Finding Natural Relief from Insomnia

If you're suffering from insomnia and conventional medical approaches don't appeal to you, don't despair. Many natural alternatives provide safe, long-term relief. One such approach is acupressure. This powerful technique can provide immediate relief, yet it costs nothing and takes only a few minutes.

Sound too good to be true? Let me assure you, it isn't. A growing body of clinical evidence confirms that acupressure is effective in treating sleep disturbances. A study published in Neurophysiologie Clinique reported that stimulus of a specific acupressure point on the wrist resulted in decreased wakefulness and increased total sleep time. Another study, published in the Journal of Chinese Medicine, reported that thirteen night-crying infants all ceased night crying after only three treatment sessions.

Why Acupressure Works

Acupressure is based on the traditional Oriental belief that the body contains a life energy (the Chinese call it chi). This energy runs through the body in channels called meridians. When this energy isn't flowing properly, disease occurs; when normal energy flow is restored, the body is able to heal itself.

Acupressure is closely related to acupuncture. Both are used to restore the proper flow of chi. But unlike acupuncture—which requires needles and can only be done by a trained practitioner—acupressure uses the application of gentle finger pressure to specific points on the skin, and you can do it yourself.

The two acupressure points traditionally used to relieve insomnia are the Spirit Gate and the Inner Gate. Pressure on these points helps balance and calm the heart, alleviate anxiety, and promote sound sleep. Both are located on the inner wrist, so you can easily reach them yourself. The Inner Gate can be found in the middle of the inner side of the forearm, two and one-half finger widths from the wrist crease. The Spirit Gate is located on the inside of the wrist crease, in line with the little finger. (See diagram below.)

If you're having trouble falling asleep, wake frequently once you fall asleep, or wake up earlier than you want to, try using acupressure on one or both of these points. Take a few moments to read the instructions on applying acupressure in the Healthy Hint section below. Then apply pressure with your fingers to either the Spirit Gate or the Inner Gate. If you don't get sufficient relief from the first point, try applying pressure to the other. You'll soon learn whether you get the most benefit from pressing both points or only one.

Here's to your health!

Susan M. Lark, MD


Healthy Hint...
How to Get the Most From Acupressure

  • Have your room warm and quiet. Be sure your hands are clean and your nails are trimmed, to avoid bruising. If your hands are cold, put them under warm running water for a few moments to take the chill off.
  • Locate the correct acupressure point using a picture or written description.
  • Assume the recommended position (if there is one; otherwise, just assume a posture that is comfortable).
  • Place several fingers over the area of the point. Hold the point with a steady pressure for one to three minutes. If you feel resistance or tension in that area, you may want to push a bit harder. Your hand should feel comfortable; if it starts to feel tense or tired, lighten the pressure a bit.
  • Breathe gently as you apply pressure.
  • If the acupressure point feels a bit tender, that means the energy pathway (meridian) is blocked. The tenderness should slowly go away as you continue to apply pressure.
  • You may sense that energy is radiating from the acupressure point into your body. Many patients describe this sensation as very pleasant. Don't worry if you don't feel it—not everyone does.

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