Acupuncture and Self-Care for Insomnia, Anxiety, and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Maine winters can challenge the hardiest of souls. Short days, cold weather and snow make getting through the day a challenge. When we add a year of working from home, social isolation, and quarantining, those with insomnia, anxiety, and/or seasonal depression can be severely affected. In over 20 years of practice as a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Licensed Acupuncturist, I have never seen as many people with these disorders as I have over the past year.

During the pandemic, the amount of suffering inspired me to do a webinar in partnership with Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness titled, “Managing Insomnia, Anxiety and Seasonal Affective Disorder with Acupuncture and Self-Care.” This article is another effort to share this information with those who may benefit. To view the webinar, see the link at the end of this article.

Several acupuncture points are mentioned in this article. Here is a simple diagram calling out these points.

Acupuncture Points for Anxiety and Insomnia


Insomnia affects up to 30% of people during their lifetime, and almost half of all healthcare providers battle insomnia. During this pandemic, more people have been affected by insomnia. This is exacerbated by adjusting to a new schedule, or lack of a schedule, not being able to easily keep track of time, and being in a home with little natural light, causing disruption to the circadian rhythm. Underlying conditions that may contribute to insomnia include anxiety, depression, or restless leg syndrome.

Self-Care Techniques

Self-care techniques are essential for the long-term restoration of quality sleep. They include:

  • Establish a regular bedtime;
  • Avoid daytime naps;
  • Regular exercise;
  • Avoid stimulants like TV and alcohol an hour before bedtime


I recommend acupuncture treatment three times per week, scheduled in the afternoon or early evening. Common acupuncture points include Anmian, Yintang, or Four Gates.


Anxiety affects over 30% of the population. The people at the most significant risk are those who have quarantined and COVID patients. Anxiety is characterized by:

  • Unsubstantiated and out of proportion worry that interferes with daily life;
  • Avoiding social situations for fear of panic;
  • Obsessive compulsion with rituals.

Self-Care Techniques

Self-care techniques for anxiety provide a healthy structure for those who are afflicted and include:

  • Daily regular exercise;
  • Establish a regular bedtime;
  • Listen to a guided meditation.


The frequency of acupuncture treatments is two to three times per week, dependent upon anxiety severity. Needle phobias are common with people suffering from anxiety; therefore, thinner needles with less stimulation are often used. Common acupuncture points include Yintang, Shenting, or Bahui.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) occurs in 20% of the population and is more common in Northern Climates, with its shorter days and colder weather. Quarantining and current COVID patients are at the highest risk for SAD, because of a lack of ability to do fun activities and exposure to natural sunlight.

Self-Care Techniques

Self-care techniques are critical for the long term management of SAD and include:

  • Daily regular exercise;
  • Light therapy;
  • Spend time outdoors and in the sun;
  • Connect with others;
  • Focus on the positive;
  • Do something you enjoy every day.


The frequency of acupuncture treatments depends on the severity of SAD and usually occurs two to three times per week. Acupuncture is most effective for Qi constraint, while Chinese herbs are more effective for vacuity patterns. Acupuncture points commonly used include Yintang, Bahui, and Shaugui.

Whether someone is suffering from insomnia, anxiety, and/or SAD, the importance of regular self-care techniques, including a regular bedtime and exercise regimen, is critical for long-term success in managing these illnesses. Acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine can provide relief for exacerbations or significant life events.

For more information, view my webinar below.

About the Author

Donald Charlson, MS, RN, LAc

Don practices acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine in the Scarborough and Falmouth locations. He earned his Master of Science in Oriental Medicine in 1998 from Southwest Acupuncture College in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Donald Charlson studied Traditional Chinese Medicine, including acupuncture and Chinese herbalism at Dong Zhi Men Hospital and clinic certified by the World Health Organization for its acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Dong Zhi Men hospital was featured on Bill Moyer’s “Mysteries of Qi” series. Donald earned an Associate Degree of Nursing from Central Maine Medical Center as well as a Master of Business Administration from the University of Maine at Orono. He has worked as a Registered Nurse, Healthcare Consultant, Licensed Acupuncturist, and Chinese Herbalist for over 20 years. Donald has focused his practice on the treatment of acute and chronic pain, including injuries. Research published in the Journal of Pain has shown acupuncture is effective for the treatment of chronic pain, the effects of acupuncture persist over time, and the benefits of acupuncture cannot be explained away solely by the placebo effect. He is a member of the Academy of Pain Medicine and American Pain Society and is nationally board certified in Acupuncture. Donald is a Licensed Acupuncturist in Maine and a Doctor of Oriental Medicine in New Mexico. He has practiced in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Rockland, Maine before moving to Scarborough with his wife and three cats. He enjoys being outdoors and hiking on family land in Lincolnville, Maine.


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