Acupuncture for Insomnia

Fascinating Research on Acupuncture Treatment for Insomnia

What is Insomnia?

Insomnia is defined as a sleep disorder in which the person has trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or they are waking up too early. 30% of Americans currently suffer from insomnia. According to the NIH, most adults require seven to eight hours of sleep a night to properly function. Other symptoms associated with insomnia include difficulty concentrating, mood problems, decrease in performance, low energy levels, and fatigue. Insomnia is not a one size fit all condition, though. There are many different causes and characteristics of insomnia. There are two different types of insomnia, which are listed below:

Acute Insomnia

Acute insomnia is known as short term insomnia because it typically lasts for three months or less. Most of the time, there is an identifiable cause associated with acute insomnia. Some issues that would cause acute insomnia are:

Caffeine or Nicotine Use
Nocturia, which is defined as night time urination
Changes in your sleep environment

On the bright side, it doesn’t usually last more than three months, so seeing a doctor can be beneficial and they can explore the reasons of what is causing the acute insomnia. The doctor can then can give tips on how to make necessary changes to help put an end to the insomnia. If insomnia continues past three months, there’s a good chance that it is now chronic insomnia.

Chronic Insomnia

Chronic insomnia is defined as insomnia that lasts longer than three months and it is experienced three or more times a week. This type of insomnia can also have many different causes. Reasons someone would experience chronic insomnia are:Shifts at a job

Changes in the environment
Unhealthy sleep habits
Medications: chemotherapy drugs, diuretics, anti-depressants, and beta-blockers
Stimulants: Alcohol, caffeine, stimulant laxatives, and drugs, such as cocaine
Medical conditions: hyperthyroidism, fibromyalgia, congestive heart failure, asthma, bipolar disorder, etc.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): People who suffer from PTSD may have trouble sleeping due to nightmares, paranoia, and anxiety. They may have flashbacks from their traumatic event which makes it hard for them to sleep.

Causes of Insomnia

As we stated above, there are different issues that may cause insomnia. While depression, anxiety, and stress are the main culprits for insomnia, there are other causes of insomnia that most people overlook, such as:

An irregular sleep schedule: Going to sleep late and disrupting the internal clock may cause problems with sleeping. If you are working late shifts at your job or travel a lot for work, that could cause problems with your sleep schedule.  

Poor physical health: This may include things such as medical conditions, eating too late, or even chronic pain. People dealing with chronic pain may find it hard to get comfortable at night. They also may wake up in the middle of the night if they turn or lay the wrong way. Medical conditions, such as Parkinson’s, kidney disease, and cancer, may all contribute to insomnia.

Ways to Reduce Insomnia

Treatment will usually depend on what is causing your insomnia. Because of this, you may have to make use of one or more of these treatment options if that is what your doctor feels is best for conquering your insomnia.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This type of therapy works to help patients acknowledge their behaviors that are causing their insomnia. It also helps you to acknowledge your negative thoughts so that you can find a way to deal with them effectively. This therapy can be utilized in a group setting or just with a therapist.

Medications: Medication may be a necessary treatment option. These medications are sleep-aids that can either help you fall asleep or they aid in keeping you asleep. While medications are an effective treatment option, they do come with a number of possible side effects. Side effects that could appear are sleepwalking, falling, balance problems, and forgetfulness.

Acupuncture for Insomnia

Acupuncture can be a useful treatment option for insomnia, along with the different conditions and problems that can cause insomnia. Because it comes with little to no side effects, acupuncture may be a better treatment option for patients compared to prescription medications. Your insomnia will be treated by the acupuncturist in a way that is unique to your particular symptoms. One visit may not be enough to treat your insomnia, but your acupuncturist will set up a treatment plan based on your individual needs.

Acupuncture Points used for Insomnia

An Mian: This acupoint is located at the back of your head, at the base of the skull. You will find it in the by connecting the middle area between both of the depressions behind your earlobes. Not only is this efficient in treating insomnia, it helps with headaches, palpitations, and emotional problems.

SP-04: This point is located on the bottom of the foot. It treats insomnia, anxiety, chest pain, and nervousness.

Stomach 36 (ST36): This point is also called “Leg Three Miles” because people swear that after using this point, they have the energy to walk three miles. This point is located four fingers length below the knee cap.

LV 3: This point is referred to as the Great Surge. It is located on top of the foot, in the depression between the first and second toes.

Pericardium 6 (PC6): This acupoint is said to calm the heart and spirit. This point is located three fingers length up from the wrist crease.

Heart 7 (HT7): This acupoint is called the “Spirit Gate” and is specifically used for insomnia. This point is located at the proximal end of the pisform bone at the wrist.

Ying Tang: This acupoint is called the Hall of Impression and is said to calm the spirit. It is located right between the eyebrows.

Research on Acupuncture for the Treatment of Insomnia

Auricular Acupuncture for Chronic Pain and Insomnia: A Randomized Clinical Trial

Researchers conducted an eight-day study that aimed to determine if auricular acupuncture would be a beneficial treatment option for patients with chronic pain and insomnia. Researchers separated their forty-five participants into two groups: one receiving auricular acupuncture and the other group continued with their usual care. On day four of the study, one group was given their auricular acupuncture, which stayed in for the duration of the remaining four days of the study, while the other group began their usual care. The results of the research study were measured by using the Brief Pain Inventory pain severity and interference scores (is there supposed to be a comma between inventory and pain?), along with Insomnia Severity Index scores. The results of the study showed that auricular acupuncture was more effective than usual care in treating both chronic pain and chronic insomnia.

Acupuncture for the Treatment of Insomnia: A Systematic Review

In this research study, researchers gathered data from forty-six randomized trials to assess if acupuncture was an effective treatment for insomnia. These studies included a total of 3,811 patients and were moderately similar in the quality and set up of the randomized controlled trials. After assessing all of the data gathered from these research studies, researchers found a lot of promising results. Based on the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, acupuncture proved to be beneficial in comparison to no treatment, while acupressure was found to be beneficial compared to the sham acupuncture. Acupuncture treatment showed an increase of 3 or more hours of sleep, proving to be a better treatment compared to medications. Using herbs in conjunction with the acupuncture treatments also increased sleep rates. There were no adverse effects reported in any of these trials. This systematic review proves the effectiveness of acupuncture for the treatment of insomnia.

Acupuncture as a Primary and Independent Treatment for a Patient with Chronic Insomnia

In this 2017 research study, a forty-year-old patient had been dealing with depression, anxiety, and insomnia for over two years. While he was accepting treatment for his depression and anxiety, he had refused treatment for his insomnia. His insomnia became worse, which prompted this research study to weigh the effects of acupuncture treatment up to a year after treatment. The patient was evaluated at baseline, three months, and one year after treatment. He received a one-hour acupuncture treatment session once a week for a total of twelve weeks. The patient kept a diary to record all of his insomnia symptoms. After all data was gathered, researchers assessed that the patient’s symptoms of unrefreshing sleep, sleep disturbances, fatigue, and mood problems had all greatly improved year later.  

To learn more about how Acupuncture can help treat Insomnia, check out our popular acupuncture continuing education course, “A Basic Acupuncture Guide to Insomnia.”


Hoff, V. 2018. Here’s What to Expect the First Time You Get Cupping. The Thirty.

What is insomnia? National Sleep Foundation.

Crosta, P. 2017. Insomnia: Everything You Need to Know. Medical News Today.

Santos-Longhurst, A. 2018. What is Chronic Insomnia and How Is It Treated? Healthline.

Peters, B. 2019. Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment of Short-Term or Acute Insomnia. Very Well Health.

Robinson, L. Smith, M. Segal, R. 2018. Insomnia: What to Do When You Can’t Sleep. Help Guide.

Insomnia. Mayo Clinic.

An Overview of Insomnia. WebMD.

2016. The Top Five Acupuncture Points for Insomnia. Princeton Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Read, M. 2015. The Best Acupuncture Points for Insomnia. Health Central.

Acupuncture for Insomnia: Unblocking Your Energy Flow.

Garner BK, Hopkinson SG, Ketz AK, Landis CA, Trego LL. Auricular Acupuncture for Chronic Pain and Insomnia: A Randomized Clinical Trial. Med Acupunct. 2018;30(5):262–272. doi:10.1089/acu.2018.1294

Zhang W, Huang Z, Jin Y. Acupuncture as a primary and independent treatment for a patient with chronic insomnia: One-year follow-up case report. Medicine (Baltimore). ;96(52):e9471. doi:10.1097/MD.0000000000009471

Your Guide to Healthy Sleep. NIH.