Acupuncture is commonly used in treating insomnia in China, and clinical studies have shown that acupuncture may have a beneficial effect on insomnia compared with Western medication.


Medical scientists conducted a systematic review of randomized controlled trials on acupuncture. They found 46 randomized trials involving 3811 patients. A comprehensive “meta-analysis” determined acupuncture had a beneficial effect compare to non treatment; real acupressure compared with fake acupressure.


Acupuncture was superior to medications regarding the number of patients with total sleep duration increased for over 3 hours. But, there appeared to be no true difference between acupuncture and medications in average sleep duration.


Acupuncture and medications provided a greater effect than medications alone on total sleep duration. Similarly, acupuncture combined with herbs was significantly better than herbs alone on increase of sleep rates. There were no serious adverse effects with related to acupuncture treatment in the included trials.


The researchers concluded that acupuncture appears to be effective in treatment of insomnia.


Another interesting study of residents of long-term care facilities found that acupressure on the Shenmen point (indexed as HT7) can improve insomnia.


The goal of this particular study was to evaluate residents  of long-term care facilities experiencing insomnia and the effectiveness of acupressure on the Shenmen point .


Residents of long-term facilities with insomnia were assigned to two different groups.  Twenty-five participants received acupressure, and the remaining 25 were placed in the control group.  The acupressure group were treated for five weeks. They received standard acupressure on the HT7 points of both wrists, while those in the control group received only light touch on the same places.


Using standardized measurement scales, the researchers measured each participant’s degree of insomnia. The participants’ self-reported scores were taking at the beginning of the study, during its course and after treatment ended.


The participants receiving acupressure experienced significantly improved sleep compared to the group receiving the light touch acupressure, not only during the intervention period, but also extending after the treatment had concluded.


The researchers concluded that offering acupressure on the HT7 point has the potential to improve insomnia in residents of long-term care facilities. Acupressure on the HT7 point may improve insomnia for up to 2 weeks after the intervention.


Source:  J Altern Complement Med. 2009 Nov;15(11):1171-86.