Objective: Auricular acupuncture (AA) is a therapeutic method by which specific points on the auricle are stimulated to treat various conditions. AA is often recommended as treatment for insomnia. The aim of this systematic review was to evaluate data from randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trials testing the effectiveness of AA for treating insomnia.
Methods: We searched the literature using 18 databases from their inception to April 2008 without language restrictions. All prospective randomised clinical trials (RCTs) of AA for subjects with insomnia were considered. Methodological quality was assessed using the Jadad score.
Results: We identified 433 possible relevant articles, in which include 10 acceptable RCTs. The methodological quality of the trials was generally poor. Magnetic pellets AA was compared with placebo AA in three of the studies. The results suggested beneficial effects on sleep efficiency compared with placebo AA. One RCT tested needle AA compared with placebo AA and failed to show the effectiveness of AA. Four RCTs compared Semen Vaccariae or magnetic pellet AA with conventional drugs (estazolam or diazepam). Favourable effects for AA were found. Two RCTs tested thumbtack needle AA vs. no treatment suggested beneficial effects of AA on a sleep score.
Conclusion: We conclude that, because of the paucity and of the poor quality of the data, the evidence for the effectiveness of AA for the symptomatic treatment of insomnia is limited. Further, rigorously designed trials are warranted to confirm these results.