Auricular acupuncture versus cognitive behavioural therapy in the discontinuation of hypnotic drug usage, and treatment effects on anxiety, depression and insomnia symptoms − a randomised controlled study

Bergdahl L et al, Eur Jn Int Med, Vol 16, 2017,  15-21
European Journal of Integrative Medicine

Ear Acupuncture was seen to reduce anxiety and depression in this study on 57 participants with insomnia disorder and long term use of hypnotic drugs. 74% of them managed to discontinue their hypnotic drug consumption post-treatment. Future studies could examine whether ear acupuncture could be useful for women suffering anxiety, depression or insomnia related to infertility.



The interest in non-pharmacological interventions for insomnia disorder has increased. The aim was to assess the immediate treatment effects of auricular acupuncture (AA) and cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia (CBT-i) regarding discontinuation of hypnotic usage and symptoms of anxiety, depression and insomnia.


Prospective randomised controlled study. Fifty-seven participants (mean age 61 years (SD 8.6)) with insomnia disorder and long-term use of non-benzodiazepine hypnotics received group-treatment with AA or CBT-i.

Pre- and post-treatment measures included symptoms of anxiety, depression and insomnia via self-report questionnaires: Hospital Anxiety and Depression scale (HAD-A, HAD-D) and Insomnia Severity Index (ISI). Other sleep parameters and hypnotic consumption were measured with a sleep diary. Linear mixed models were performed to examine treatment effect over time within and between the groups.


Seventy-one percent of the AA participants and 84% of the CBT-i participants managed to discontinue their hypnotic drug consumption post-treatment. Symptoms of anxiety and depression decreased within the AA group (HAD-A (p < 0.05), HAD-D (p < 0.05)) and insomnia symptoms decreased within the CBT-i group (ISI (p < 0.001)). The only between-group difference occurred in ISI (p < 0.001), in favour of CBT-i. According to the within-group sleep diary results, the CBT-i group went to bed later (p < 0.001), fell asleep quicker (p < 0.05), increased their sleep efficiency (p < 0.001) and self-rated sleep quality (p < 0.05) post-treatment.


Both groups ended/maintained low hypnotic drug consumption post-treatment. Short-term reductions occurred in the AA group in anxiety and depression symptoms and in the CBT-i group regarding insomnia symptoms.