Efficacy of Acupuncture for Insomnia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Am J Chin Med. 2021;49(5):1135-1150. doi: 10.1142/S0192415X21500543. Epub 2021 May 27.


Patients with insomnia frequently use acupuncture as an alternative treatment to pharmacotherapy globally. The aim of this paper is to assess the effect of acupuncture on insomnia. Seven medical databases, including MEDLINE, EMBASE, CENTRAL, CNKI, RISS, NDSL, and OASIS, were used to identify studies published through July 09, 2020. Twenty-four randomized controlled trials (RCTs) were included in this qualitative review comparing acupuncture to either pharmacotherapy or sham-acupuncture therapy. Methodological quality was assessed, using the Cochrane risk of bias (ROB). In the subsequent quantitative meta-analysis of studies comparing acupuncture versus pharmacotherapy, fifteen RCTs demonstrated that acupuncture had a significant effect on patients with insomnia as assessed by the Pittsburgh sleep quality index (PSQI) (RR: -0.74; 95% CI: -1.07 to -0.40; [Formula: see text] ¡0.0001; [Formula: see text] = 89%; [Formula: see text] = 1475). A subgroup analysis showed that there was no significant effect after weeks 1 and 2, but six studies found that acupuncture had a significant effect insomnia at week 3 (RR: -0.97; 95% CI: -1.65 to -0.28; [Formula: see text] = 0.006; [Formula: see text] = 91%; [Formula: see text] = 463) and nine studies demonstrated a significant effect at week 4 (RR: -0.70; 95% CI: -1.15 to -0.25; [Formula: see text] = 0.002; [Formula: see text] = 85%; [Formula: see text] = 594). These results suggest that insomnia patients may experience significant improvement in symptoms after more than three weeks of acupuncture treatment compared to pharmacological treatments.

Keywords: Acupuncture; Insomnia; Meta-Analysis; Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index; Sleep Disorders; Systematic Review.