Research Highlight: Acupressure Improves Insomnia

A simple acupressure intervention, pressure applied to a point on each wrist, improved sleep for residents with insomnia in a long-term care facility during a five-week study.

The study involved 50 residents of two facilities in Taiwan who were randomly assigned to a control group or an acupressure group. Four assistants were trained to provide acupressure. Those in the control group received light touch with no pressure on both wrists. Those in the acupressure for insomnia group received pressure at the HT7 point, also known as the Shenmen point, for five seconds, then a second of rest, for five minutes.

Participants in the acupressure group reported no insomnia symptoms from week three to week six. They only received acupressure through week five. Even at week seven, their insomnia scores remained lower than their baseline levels.

Acupressure is part of traditional Chinese medicine and is gaining broader popularity as a therapy with well-supported benefits. The mechanism may involve bioelectrical energy, and Western science has shown that specific acupoints have a higher electrical conductivity that surrounding areas.

Insomnia is one condition that responds well to acupressure. In the Taiwan study, before receiving therapy, participants rated eight measures – including difficulty falling asleep, awakenings during the night and sleepiness during the day – to establish their baselines. They rated the same measures weekly for seven weeks.

Benefits lasted two weeks after acupressure therapy ended, and participants’ insomnia gradually returned to what it had been before the study. Still, the study has significant implications. Caregivers and clients themselves can be taught to deliver wrist acupuncture, a non-invasive intervention that can improve both the depth and quality of sleep.

We use acupressure in combination with massage techniques. Applying pressure to specific locations on the body helps stimulate the body’s own natural healing processes. The action of Acupressure at HT 7 (Shen Men), also known as “spirit gate,” will tonify deficiencies of the heart, qi, yin, yang, and blood,. These are related to emotional issues such as ruminating and muddled thinking as well as physical responses to stimuli, anxiety, heart palpitations, and irregular heartbeat.

The Taiwan acupressure study was originally published in the International Journal of Nursing Studies, 2010, Vol. 47, pages 798-805.