Reflexology and polysomnography: Changes in cerebral wave activity induced by reflexology promote N1 and N2 sleep stages

Complement Ther Clin Pract. 2017 Aug:28:54-64. doi: 10.1016/j.ctcp.2017.05.003. Epub 2017 May 12.


Background: Several studies have shown the effectiveness of reflexology in different health problems as well as obtaining a high degree of relaxation during its application. A previous study suggested a possible relation between the relaxation obtained during the reflexology session and the sleep. However, the design of the study did not provide evidence for this hypothesis. In this study, we use a polysomnogram to investigate the effects during its application.

Method: Prospective experimental study conducted in a sleep laboratory. Twelve healthy adults were enrolled. Two groups were created based on whether or not they had knowledge of reflexology. Reflexology was applied for 35 min and their sleep effects were measured by means of polysomnography. A descriptive and bivariate analysis was performed. A bivariate analysis conducted through chi-square test or ANOVA was considered appropriate.

Results: After controlling for baseline data, nine of the participants did move toward N1 (p = 0.833) and N2 (p = 0.227) stages, remaining in these states between 4 min and 25.5 min. No significant differences were found between the two groups.

Conclusions: The application of reflexology induces changes in the activity of brain waves in correspondence with the appearance of a high degree of sleepiness and sleep (N1 and N2 NREM sleep). There is a gradual transition and an orderly progression from wakefulness to sleep, which could explain the effects of relaxation and well being obtained with this method, as well as many other benefits.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain Waves*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Massage / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Polysomnography / methods
  • Prospective Studies
  • Relaxation / physiology*
  • Sleep Stages / physiology*