A calmer, relaxing bedtime routine that helps you fall asleep faster may be within your reach when you learn how to apply pressure to specific parts of your body.
Touch therapy and massage expert Michelle Ebbin, author of The Touch Remedy: Hands-On Solutions To De-Stress Your Life, says self-healing through touch can reduce stress and create energy in the body that allows you to relax.
Take acupressure, for example. Acupressure focuses on the energy and the meridians that are running through your body. Acupressure is based on the concept that our body has life energy, called “chi” or “qi,” which flows through 14 invisible lines, called “meridians,” that connect our organs to other parts of our body, says Ebbin. Applying pressure to specific points along these meridian lines can enhance the flow of energy, improve blood flow, release tension, promote deep relaxation, and help many acute and chronic problems.
“By pressing at certain specific points along these meridians, it clears up congested energy, helps energy flow and allows your body to hack into the power to heal itself,” says Ebbin. “These are the areas where an acupuncturist would insert a needle to clear that space and that energy pathway, but you can heal yourself and improve sleep tonight by pressing on the areas described below.”
Ebbin suggests doing a few stretches in bed. Sit up with your legs stretched out in front of you and lean forward, stretching your arms toward your feet. Hold this stretch for at least 10 seconds while taking slow, deep breaths. Next, with legs still outstretched, place your left hand to the outside of your right thigh and turn your upper body to the right. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat on the other side. This gives a nice stretch to your lower back.
Then, heat up your hands by rubbing them together so you’re healing with a warm touch. After that, she suggests the following reflex and acupressure exercises, focusing on a series of specific points on your body while taking deep breaths.
“Start with the feet and move up to the head, while breathing normally or taking deep, slow breaths,” she says. Apply pressure to each of these points for about 10 to 20 seconds. Then, make circles in one direction for 10 seconds and then the other way for 10 seconds.
If you only have time to do one pressure point, Ebbin recommends the “peaceful sleep” acupressure point behind the ears.
Key Acupressure Points
Brain reflex point (toes): This reflexology point is located on the big toe of both feet, in the fleshy part behind the toenail. Pinch both big toes with your index fingers on the pads of the toes and your thumbs on the nails. Release and repeat. Make small circles with your thumb on the flesh of the toe, where your index finger was.
Solar reflex point (center of feet): With your thumbs, press firmly in the center of the sole of your foot. You may feel a hard or crunchy area — that’s the spot. Make small circles in one direction and then the other. Repeat on the other foot.
Joyful Sleep (inner ankle): This is located on the inside of the ankle where there is a slight indentation just below the anklebone. Follow the pressure and circle steps mentioned above.
Calm Sleep (outer ankle): This is located on the outside of the ankle just below your anklebone. Follow the pressure and circle steps mentioned above.
Inner Gate point (wrists): On your left forearm, approximately three finger-widths above your wrist crease, place your right thumb between the two tendons. Apply moderate pressure with your right thumb, holding for 5 minutes and breathing deeply. Repeat on the other arm.
Peaceful Sleep point (behind ears): Place your middle fingers behind your ears at the base of the skull, slightly above jaw level. You’ll feel a slight depression, and the spot will feel a bit tender. Press here firmly for 20 seconds, release, and repeat several times.
Follow the pressure and circle steps mentioned above. If you wake up in the middle of the night and struggle to fall back asleep, these touch therapy techniques can help then too, says Ebbin.