About 70% of cancer patients suffer through insomnia at any point from cancer diagnosis to its treatment. This new study has shown that acupuncture and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used as an efficient solution to tackle insomnia effectively in cancer patients and survivors.

Dr. Jun Mao led the research from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York.

The clinical trials have revealed improvements with insomnia in cancer patients. According to the results,

"....both acupuncture and CBT-I produced clinically meaningful reductions in insomnia severity .... and maintained improvements up to 20 weeks. "

The Journal of the National Cancer Institute published the insomnia research on April 9th of 2019. And with positive outcomes from both procedures, the study has also shown hope to the cancer patients to get rid of insomnia.

The results of this study are exceptionally beneficial to treat insomnia and other sleep-related issues in patients suffering from mesothelioma and other cancers, without using any medicines.

With future clinical trials, the positive impacts of both these procedures give hope for further successful further studies by the researchers.

Insomnia is the Most Common Side Effect of Cancer

Cancer is spreading all over the world as it spread in the body, and the global number of new cancer patients is expected to reach 27.5 million by the year 2040. Meanwhile, with immense technological and scientific advancements, researchers and doctors are exploring novel ways to fight against this disease.

And with the development of new treatment methods, the survival rate of cancer patients is increasing. With increased survival rate, comes more responsibility to provide better physical, and psychological support to the patients, to lead a happy and healthy life.

Starting from the diagnosis of cancer to the successful treatment, lack of sleep, or disturbed sleep is one of the main issues with which almost every cancer patient goes through.

Insomnia is reported in 30% to 75% of the cancer patients, starting from the cancer diagnosis, receiving the treatment, and afterward.

This research study, conducted by Dr. Mao and fellow researchers has also touched other sleep-related issues as well, with which cancer patients go through very often. Such as fatigue, fluctuations in mood, pain, and dangling quality of life.

And Dr. Mao has described that fatigue, intense pain, and psychological tension, all of which are common in cancer patients, are the main contributors to insomnia and other sleep-related issues.

And the researchers have tested acupuncture and cognitive behavioral therapy and to help cancer patients deal with all these contributors, thus increasing the quality of life.

Research Pattern To Evaluate the Significance of Non-drug Options to Treat Insomnia

This treatment of insomnia is a unique study, and such a study has not previously done. Here, the researchers compared two non-pharmaceutical procedures, acupuncture and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to find out their effectiveness to cure different side effects of cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment in cancer survivors.

Previous studies mainly investigated insomnia in breast cancer, and the patients included were mostly white. These ethnic biases make it extremely difficult to pose a single conclusion on every cancer survivor globally.

In this study, a total of 160 cancer survivors were selected randomly and categorized into two groups of 80 each. One group of patients was provided acupuncture by therapists in which they inserted needles into the patients' bodies at specific points in different depths.

While the other group focused on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), CBT is a sort of talk therapy in which patients performed a specific schedule of sleep, particular training to relax their mind and body, and education on various aspects of health management.

The clinical trials were conducted for eight weeks in total. And the outcome of the study was measured for 20 weeks after the end of therapy. In this period, different aspects of patients' health were studied, such as mood, fatigue, pain, and quality of life.

Researchers found out that both of the tested procedures were immensely helpful in treating sleep-related issues in cancer patients.

The researchers wrote,

" both groups had similar improvements in fatigue, mood, and quality of life and reduced prescription hypnotic medication use."

Effectiveness of Both Procedures Varies from Person to Person

As per the research, CBT took a little edge over acupuncture in improving sleep in participants. But Dr. Mao says that symptoms of insomnia are associated with individualistic behavior as well. For example, if a person has a habit of looking at the cell phone every time at night before going to sleep, then CBT is the most effective way to convert to healthy ways of life.


On the other hand, "Acupuncture may be a bit more effective for addressing the pain, which in turn improves patients’ sleep.”

There is further research required to find out different ways of improving the treatment of insomnia according to the needs of every individual.

Key Points of the Clinical Study

  • Both acupuncture and cognitive behavioral therapy remain active for more than three months after the treatment.
  • Researchers measured impressive improvements in mood, loss of fatigue, quality of life, and sleep in all participants of both groups.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy was measured to be a little bit better than acupuncture in tackling insomnia.
  • CBT was also measured to be slightly more effective than acupuncture in White and well-educated participants.

"CBT-I was more effective for those who were male (p < 0.001), white (p = 0.003), highly educated (p < 0.001), and had no pain at baseline (p < 0.001)."

  • While participants who were not highly educated and female participants of the study were benefited equally from both procedures.
  • And to cure pain, acupuncture was more helpful than CBT,

"Acupuncture was more effective for pain at the end of treatment".

Overall, both acupuncture and CBT were concluded to be beneficial nondrug procedures for cancer patients to tackle insomnia, anxiety, and fatigue.