Acupressure is a component of traditional Chinese medicine that may help ease some symptoms of health issues, including insomnia.
Acupressure is a relatively new subject of scientific research. However, a handful of studies suggest that it may be a safe way to get more or better sleep.
To use a pressure point, apply gentle but firm pressure with the hand, fingers, fist, or a massager. Some people incorporate acupressure into a soothing massage.
Try using other sleep strategies, too, such as darkening the room, playing soothing music, using relaxing lotions, or meditating before bed.
The following acupressure points may help with sleep. A person could try each individually or together as part of a routine.
The An Mian points are on either side of the neck. To find them, place a finger behind each earlobe, and move the fingers just behind the bony protrusion. Light pressure is sufficient.
HT7, also called Shen Men, is on the underside of the wrist, just under the bottom of the hand.
Bend the hand forward slightly and look for the crease. Then, apply pressure to the outermost part of this crease, on the side closest to the pinky finger.
An older study, from 2010, found positive results when using HT7 to help relieve insomnia. The study included 50 older adult residents at a long-term care facility who experienced the sleep disorder.
One group received acupressure on the HT7 point on both wrists for 5 weeks. The control group received only a light touch in the same place.
The group that received acupressure had significantly better sleep scores, not only during the trial, but for up to 2 weeks afterward.
Another study, involving adults with Alzheimer's disease and sleep disorders, found that daily acupressure on the HT7 point improved the length and quality of sleep and otherwise reduced sleep disorder symptoms.
The scientists cautioned, however, that their study was small. More research is necessary to confirm these effects.
Point SP6, which practitioners also call San Yin Jiao, may help with insomnia, menstrual cramps, urinary issues, and some other pelvic problems.
To access the point, find the highest point of the ankle on the inside of the leg. Beginning at the top of the ankle, measure four finger-widths up the leg. Apply deep pressure just behind the bone above the ankle.
A 2016 investigation into the effects of acupressure on fatigue and sleep quality in breast cancer survivors used SP6 as part of a relaxing acupressure routine. The participants applied pressure to each point in the routine, including SP6, for 3 minutes.
This routine improved the participants' sleep and quality of life, compared with other acupressure routines and usual care.
However, according to acupressure researchers, pregnant women should avoid using the SP6 point.
LV3, which practitioners also call Tai Chong, may help with unexplained insomnia, as well as stress and anxiety-related sleeplessness.
Find it by locating the spot where the skin of the big toe and the next toe connect. The pressure should be firm and deep.
Applying pressure to the LV3 point was part of the relaxation routine in the previous study about fatigue and sleep quality in breast cancer survivors. The researchers found that applying pressure to each point for 3 minutes improved sleep.
Research suggests that stimulating the KD3 point, which is also called Taixi, can help ease insomnia. This point is located just above the heel on the inside of the foot.
2014 research into the use of KD3 and HT7 found that acupressure on these points improved sleep quality in middle-aged and older adult participants with hypertension. It also helped lower their blood pressure to healthy levels.
Moreover, acupressure seemed to be more effective than traditional interventions and wellness education among this cohort.
However, like many other investigations into acupressure, this study was small, including just 75 participants.
The Yin Tang point is in the center of the eyebrows, just above the nose. Applying pressure to this point may help relieve insomnia and other issues, including:
While this point is a common element of acupuncture and acupressure, little research has delved into its effectiveness.
Acupressure practitioners work with a concept called Qi, pronounced "chi." It refers to vital energy that circulates throughout the body in pathways called meridians.
Acupressure practitioners believe that blockages in these meridians can cause imbalances in the flow of Qi, leading to chronic illness, pain, sleeplessness, and other symptoms.
Pressure on certain meridian points, they believe, restores the balance of Qi. Each pressure point has an assigned number and organ.
Acupressure and acupuncture rely on similar principles. Acupuncture uses needles to stimulate acupressure points, while acupressure relies on massage and firm touch.
Beyond the studies above, other research suggests that acupressure may help ease difficulties sleeping.
A 2017 study involving 112 participants with insomnia compared sleeping medication to acupuncture. While acupuncture uses needles, it relies on the same general principles as acupressure.
Both interventions led to significant improvements in sleep after 1 month, but analysis revealed that acupuncture had been more effective.
Still, investigations into the efficacy of acupressure are usually small, and researchers cannot say with certainty whether the practice is more beneficial than other relaxation techniques.
It is crucial to speak with a doctor about chronic sleeplessness — too little sleep can have a significant impact on overall health.
Studies suggest that 10–30% of people experience insomnia, though in some areas more than 50% of people report symptoms.
A lack of sleep can affect a person's long-term health and well-being. Sleep medications work for some people, but they can cause adverse effects.
Acupressure is a low-risk alternative that is safe for most people to try.
Anyone planning to add acupressure to their routine would likely benefit from consulting a knowledgeable doctor, an acupuncturist, or a massage therapist with acupressure experience.