Acupuncture is a form of traditional Chinese medicine. It has been around for thousands of years. Can it be used to treat insomnia today?
A new scientific review takes a look at the evidence. The authors looked at 30 studies.
What did they find? Acupuncture improved some aspects of sleep in 93 percent of the studies.
But the quality of the studies varied greatly. Only a few studies compared acupuncture with an unreal, “sham” control treatment. These studies produced mixed results.
Most of the studies relied on subjective sleep reports. Few studies recorded objective sleep data.
Acupuncture techniques also varied greatly. This makes it hard to compare the results.
The authors conclude that acupuncture has potential as an insomnia treatment. But there is only limited evidence to support its use.
A 2006 study reports that the use of alternative treatments for insomnia is widespread. It estimated that 1.6 million people in the U.S. use complimentary alternative medicine (CAM) to treat insomnia.
The study indicates that about 8.5 percent of these people use alternative medical systems. This includes acupuncture.
A 2007 survey also reports that 1.4 percent of adults used acupuncture in the past 12 months. Use of acupuncture increased from 2002 to 2007.
The NCCAM reports that acupuncture is relatively safe. But the use of unsterile needles can cause an infection. An injury can occur if the treatment is provided improperly.
The FDA requires that acupuncture needles be made of solid, stainless steel. They must be sterile and labeled for single use only.
Other proven treatments for insomnia are available. Both cognitive behavioral therapy and medications are effective.
A board-certified sleep specialist can determine which treatment is best for you. Contact an AASM-accredited sleep disorders center if you have an ongoing problem with insomnia.
Read an AASM review of common products used to treat insomnia.