It’s maddening to lie awake at night tossing and turning until the wee morning hours. The harder you focus on getting to sleep, the more sleep eludes you. In frustration, some people turn to prescription drugs for insomnia. But these medications have serious side-effects, and they make you sleepy the next day. Is there a better way? Recently there’s been some interest in using acupuncture to fight insomnia. Does acupuncture for insomnia really work?
Acupuncture for Insomnia: Does It Work?
Acupuncture has been used to treat other medical conditions with some success, but it isn’t commonly used to treat insomnia – at least not in this country. But a recent study published in Medical Acupuncture Online Journal put acupuncture to the test. Researchers gave 40 insomnia patients either true acupuncture or sham acupuncture.
The results? All of the patients in the true acupuncture group experienced improved sleep quality, which lasted throughout the 18 month follow-up period.
Acupuncture to Fight Insomnia: More Research is Needed
Other small studies, including a few randomized-controlled trials, show that acupuncture for insomnia treatment has some benefit, but most of these studies were small and poorly designed. Some of these studies suggested that acupuncture improves overall sleep quality, but results have been inconsistent as to whether it decreases the time it takes to fall asleep and whether it allows insomniacs to stay asleep longer.
There’s a real need for larger randomized-controlled trials to look more closely at acupuncture for insomnia. Acupuncture is more commonly used to fight insomnia in China than it is in the United States, which means there’s been little research in this country to look at its effectiveness.
Acupuncture vs. Prescription Drugs for Insomnia
Acupuncture holds some promise for treating insomnia, but there’s not enough evidence for most doctors to recommend using it to treat sleep problems. On the other hand, it may be worth trying before resorting to prescription drugs for insomnia. Many prescription drugs for insomnia are addictive and cause drowsiness or dizziness the next day, which increases the risk of car accidents and falls. Acupuncture for insomnia is well-tolerated with few risks.
Acupuncture to Fight Insomnia: The Bottom Line?
Since there are no large randomized-controlled studies demonstrating the effectiveness of acupuncture for insomnia, it shouldn’t be the first treatment you try. Make appropriate lifestyle changes first but before turning to prescription drugs, discuss the possibility of trying acupuncture with your doctor instead. It’s a safer treatment that most of the available medications and it may offer some benefits.
Medical Acupuncture Online Journal, Volume 13, Number 3. Article 4.
Cochrane Reviews. “Acupuncture for Insomnia”.