Self-administered acupressure for insomnia disorder: a pilot randomized controlled trial

J Sleep Res. 2018 Apr;27(2):220-231. doi: 10.1111/jsr.12597. Epub 2017 Sep 8.


Self-administered acupressure has potential as a low-cost alternative treatment for insomnia. To evaluate the short-term effects of self-administered acupressure for alleviating insomnia, a pilot randomized controlled trial was conducted. Thirty-one subjects (mean age: 53.2 years; 77.4% female) with insomnia disorder were recruited from a community. The participants were randomized to receive two lessons on either self-administered acupressure or sleep hygiene education. The subjects in the self-administered acupressure group (n = 15) were taught to practise self-administered acupressure daily for 4 weeks. The subjects in the comparison group (n = 16) were advised to follow sleep hygiene education. The primary outcome was the Insomnia Severity Index (ISI). Other measures included a sleep diary, Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and Short-form Six-Dimension. The subjects in the self-administered acupressure group had a significantly lower ISI score than the subjects in the sleep hygiene education group at week 8 (effect size = 0.56, P = 0.03). However, this observed group difference did not reach a statistically significant level after Bonferroni correction. With regard to the secondary outcomes, moderate between-group effect sizes were observed in sleep onset latency and wake after sleep onset based on the sleep diary, although the differences were not significant. The adherence to self-administered acupressure practice was satisfactory, with 92.3% of the subjects who completed the lessons still practising acupressure at week 8. In conclusion, self-administered acupressure taught in a short training course may be a feasible approach to improve insomnia. Further fully powered confirmatory trials are warranted.

Keywords: Acupuncture; RCT; self-acupressure; self-help; sleep; traditional Chinese medicine.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acupressure / methods*
  • Acupressure / psychology
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Self Care / methods*
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Hygiene / physiology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / psychology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / therapy*
  • Sleep Latency / physiology*
  • Treatment Outcome