Acupuncture Benefits Sleep Quality in Traumatic Brain Injury Patients

Insomnia is one of the most common complaints after traumatic brain injury, and is not only distressing to the patient, but can also negatively impact recovery and rehabilitation efforts. Commonly prescribed and over-the-counter drugs for insomnia may help increase sleep, but can also negatively impact the patient with daytime sleepiness and slower cognitive functioning.

Acupuncture is a well-known practice of Chinese medicine, and past research has shown it to be effective for the treatment of insomnia in non-brain-injured people. A recent study looked at the effect of acupuncture on insomnia in brain injury patients-first, to see if it could be as effective as drug therapies, and second, to see if daytime cognition could be improved.

The results were that acupuncture did not increase actual sleep time, but it did increase the perception of sleep time-a perception that was sustained even one month after treatment ceased. This is important because the perception alone of less sleep is known to be associated with depression. Additionally, cognitive function improved in patients who received acupuncture, but not in those who received a placebo.

Zollman FS, Larson EB, Wasek-Throm LK, Cyborskie CM, & Bode RK. Acupuncture for treatment of insomnia in patients with traumatic brain injury: A pilot intervention study. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation. (April 2011).