Acupuncture For Insomnia

Acupuncture For Insomnia

Many people suffer from anxiety, in part because of increased daytime stressors and partly because they do not have, good sleep habits. In Western medical circles, insomnia is often treated with sedative or hypnotic medications, some of which can be extremely addictive. People who take these kinds of medications for insomnia also suffer from an increase in tolerance, meaning that they have to take more medication to have the same effect over time.

According to the National Institutes of Health, insomnia is an extremely common sleep disorder, affecting as many as 40% of US adults. About 10-15% of these adults suffer from what is known as “chronic insomnia”; while 25-35% suffer from occasional insomnia. Typical symptoms include having a sleep latency time of greater than thirty minutes, a sleep efficiency of 85% or less, or difficulty falling asleep for more than four nights per week and for at least three weeks in duration.

Acupuncture is believed to help regulate the yin and yang of the body, reinforcing positive health habits and improving symptoms of insomnia. Acupuncture has been shown it increase the amount of gamma amino butyric acid (GABA), which is important to getting a good night’s sleep.

In one study, published out of the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, patients were randomized to receive acupuncture, a placebo treatment, or behavioral interventions for the treatment of insomnia. After receiving treatment, the degree of insomnia was measured according to the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), the Index of Severity of Insomnia, and
other measurements of sleep quantity and quality.

After looking into seven different databases, full text papers of sixty-seven studies were included in the measurement of the effectiveness of acupuncture and insomnia. The total number of participants with insomnia was 3,811, with 2,882 having a case of primary insomnia, 220 having post-stroke insomnia, 179 having insomnia associated with depression, 100 who suffered from drug addiction, and 204 patients who had insomnia secondary to end-stage kidney disease.

Areas of the body associated with insomnia included the ear and the torso. Some patients had traditional insomnia, while others underwent electro-acupuncture, acupressure, or acupoints injections. The control groups had sham acupuncture, in which sites had needles placed that were unassociated with acupuncture sites, or no treatment at all. Some had medications and others had herbal remedies.

The total treatment time ranged from having 2 days of acupuncture on up to 10 weeks of acupuncture. Patients were scored according to the PSQI and other measurements of sleep quantity and quality. At the end of treatment, participants were rated as cured, having markedly effective treatment, having effective treatment, or having ineffective treatment of their insomnia.

Acupuncture Compared To No Treatment, Sham Acupuncture, And Medical Treatment

There were five clinical trials that compared the effectiveness of acupuncture on insomnia to receiving no treatment whatsoever. There were three clinical trials that compared real
acupuncture with sham acupuncture or to acupressure. According to the results of these studies, real acupuncture helped in the management of insomnia better than did those who had sham acupuncture.

There were 26 clinical trials that compared acupuncture for the treatment of insomnia compared to receiving Western medications to treat the condition. Most of the studies showed a positive benefit of receiving acupuncture for insomnia, while one study showed no statistical difference between receiving acupuncture and taking drugs to treat insomnia. Acupuncture was compared to trazodone and was found to be equally effective in managing symptoms of insomnia.

Seven clinical trials compared traditional acupuncture along with Western medications versus just taking the medications. Two of the trials showed a marked difference in sleep quality among those patients who had acupuncture plus medications when compared to those who just had medication therapy.

Four clinical trials compared acupuncture combined with herbal medicine and receiving herbal medications alone. Just one of the studies showed no difference between the group that took the combination of acupuncture and herbal remedies and those that just took herbal remedies. Ten clinical trials showed that acupuncture was a better treatment for insomnia that taking medication alone. There was no report of any type of adverse effect from taking acupuncture alone for the management of insomnia.

One study showed minor side effects, such as constipation, dizziness, palpitations, and dry mouth in those patients who took trazodone for sleep. Two studies showed that acupuncture was safer than taking trazodone for insomnia.


The majority of studies looked at showed that, compared to receiving no treatment, medications or sham acupuncture treatments, real acupuncture was more effective in treating insomnia. Some patients had acupuncture alone, while others used acupuncture along with other types of therapy, such as Western medications or herbal therapy. Overall, it appears that acupuncture when used alone or, as part of a combination of therapies used to treat insomnia is effective in improving sleep quality and sleep quantity.