Traditional needle acupuncture treatment for insomnia: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials

Wing Fai Yeung, Ka Fai Chung*, Yau Kwong Leung, Shi Ping ZHANG, Andrew C.K. Law

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

70 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: Previous reviews regarding traditional needle acupuncture (TNA) treatment for insomnia were limited to English scientific literature. A comprehensive review including Chinese and English literature has therefore been conducted to examine the efficacy of TNA for insomnia. Methods: We performed systematic review of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of TNA as intervention for insomnia against placebo, Western medication, and non-treated controls. The methodological quality of the studies was assessed by the modified Jadad score and the acupuncture procedure was appraised by the STRICTA criteria. Results: Twenty RCTs were identified for detailed analysis. Majority of the RCTs concluded that TNA was significantly more effective than benzodiazepines for treating insomnia, with mean effective rates for acupuncture and benzodiazepines being 91% and 75%, respectively. In two more appropriately conducted trials, TNA appeared to be more efficacious in improving sleep than sleep hygiene counseling and sham acupuncture. Standardized and individualized acupuncture had similar effective rates. Despite these positive outcomes, there were methodological shortcomings in the studies reviewed, including imprecise diagnostic procedure, problems with randomization, blinding issues, and insufficient safety data. Hence, the superior efficacy of TNA over other treatments could not be ascertained. Conclusion: Since the majority of evidence regarding TNA for insomnia is based on studies with poor-quality research designs, the data, while somewhat promising, do not allow a clear conclusion on the benefits of TNA for insomnia. Moreover, the results support the need for large scale placebo-controlled double-blinded trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)694-704
Number of pages11
JournalSleep Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2009

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Medicine(all)

User-Defined Keywords

  • Acupuncture
  • Electroacupuncture
  • Insomnia
  • Sleep disorders
  • Systematic review
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine


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