Pressure Points for Sleep: Can Acupressure Help Insomnia?
7 min read
Last Modified 23 August 2022 First Added 16 March 2021
“As a sleep expert, I am a big fan of acupressure to help aid restful sleep. The evidence base is not strong, however, anecdotally many people report benefits from using acupressure.”
Acupressure for sleep is an ancient Chinese non-medicinal treatment that centres around applying pressure to certain points in the body. It’s similar to acupuncture but without ever going past the surface of skin. Instead of using needles to reset pressure points, acupressure is all about massaging those same pressure points without intrusion. How your body responds to acupressure depends upon the pressure points you focus on. In this article, we’ll focus on how acupressure affects relaxation and which pressure points are best for sleep.
According to authoritative sources, there are over 350 pressure points in the body. Not all of these are related to sleep though. Here, we’ll identify the 7 best pressure points for sleep and help you locate them too. Expect information on the wind pool pressure points on the back of the neck to the inner frontier gate; a pressure point located near the wrist.
The wind pool pressure point is actually two pressure points on symmetrical sides of the neck. These points are typically where your hairline ends, just below where your neck meets the curve of your skull.
To help inspire sleep, apply pressure to these points simultaneously, using both hands. It’s a good idea to clasp your hands together and cup the back of your head, allowing your thumbs, pointing downwards, to massage each wind pool pressure point. Try a gentle, circular motion or apply consistent pressure for up to 3 minutes before you sleep.
Located on the inner wrist, not far from where you’d measure your pulse, this pressure point for sleep is really easy to incorporate into your bedtime routine. You’ll find it in the dip between the two tendons in your wrist. Gently apply a little pressure to your wrist with your thumb and you’ll notice two obvious tendons. The spot in between these two is the inner frontier gate.
As it doesn’t require any uncomfortable manoeuvring to reach, it’s one you can keep applying pressure to until you drift off into a dreamy slumber. Massage this pressure point with a circular motion for a few minutes before sleep. If you like, it may help to keep applying pressure without movement to help you slow down and drift off to sleep.
One of the easiest pressure points to locate, the An Mian spot is simply in the spot behind your ear. It’s usually directly between your earlobe and the hairline that comes up the back of your neck. Using either your thumb or forefinger, massage this spot before sleep and you’ll quickly start to feel your heart-rate slow, readying you to drift into slumber.
Also known as the Shen Men acupressure point, this is another really easy one to reach when trying to fall asleep. To locate it, follow the side of your palm down from your little finger until you meet the crease at your wrist. Press gently here with the thumb from your other hand and you’ll notice a space between tendons where you can apply pressure.
As with the other acupressure points, massage gently with circular motions or an up and down motion. You can even apply consistent pressure for a couple of minutes if this helps you slow down for sleep.
Practitioners of acupressure and acupuncture believe the Spirit Gate pressure point helps not only with insomnia, but anxiety, depression, and heart disease too.
One that’s unlikely to be accessible when you’re in your sleeping position unless you’re a side sleeper who opts for an extreme version of the foetal position. That said, you can incorporate this acupressure into a pre-sleep bedtime routine or ask a partner to help when you’re really struggling to sleep. This acupressure point is also known as the Three Yin Intersection.
To find it, locate the very top of your ankle. Apply gentle pressure to the highest point of your ankle and then find the curved, ball-like bone. From here, you’ll want to measure four finger widths up your leg. Here, by applying gentle pressure, you’ll note a small dip in between two tendons. Note that this dip is usually much tighter and a little more difficult to find than those in your wrist and lower arm.
Oh and by the way, don’t apply pressure to this spot if you’re pregnant. It’s believed to help induce labour as well as helping induce sleep. Just probably not both at the same time.
Perhaps one of the most well-known acupressure points, the Yin Tang is the spot directly between the eyes. Use your finger or thumb and apply light pressure between your eyes and eyebrows. You should feel a small recess where pressure feels comforting.
For those who suffer from migraines or sinus pains, this is a great acupressure point to focus on. Not only does it help inspire sleep, but enough massage and focus on this area can help lighten tension right across your forehead, jawline, neck and shoulders.
This pressure point for sleep is in the foot, near the heel. Follow your heel up from the sole of your foot and come inwards towards the ball of your ankle. Just before you reach the ball of your ankle, on the inner side, you’ll notice a small dip between tendons. This is the Taixi spot and by applying slight but consistent pressure you may find yourself becoming more relaxed and ready for sleep.
There’s simply not enough scientific study to state that massaging or working pressure points really work. Most evidence is based on research from traditional medicine or through a personal anecdote. However, this review of what studies do exist, suggests that acupressure does work, at least when in relation to pain relief:
“Acupressure has been shown to be effective for relieving a variety of pains in different populations. The review begins to establish a credible evidence base for the use of acupressure in pain relief. The implication for health care providers would be incorporating acupressure into their practice as an alternative therapy to facilitate patients who suffer from pain.”
In a more specific study, on menopausal women struggling with sleep disorders, more evidence was found to back up the claim that acupressure helps sleep:
“One of the common problems in menopausal women is sleep disorder. Traditional Chinese acupressure is a noninvasive and safe technique. Menopausal women can easily learn the technique and a self-care method to manage their sleep disorder. This study was carried out to evaluate the effectiveness of acupressure on sleep quality of postmenopausal women in Mashhad during 2009. It is concluded that the acupressure alone can improve sleep quality at a rate of 22% in menopausal women by massage on the effective points. Researchers suggest that acupressure may have an important role in managing sleep disturbances and improve sleep quality in women with menopause. It can be used as a self-care method based on complementary treatment for such sleep disorders.”
The problem here is simply that not enough research has been undertaken. And that research that has been completed tends to focus on a very specific subset of people, rather than the general population. However, with such a long history at the forefront of traditional medicine and some positive signs from recent studies, there’s every reason to try acupressure for sleep. Especially considering it’s a non-invasive, non-chemical treatment and, therefore, completely safe.