Study objectives: To evaluate the short-term efficacy and safety of electroacupuncture for the treatment of primary insomnia.
Design: Randomized, single-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel-group.
Setting: A university-based sleep clinic.
Participants: Community sample of 60 Chinese adult volunteers who report having insomnia 3 or more nights per week, whose symptoms meet the DSM-IV criteria for primary insomnia for at least 3 months, and who have an Insomnia Severity Index total score of at least 15. Participants were screened with polysomnography and the Structured Clinical Interview for the DSM-IV prior to randomization.
Intervention: Electroacupuncture at Yintang (EX-HN3), Baihui (GV20), bilateral ear Shenmen, Sishencong (EX-HN1), and Anmian (EX) 3 times per week for 3 weeks or placebo acupuncture using Streitberger needles at the same points.
Measurements and results: Self-reported questionnaires, 1-week sleep diaries, and 3-day actigraphy were collected at baseline and 1 week after treatment. The Insomnia Severity Index was used as the primary outcome measure. Both groups showed significant improvement compared with the pretreatment baseline. One-way analysis of covariance adjusted for baseline scores showed that there were significantly greater improvements in sleep efficiency by sleep diary and actigraphy in the electroacupuncture group. However, no significant between-group differences were observed in the Insomnia Severity Index and other outcome measures. The proportions of subjects having less than 30 minutes of wake after sleep onset and a sleep efficiency of at least 85% at the posttreatment visit were significantly higher in the electroacupuncture group. All adverse events were mild in severity.
Conclusion: We found a slight advantage of electroacupuncture over placebo acupuncture in the short-term treatment of primary insomnia. Because of some limitations of the current study, further studies are necessary to verify the effectiveness of acupuncture for insomnia.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00839592.