Self-Acupressure Keeps Sleepy Students Alert

Stimulation Points May Help Students Stay Awake in Class

From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 16, 2005 -- Applying pressure of a nonacademic sort may help keep students awake during sleep-inducing lectures.

A new study shows that applying pressure to acupressure stimulation points during class can increase alertness in people who have to sit in a classroom all day, such as college and medical students.

Researchers found students attending all-day lecture classes who practiced a regimen of self-acupressure that focused on stimulation points were less sleepy than those who applied the same technique on acupressure relaxation points on their legs, hands, feet, and heads.

"Our finding suggests that acupressure can change alertness in people who are in classroom settings for a full day -- which could be very good news for students who have trouble staying alert at school," researcher Richard E. Harris, PhD, of the University of Michigan Health System's Chronic Pain and Fatigue Research Center, says in a news release.

Tapping and Massaging

In the study, which appears in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers compared the effects of applying pressure to points on the body considered to trigger relaxation or stimulation according to acupressure techniques.

The 39 students were participating in three days of all-day lecture classes.

Acupressure stimulation points were:

  • The top of the head
  • The top of the back of the neck on both sides
  • On the back of the hands in between the thumb and forefinger
  • Just below both knees
  • On the bottom of the feet -- at the center just below the balls of the feet

Acupressure relaxation points were:

  • Between the eyebrows
  • Just behind the earlobes
  • On the front of the wrists
  • On the lower legs above the ankles and toward the midline
  • On the top of the feet in between the large and second toes

The routines consisted of applying pressure to these points with light tapping of the fingers and massaging with the thumbs or forefingers.

Half of the students applied the stimulation acupressure regimen at lunchtime during the first day of class followed by two days on the relaxation regimen, and the other half followed the reverse schedule.

More Alert

The results showed that students reported significantly less sleepiness and fatigue on the days they used the acupressure stimulation regimen.

"The idea that acupressure can have effects on human alertness needs more study, including research that can examine the scope of influence acupressure can have on alertness and fatigue," notes Harris.

"Ideally, research in the future will help us determine whether acupressure also can have an impact on performance in the classroom as well."

Show Sources

SOURCES: Harris, R. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, August 2005; vol 11: pp 673-679. News release, University of Michigan Health System.
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