Acupuncture May Improve Cognitive Function in Insomniac Cancer Survivors

A study compared acupuncture versus cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) on objective and subjective cognitive function in cancer survivors suffering from insomnia.

“Cancer‐related cognitive impairment is a prevalent, disruptive condition potentially exacerbated by sleep disturbances,” the study authors explained. Insomnia is not an uncommon occurrence among cancer survivors, making this an important concern.

Data from a randomized clinical trial of 160 cancer survivors comparing acupuncture to CBT-I for insomnia in cancer survivors were used to evaluate cognitive outcomes and examine the association between them and insomnia symptoms. The present analysis included the 99 survivors who reported cognitive difficulties at baseline. Interventions took place over eight weeks. The Buschke Selective Reminding Test was used to evaluate objective attention, learning, and memory; the Brown Attention‐Deficit Disorder Scales were used toe valuate subjective cognitive function; and the Insomnia Severity Index was used to evaluate insomnia symptoms. Outcomes were measured at baseline and eight and 20 weeks.

Acupuncture Results in Significant Improvements

Over an eight-week period, acupuncture yielded significant within-group improvements in objective attention (Cohen D, 0.29), learning (Cohen D, 0.31), and memory (Cohen D, 0.33); these outcomes persisted through week 20 (P<0.05 for all). CBT-I yielded a significant within-group improvement in objective attention over a 20-week period (Cohen D, 0.50; P<0.05), and there were no significant between-group differences. Acupuncture and CBT-I were both correlated with significant within-group improvements in subjective cognitive function at eight and 20 weeks compared to baseline levels (P<0.001 for all), with no significant between-group differences. Patients with clinically meaningful responses to insomnia symptoms in the acupuncture group, compared to those without clinically meaningful responses to insomnia symptoms, presented significantly greater subjective cognitive function improvement (P=0.006).

The study was published in Cancer.

“Among cancer survivors with insomnia, both acupuncture and CBT‐I produced significant improvements in objective and subjective cognitive function. However, the effect sizes varied and only survivors in the acupuncture group demonstrated a significant relationship between cognitive and sleep outcomes. These preliminary findings warrant further investigation to guide the personalized management of patients with cancer‐related cognitive impairment,” concluded the authors.