer patients?

Acupuncture used along with standard cancer treatment can help control many side effects of cancer, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy.

Studies show acupuncture can improve the quality and length of sleep, reduce pain and anxiety, promote relaxation, and relieve stress. Research also suggests that acupuncture can boost your body’s natural production of melatonin, a hormone produced in your brain to regulate sleeping and waking cycles. This allows for deeper sleep and a more relaxed, calm mind.

If you are currently taking sleep medication, research shows acupuncture may help boost the effects and improve sleep. Some studies showed acupuncture was as effective as prescription sleep medications to induce and promote longer periods of sleep. Acupuncture may be an effective alternative to prescription sleep medications, without many unwanted side effects.

Most patients report improved sleep the first night after acupuncture treatment. Ongoing results will likely require regular treatments for the best benefit.

If you’re looking for a safe and effective way to improve your sleep, call the Wellness and Integrative Health Center at 801-587-4585 to make an acupuncture appointment.


Melissa Zappa, MAcOM, LAc

wellness cancer care

Cancer touches all of us.

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