Acupuncture for cancer-related insomnia: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Jialing Zhang*, Zhinan Zhang, Shengtao Huang, Xiaoke Qiu, Lixing Lao, Yong Huang*, Zhang-Jin Zhang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Cancer-related insomnia is a highly prevalent complaint in cancer patients. However, there is no meta-analytic synthesis explored the efficacy of acupuncture for cancer-related insomnia among cancer patients undergoing active cancer treatments.
Objective: This systematic review and meta-analysis were performed to explore the efficacy and safety of acupuncture for insomnia in people diagnosed with cancer.
Study design: Systematic review and meta-analysis of existing randomized controlled trials on acupuncture in the treatment of cancer-related insomnia.
Methods: According to the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) Statement, we identified and extracted the trials through November 2021 from ten databases and two trials record platforms (Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE, PUBMED, Web of Science, PsycINFO, Allied and Complementary Medicine, Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health Literature, China National Knowledge Infrastructure, Wanfang Digital Journals, ClinicalTrials, World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform). The quality of the trials was assessed using Jadad score and Risk of Bias (2.0). A meta-analysis was synthesized using the random-effects model if the included studies were in high methodological quality.
Results: A total of 690 studies were identified, with 22 were included in the review, and 6 of them were included in the quantitative synthesis. Studies were highly heterogeneous in terms of participant characteristics and study methodologies. Most studies recruited patients diagnosed with a specific cancer type, and breast cancer patients were the subgroup most represented. The qualitative review of available evidence suggested a beneficial efficacy of acupuncture on sleep without serious adverse events in several studies (55%). The meta-analysis revealed that acupuncture produced a significant improvement in the total Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) score relative to the wait-list control among breast cancer patients undergoing active cancer treatments (MD -1.92, 95% CI -3.25 to -0.59, p = 0.005). Similar improvement of real and sham acupuncture on PSQI score change post-intervention was found (MD: -0.68, 95% CI: -2.44 to 1.07, p = 0.44). Manual acupuncture had similar effective rate as compared to estazolam immediately post-intervention (RR: 0.94, 95% CI: 0.87 to 1.01, p = 0.09), and had significantly better effective rate than estazolam at 1-week post-intervention follow-up (RR: 1.25, 95% CI: 1.10 to 1.43, p = 0.0009). All reported acupuncture related adverse events were mild or moderate in severity.
Conclusion: Acupuncture has great potential to be used to manage cancer-related insomnia for cancer patients or survivors. More studies with rigorous designs and larger sample size are warranted to verify the efficacy and safety of acupuncture for insomnia among people diagnosed with cancer, in particular among those with clinically significant insomnia.
Original languageEnglish
Article number154160
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2022

User-Defined Keywords

  • Cancer
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep
  • Acupuncture
  • Systematic review
  • Meta-analysis


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