A systematic review of acupuncture for sleep quality in people with insomnia

Complement Ther Med. 2016 Jun:26:11-20. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2016.02.007. Epub 2016 Feb 18.


Objective: Acupuncture is widely used in Asia and increasingly in Western countries. We performed a systematic review and meta-analysis to examine the effects of acupuncture for insomnia.

Methods: We identified randomized controlled trials from English and Chinese databases. Data were extracted using a predefined form and analysed using RevMan 5.2. We included studies that compared acupuncture to sham/placebo, standard pharmacotherapy or cognitive behavioral therapy. Risk of bias was assessed using the Cochrane risk of bias tool. The primary outcome was sleep quality assessed by the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI).

Results: A total of 30 studies involving 2363 participants were included. Acupuncture point combinations included the use of at least one of the recommended points for insomnia, HT7, GV20, SP6. Pharmacotherapy control was used in 27 studies and sham/placebo in three studies. Cognitive behavioral therapy was not used in any of the studies. Pharmacotherapies in all studies were benzodiazepine receptor agonists, except for one that used an antidepressant. Acupuncture was superior to sham/placebo in terms of PSQI (MD -0.79, 95% CI -1.38, -0.19, I(2)=49%). Acupuncture was also more effective than pharmacotherapy (MD -2.76, 95% CI -3.67, -1.85, I(2)=94%). Most studies were at risk of bias. Some mild adverse events were reported but they were not causally related to the acupuncture treatments.

Conclusions: Acupuncture compared to sham/placebo and pharmacotherapy showed statistically significant results. However, the evidence is limited by bias in the included studies and heterogeneity. Well-designed studies are needed to confirm the results identified in this review.

Keywords: Acupuncture; Insomnia; Meta-analysis; Randomized controlled trial; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Acupuncture Therapy*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult