An alarming statistic from the National Sleep Foundation states that 60% of Americans suffer symptoms of insomnia at least once a week. That’s a worryingly high figure. For many people, the initial and immediate reaction to poor sleeping is to reach for medication. Yet that might not always be the best choice. All medication has some side effects, and many are not recommended for long term use.
Disclaimer: This content on Sleepopolis’ blog is for informational purposes only. If you are dealing with a sleep disorder or other medical issue, please consult a trained medical professional. The techniques discussed in this article are best done under the supervision and advice of a trained medical professional, which we recommend seeking out before undertaking any acupressure techniques.
Acupressure has recently come to the fore as an alternative remedy for insomnia. Rather than simply induce sleep, it also attempts to treat some of the various causes of insomnia, like anxiety, stress and too much energy. Here’s a comprehensive guide to using acupressure in order to achieve better sleep.
What Is Insomnia?
Insomnia is defined as difficulty or inability to get to or to stay asleep, despite having the opportunity. It manifests itself as low quality sleep without any adequate reason why, typically over prolonged periods of time. Insomnia sufferers often have symptoms such as fatigue and low energy, poor mood, and difficulty to concentrate, which can affect work life.
What Is Acupressure?
Acupressure is a form of alternative therapy which has been used for thousands of years, particularly in China. A mixture of “acupuncture” and “pressure,” it’s a method in which particular points (“acupoints”) on the body are stimulated manually. This can be done with fingers, palms, elbows and feet, or specialised acupressure tools.
It is based on the idea of energy flowing in particular routes (“meridians”) through the body. It’s believed that these meridians also provide a network between different organs of the body. Acupressure aims to work by clearing blockages of energy along these meridians, and can be used to treat chronic muscle pain, headaches, nausea, and sleep disorders.
How Does It Work To Cure Insomnia?
The aims of acupressure are to allow for better energy flow (qi) around the body, and to regulate and balance the opposing forces of positive (yang) and negative (yin) energy. It contests that a large amount of both bodily and spiritual ailments are a result of issues with energy flow and balance.
Insomnia is a disorder often without clear physical cause, and thus treating it can be complicated. Acupressure claims that because of its apparent lack of physical cause, the reasons for suffering from insomnia are spiritual and emotional, and thus can be more effectively treated through acupressure, rather than prescribed Western medication.
Which Are The Key Acupoints For Better Sleep?
- B38. The B38 or Vital Diaphragm acupoint is located at heart level, but in the back, between shoulder blades. It helps balance emotions, which is ideal if sleep is being hindered by anxiety, guilt, stress or depression. You can self-stimulate this pressure point using tennis balls and lying on the floor.
- The Pericardium 6, also called the Neiguan, is located on the inner wrist, about an inch from the wrist crease. This point claims to treat both anxiety and digestion problems – both of which can contribute to insomnia or poor sleep. Some practitioners say it can be held for almost immediate relaxation, or taped down with a small item in the indent.
- The Heart 7 point, also called the Shenmen, is located at the wrist crease below the little finger. It’s supposed to calm, which is helpful if insomnia is caused by over-excitement or too much energy.
- The Bladder 10 point is located half an inch below the base of the skull at the top of your neck. It’s claimed to help relieve stress and exhaustion, which is good for those suffering from overtiredness which is contributing to insomnia.
- The Shimein point, located at the center-back of the heel, can be stimulated with a small item like a pen for generalized insomnia relief. Take care though – if done correctly, this should not hurt, and you should consult with a qualified and trained professional on its stimulation before attempting.
- The Anmian point is found just below the ear, where the neck and jaw line connect. It should be held for 15 to 20 minutes with the index and middle finger, to bring on deep and restful sleep.
Is There Any Proof?
Much of the research into the efficacy of acupressure is in its infancy. However, many individuals report success, not just in treating insomnia but for a wide variety of health concerns.
A 2008 study at the Milan, Italy at the San Gerardo Hospital on the benefits of acupressure for insomnia did show an improvement in quality of sleep for participants.
Like many forms of alternative therapy, acupressure may benefit from the placebo effect. This is not to denigrate its efficacy: the placebo effect extremely powerful and is recognized as a key feature in the success of many types of treatment.
Pros of Acupressure
Acupressure does have some measured benefits which are of particular interest to insomnia sufferers. It does relax muscles and encourage blood flow, for example. Acupressure can also be a pleasant experience. Like massage, it feels good to the body. Another benefit is the immediate availability of acupressure. It can be practiced on the self, at home, for free.
Cons of Acupressure
There does exist some skepticism about the overall efficacy of acupressure, particularly for curing things like chronic diseases and infections. Nonetheless, for more abstract conditions like insomnia, there’s some evidence it may be helpful. For those who suffer from conditions such as arthritis, acupressure should be approached with caution so as to not worsen the condition. Another concern with acupressure is its lack of regulation. Outside treatment can vary hugely depending on where you go.
Other Natural Tips For Better Sleep
- Gentle stretching can help induce muscle relaxation and aid sleep – try stretching legs and arms and gently massaging back and neck.
- Tensing and releasing muscles upwards through the body (from toes upwards) can help release tension from the day.
- A hot bath can also help induce sleep. Raising the body temperature slowly, followed by a rapid cool down, is very relaxing for both the muscles and the mind.
- Inducing yawning can also help “trick” the brain into tiredness, helping you get to sleep faster.