Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System have found that acupressure may reduce sleepiness and help keep students awake during class.

“Using Acupressure to Modify Alertness in the Classroom: A Single-Blinded, Randomized, Cross-Over Trial” examined the effects of acupressure treatments on alertness in a full-day classroom setting.

Thirty-nine students attending a course in clinical research design and statistical analysis at the University of Michigan participated in the study. All subjects were taught to self-administer acupressure to stimulation points and relaxation points on their legs, feet, hands and heads. They applied light finger-tapping or used thumbs or forefingers lightly to massage the points.

The subjects were divided randomly into two groups. One group of students self-administered acupressure to the stimulation points on the first day and to the relaxation points on days two and three. The other group worked the relaxation points on the first day, then the stimulation points on days two and three. The treatment was administered mid-day during the lunch period.

The subjects rated their levels of sleepiness in the morning, before class began, and in the late afternoon, at the end of class. Pre- and post-treatment alertness scores were assessed each day using the Stanford Sleepiness Scale (SSS). Stimulation acupressure treatment yielded a 0.56-point greater difference in score on the SSS, corresponding to less fatigue, compared to the relaxation acupressure treatment (p = 0.019).

“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,” said Richard E. Harris. He added that further research is necessary to confirm these findings and to determine whether stimulation and relaxation acupressure are equally effective in influencing alertness.

Source: Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Rheumatology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Mich., Course on Clinical Research Design and Statistical Analysis, University of Michigan, School of Public Health. Ann Arbor, Mich. Authors: Richard E. Harris, Ph.D.; Joanne Jeter, M.D.; Paul Chan, M.D.; Peter Higgins, M.D. Ph.D.; Feng-Ming Kong, M.D.; Reza Fazel, M.D.; Candace Bramson, M.D.; Brenda Gillespie, Ph.D. Originally published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Aug 2005, Vol. 11, No. 4: 673–679.