Acupuncture is one of the world’s oldest medical practices and is used today to treat a variety of physical and mental health conditions. In recent years, acupuncture has become an increasingly popular treatment for insomnia as more people look for alternatives to traditional sleep medications. 

Is Acupuncture an Effective Treatment for Insomnia? 

Acupuncture can relieve insomnia symptoms, although the mechanisms behind its effects are not fully understood. For some people with insomnia, receiving regular acupuncture treatments for one to two months can:

  • Improve sleep quality
  • Reduce wakings in the night  
  • Increase total sleep time 
  • Decrease anxiety 
  • Alleviate pain

People whose insomnia is linked to depression, menopause, or chronic pain may be especially good candidates for acupuncture therapy.

“Acupuncture can be a great complementary treatment and many patients find it helpful.”
Dr. Dustin Cotliar
Dr. Dustin Cotliar
Sleep Medicine Physician, MD

How Acupuncture for Insomnia Works

In a typical acupuncture session, the practitioner will evaluate the patient and insert between five and 20 needles, leaving each in place for about 10 to 15 minutes. However, one patient with insomnia may receive an entirely different acupuncture treatment than another, and the same patient may receive different treatments from session to session.

This is because acupuncturists base their selection of acupoints on their assessment of how energy, or “qi,” is flowing through pathways called “meridians” within the body. Acupuncture is intended to resolve blockages, disruptions, and imbalances in energy flow, thereby addressing complaints such as pain or difficulty sleeping.

What to Know Before Trying Acupuncture 

Acupuncture is generally considered safe, and major complications are very unlikely. As with any procedure involving needles and sharp instruments, acupuncture poses a risk of infection, skin irritation, and disease transmission. U.S. regulations require the use of sterile needles, which significantly reduces these risks. Bleeding and pain can also occur, but they are rare side effects of acupuncture.

People who are pregnant, have a bleeding disorder, or are on blood thinners should inform their acupuncturists about their conditions before receiving treatment. People with pacemakers should not receive electroacupuncture, and people who are immunocompromised should avoid acupuncture.

Additional Treatments for Insomnia 

While acupuncture is a safe and drug-free treatment for insomnia, it is just one of several available approaches to reducing symptoms and improving sleep. People with insomnia should talk to their doctors or sleep specialists about which treatment—or combination of treatments—best suits their needs. These treatments include: 

Our Best Tips for Better Sleep 

Maintaining healthy sleep habits along with or after insomnia treatment is essential in helping prevent insomnia symptoms from returning. These include: 

  • Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule – even on weekends 
  • Having an optimal bedroom environment for sleep 
  • Getting at least 30 minutes of natural light each morning 
  • Avoiding caffeine after 2 p.m. 
  • Avoiding alcohol at least 4 hours before bed
Learn more about our Editorial Team

5 Sources

  1. Yang, E. & Yeh, G. (2023 October). Overview of the clinical uses of acupuncture. In M. Aronson & K. Law (Ed.). UpToDate., Retrieved November 21, 2023, from
  2. Li, S., Wang, Z., Wu, H., Yue, H., Yin, P., Zhang, W., Lao, L., Mi, Y., & Xu, S. (2020). Electroacupuncture versus Sham Acupuncture for Perimenopausal Insomnia: A Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial. Nature and science of sleep, 12, 1201–1213.
  3. Yin, X., Gou, M., Xu, J., Dong, B., Yin, P., Masquelin, F., Wu, J., Lao, L., & Xu, S. (2017). Efficacy and safety of acupuncture treatment on primary insomnia: a randomized controlled trial. Sleep medicine, 37, 193–200.
  4. PDQ Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board. PDQ Acupuncture. National Cancer Institute., Retrieved November 21, 2023, from
  5. Yin, X., Li, W., Liang, T., Lu, B., Yue, H., Li, S., Zhong, V. W., Zhang, W., Li, X., Zhou, S., Mi, Y., Wu, H., & Xu, S. (2022). Effect of Electroacupuncture on Insomnia in Patients With Depression: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA network open, 5(7), e2220563.

Learn More About Insomnia

Insomnia and Women

By Lucy Bryan March 25, 2024

Period Insomnia

By Jay Summer March 22, 2024

Postpartum Insomnia

By Lucy Bryan March 20, 2024

What Causes Insomnia?

By Eric Suni January 16, 2024

Can't Sleep? 8 Techniques You Can Do

By Lucy Bryan January 16, 2024

Keto Insomnia: Is It Real?

By Jay Summer January 9, 2024