Sleep deprivation is a fact of life for most of us today, but what’s normal for most people isn’t necessarily healthy. Inadequate sleep or poor quality sleep on a regular basis can be damaging to your health, putting you at risk of various lifestyle diseases, including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes. While sleeping pills and other pharmaceutical products can help you fall asleep, using such products on a regular basis comes with its own set of risks. For this reason, sleep scientists and researchers have been looking for natural sleeping aids and alternative therapies for insomnia.
Their investigations so far have been promising, with several studies confirming the positive influence of therapies like acupressure for sleep.
Does Acupressure Really Help Improve Sleep Quality?
Chronic stress and anxiety are the most common causes of insomnia and sleeplessness. Not surprisingly, the most effective home remedies for insomnia are those that promote relaxation, whether herbal teas, meditation, or acupressure.
Traditional Chinese acupressure, like Ayurveda, is based on the principles of a person’s energy, or life force. Called chi or qi, these life forces travel through meridians in the body. Any blockage or disruption of this energy flow results in ailments. This is when acupressure comes into play.
Although there is no scientific evidence to support the philosophy of acupressure, there is plenty of evidence to show that it works for a number of ailments – we just don’t know how. A study on nursing home residents in Taiwan, “Acupressure, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Institutionalized Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial”, found that improvements in sleep quality were significantly higher in patients who received acupressure therapy, as opposed to those who received sham acupressure therapy – the equivalent of a placebo.
So, go ahead and try using these acupressure points for sleep to get some much needed shuteye.
How To Treat Yourself: The Best Acupressure Points for Sleep
Location: Directly below the base of your little finger, near the crease of the wrist
You can use your thumb or any other finger to apply pressure on the other hand. Press the acupressure point gently, but consistently, maintaining pressure for around 20 seconds. Applying pressure to Shenmen point has been shown to have a calming effect, most likely because it triggers the release of neurotransmitters such as serotonin.
Location: Inside of the lower leg, a palm’s length up from the protruding ankle bone
You can use your thumb or any other finger to massage the acupressure point in gentle circular motions. Keep up the pressure for around 10 seconds at a time. Self-acupressure, using the Sanyinjiao pressure point has been found to be particularly beneficial for women, but it is also recommended in any plan to treat insomnia with acupressure.
Location: 2 points at the back of the head just below the ears and above the upper neck
The Fengchi pressure points can be found by following the extension of the ear bone, down to a groove or depression at the back of the head and above the neck. This is where your neck muscles connect with the skull. To treat yourself using this pressure point, you need to cup your head lightly in both hands, with the thumbs protruding towards the base of your skull. Your thumbs should make contact with, and be used to apply pressure to the Fengchi points. Maintain pressure for around 10 seconds and you won’t just get relief from insomnia, but you’ll also find that it helps fight off headaches and dizziness.
Location: Located dead center between your eyebrows and just above your nose
Regarded as an ‘extraordinary’ or special acupressure point, the Yintang closely correlates with Ayurveda’s 6thchakra. To use acupressure on this point, you need to use both hands, bringing the first and middle fingers together, applying gentle pressure to the area. Massage the area with all four fingers, in slow and circular motions. This helps to loosen the forehead muscles, making it particularly relaxing and increasing the likelihood of deep sleep.
Ayurvedic Remedies for Insomnia
In addition to the use of pressure points to induce relaxation and sleep, you can also use other natural sleeping aids like herbal teas, meditation, and so on. Ayurveda has a long tradition of using herbs to treat insomnia and some of these herbs are now being investigated by medical researchers for their potential use in the development of natural sleep medications. Among the most notable of these include the likes of brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi), ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), and sarpagandha (Rauwolfia serpentina). Here’s quick look at what we know about these herbs so far:
Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri)
Brahmi is perhaps the best known of all Ayurvedic herbs for brain function boosting benefits. The evidence for its effectiveness in improving brain function, motor skill learning, and protecting against dementia has been mounting. Researchers believe that the herb may have a positive influence on the modulation of brain stress hormones, promoting relaxation and better quality sleep. A study that appeared in the journal Global Advances in Health & Medicine states that “Brahmi oil may be beneficial for moderate to severe insomnia”; their study involved the use of Brahmi oil in the Ayurvedic therapy Shirodhara.
Jatamansi (Nardostachys jatamansi)
An indigenous variety of the famous western herb valerian, which is also used to treat insomnia, jatamansi has been used in Ayurveda to treat sleep disorders for millennia, even finding mention in the works of Charaka and Sushruta. A clinical study investigating the effects of the herb on primary insomnia supported its use as a natural sleep aid, with the herb showing positive influence on both the duration and quality of sleep.
Shankapushpi (Convolvulus pluricaulis)
Highly regarded in Ayurveda as therapeutic for brain function, with benefits ranging from improvements in cognitive function to the alleviation of depression the herb has also been the subject of several studies. Research that appeared in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, lends credence to the traditional use of the herb with purported adaptogenic effects that help lower stress levels, promote relaxation, and induce sleep.
So, whether you choose to use self-acupressure or Ayurvedic herbs to induce sleep and treat insomnia, you can rest assured that you’re standing on solid ground. Of course, if your problem is not resolved with the consistent use of acupressure and other natural insomnia remedies it would advisable to consult a doctor as soon as possible, to lower the risk of complications associated with sleep deprivation.
Waits, A., Tang, Y., Cheng, H., Tai, C., & Chien, L. (2018). Acupressure effect on sleep quality: A systematic review and meta-analysis [Abstract]. Sleep Medicine Reviews, 37, 24-34. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.smrv.2016.12.004
Lai, F., Chen, I., Chen, P., Chen, I., Chien, H., & Yuan, C. (2017). Acupressure, Sleep, and Quality of Life in Institutionalized Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial [Abstract]. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 65(5). https://doi.org/10.1111/jgs.14729
Simoncini, M., Gatti, A., Quirico, P. E., Balla, S., Capellero, B., Obialero, R., . . . Pernigotti, L. M. (2014). Acupressure in insomnia and other sleep disorders in elderly institutionalized patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease [Abstract]. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research, 27(1), 37-42. https://doi.org/10.1007/s4052
Carotenuto, M., Gallai, B., Parisi, L., Roccella, M., & Esposito, M. (2013). Acupressure therapy for insomnia in adolescents: a polysomnographic study. Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment, 9, 157–162. http://doi.org/10.2147/NDT.S41892
Abedian, Z., Eskandari, L., Abdi, H., & Ebrahimzadeh, S. (2015). The Effect of Acupressure on Sleep Quality in Menopausal Women: A Randomized Control Trial. Iranian Journal of Medical Sciences, 40(4), 328–334.