What Is 'Acupressure' and How Can It Aid Sleep?Acupressure is similar to acupuncture – without the needles. Part of traditional Chinese medicine it is increasingly popular in the west. This traditional form of healing aims to treat the person rather than just the revealed symptoms. This may be particularly useful in treating sleep problems as it is often other factors such as lifestyle, diet and anxiety that are causing loss of sleep.


Acupressure is known as Shiatsu in Japan and also involves using finger and thumb pressure on parts of the body. The aim is to assert pressure and stimulate the flow of Qi energy to parts of the body restoring harmony and health.


This complementary therapy is widely available, and uses pressure techniques of the thumbs and fingers on the reflex areas found in the hands and feet. It is based on the principle that the energy channels in the body correspond with reflexes in the feet and hands. By applying pressure to points connecting these channels to the organs and parts of the body blockages can be removed and health restored.


Qi energy flows along the 14 meridians in the body. The acupoints are stimulated by gentle pressure in the areas that will help restore harmony to the body.

Ancient Wisdom in a Sleepless World

In Chinese medicine the causes of illness and disease are seen to be affected by external, pathogenic factors which include the environment (wind, cold, heat, damp, season, fire, dryness) and internal factors (anger, sadness, worry, grief, fear, fright, joy). Factors such as diet, exercise, trauma and a ‘weak constitution’ are also considered in diagnosis.

This is similar to the way that sleep experts are now looking at helping people with sleep problems. Specialists are advising changes in diet and lifestyle to help improve sleep quality.


Practitioners will take note of a number of symptoms and signs and will look at the patient in different ways. They may inspect the tongue, skin, hair and even the way you move. They will take the pulse at different points and will be interested in other factors that may be affecting your health and your ability to sleep.


Treatment may include a course of acupressure treatments which may show improvement immediately, or take longer. They may also advise the use of herbal medicines and a movement therapy such as T’ai Chi which is believed to improve the flow of Qi and help improve health and relaxation.

Preparing for Sleep

Acupressure is a pleasant, non invasive therapy. Many people find the experience so relaxing that this aspect alone helps them improve their ability to relax and fall asleep!

Although there is little research on the use of acupressure to improve sleep, there is impressive evidence that acupuncture is effective in the treatment of pain. Acupuncture stimulates the release of encephalin the pain relieving chemicals produced in the brain and is affective in treating a number of conditions.

It is advisable to avoid hot baths or showers, exercise, or a heavy meal before treatment. You are advised to seek the advice of your GP if you are considering acupuncture or are pregnant or on medication.

Acupressure is one of a number of ways of learning how to relate to your body and mind. This will help you relax and find inner calm which will help you improve your ability to sleep.