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Acupuncture and reflexology for insomnia: a feasibility study
  1. Ciara M Hughes1,
  2. Carey A McCullough2,
  3. Ian Bradbury3,
  4. Carol Boyde4,
  5. Diane Hume4,
  6. Jiang Yuan2,
  7. Fionnuala Quinn2,
  8. Suzanne M McDonough2
  1. 1
    School of Health Sciences, University of Ulster, Ulster, UK
  2. 2
    Health and Rehabilitation Sciences Research Institute, University of Ulster, Ulster, UK
  3. 3
    School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, Cromore Road, Ulster, UK
  4. 4
    British Reflexology Association, Worcester, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ciara Hughes, School of Health Sciences, University of Ulster, Shore Road, Ulster BT37 0QB, UK;{at}


Objective: To assess the feasibility of patient recruitment and retention, logistics of intervention and outcome measure sensitivity for a study designed to investigate the use of acupuncture and reflexology for the management of insomnia.

Design: Feasibility study for a randomised controlled trial.

Setting: University of Ulster Clinic.

Patients: Thirteen participants with sleep disturbances.

Interventions: Participants were randomised to receive one of three treatments, either: acupuncture (n = 5), reflexology (n = 4) or music therapy (n = 4). These treatments were administered six times over a 3-week period.

Main outcome measures: The Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI) and Short Form 36 version 2 (SF-36v2) were recorded at baseline, post-treatment and follow-up. Each participant also completed a Sleep Diary.

Results: Ten participants completed treatment. In the acupuncture and reflexology groups, a clinically relevant improvement in two out of three participants was observed on the PSQI following treatment. Music therapy produced no clinically important improvements. This study has demonstrated the feasibility of conducting an RCT on the effect of acupuncture and reflexology in primary insomnia using PSQI as the primary outcome measure. Modifications for a more rigorous study design have been discussed. Results from such a study would address the lack of high-quality evidence for the effectiveness of such therapies.

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by the University of Ulster’s Research Ethical Committee.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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