Tuesday 22nd June, 2021

What massage helps you sleep

Many clinical trials show a variety of remedial massages help sleeping

Clinical trials have shown that a variety of regular short duration remedial type massages improve the quality of sleep. These ranged from daily to two or three times per week. Various pressure point, reflex points and acupressure points are said to help sleeping. Only one of the trials used such points, indicating that they may be useful, but certainly not necessary.

The major issue is that for most people such regular massages would be expensive and inconvenient. This problem can be overcome and sleep quality improved with the use of effective self massage. In this article we also discuss your self massage alternatives.


The massages that help sleep (insomnia)
Your self massage alternatives

The massages that help sleep (insomnia)

Type and body part massaged

As the table of clinical trial results below show a variety of different massages worked. One used pressure point type therapy, but the bulk used conventional remedial type massages. Of these, they ranged from slow stroking back massage through to deeper harsher sports massage. Most of the massages were mainly directed to the back and shoulder region, but in two trials the feet and hands were massaged. This indicates that it is probably not critical where you massage.

Deep tissue massage
Massages did not need to be gentle or relaxing, or use any special points

Number and frequency of massages

We note that all the trials used regular shorter duration massages ranging from three times a day through to weekly.

Special points for sleeping/insomnia

While we see many articles and videos on special pressure spots and so forth to help sleeping only one of the clinical trials used any form of pressure point therapy. Instead the rest used normal remedial type massages. This is not to say those special spots don't work, just that the scientists largely managed to improve sleeping quiet well without them.

Table of clinical trials of massage to help sleeping

NOTE: You may need to scroll the table below left/right for more information

Trial (linked)


type of massage




Congestive heart failure

remedial back massage

3 times a day for the duration of hospital stay

improved sleep quality



Remedial massage

compared 10 min. and 20 min. massages

both improves sleep, but no extra benefit for 20 minutes


Cardiac patients

Forearm/hand and foot.calf massage + or - aromatherapy

20 minute

improved sleep, no extra benefit from the aromatherapy


Coronary bipass patients

Remedial shoulder and back massage

each evening for three evenings

improved patient's recovery, reduced fatigue, and improved sleep


ICU patients

slow back massage

three daily 10-12 minute massages

induced sleep and improved sleep quality


carers for cancer patients

remedial back massage

seven daily 15 minute sessions

reduced blood pressure and improved sleep quality


females with hypertension

back and foot massage

6 twice weekly 30 minute sessions

reduced blood pressure and improved sleep quality


dialysis patients

point massage on lower limbs

daily for 4 weeks

improved sleep


renal disease patients

sports massage

ten 25 minute sessions

improved sleep


Breast cancer patients

Swedish massage

30 minutes weekly for 3 weeks

improved sleep quality


ICU patients

back massage

daily for three days

improved sleep quality


postpartum women

remedial back massage

20 minutes a day for four days

improved sleep quality

Your self massage alternatives

Type of massage

With massage frequencies ranging from three times a day to weekly having a professional massage therapist provide this on a long term basis would likely be prohibitively expensive and inconvenient, so what self massage options are available? We know that the successful massages were all remedial type massages with the following in common.

  • The loosened tight muscles
  • the stimulated blood
  • the worked on tight spots in muscles

Frequency of massages

As self massage is practically unlimited a home user could copy any of the frequencies used in the trial. Perhaps daily or three times a week would be a good place to start.


We recommend you consult a health care professional to make sure any self massage is appropriate and safe.

Self massage with hands
Self massage using hands

Massage using your hands

As discussed in our article on the benefits of self massage, using your own hands is effective. Keeping in mind that you can only reach certain parts of your body and the massage strokes need to be towards your heart (one way valves in blood vessels) the muscles that can be massaged this way are limited. It is presumed that the best effects would be obtained from massaging the larger muscles, so the use of hand massage to help sleep would be limited.

Massage cushion
Massage cushion

Chair and cushion massagers

These are able to massage larger areas of muscle plus are easy and convenient to use so would they would probably be very useful.

Self massage
Self massage with a vibration massager

Vibration massagers (RECOMMENDED)

As we discuss in our article The scientifically proven effects of vibration massage- with clinical applications vibrations delivered by an effective massager penetrate better than manual massage and have excellent benefits. Further, it's application does not require and special massage skill. Therefore, if you follow the correct simple procedure and use an effective machine it should provide excellent benefits.
To find out more about this therapy please see:
How to choose an effective massager
How to use a vibration massager
Our highly effective vibration massager


DrGraeme massagers were originally built by Dr Graeme for use in his clinic, and to prescribe to his patients for additional self use at home. Now these are used by colleagues and other professionals for similar purposes. If you are a professional and wish to know more about this therapy, or possibly get a sample massager to trial please check out our practitioner page.


  1. Sable A, Sivabalan T, Shetti AN. Effectiveness of back massage on sleep pattern among patients with congestive cardiac failure. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2017;22(5):359–62.
  2. H Khoshno, F Mohammadi, A Dalvandi MA. The Effect of Effleurage Massage Duration on Sleep Quality Improvement. Iran J Rehabil Res. 2106;2(4):10–8.
  3. Cheraghbeigi N, Modarresi M, Rezaei M, Khatony A. Comparing the effects of massage and aromatherapy massage with lavender oil on sleep quality of cardiac patients: A randomized controlled trial. Complement Ther Clin Pract 2019;35(March):253–8.
  4. Nerbass FB, Feltrim MIZ, de Souza SA, Ykeda DS, Lorenzi-Filho G. Effects of massage therapy on sleep quality after coronary artery bypass graft surgery. Clinics. 2010;65(11):1105–10.
  5. shinde mahadeo, anjum shabana. Effectiveness of Slow Back Massage on Quality of\nSleep among ICU Patent’s . Int J Sci Res. 2014;
  6. Pinar R, Afsar F. Back massage to decrease state anxiety, cortisol level, blood prsessure, heart rate and increase sleep quality in family caregivers of patients with cancer: A randomised controlled trial. Asian Pacific J Cancer Prev. 2016;
  7. Arslan G, Ceyhan Ö, Mollaoğlu M. The influence of foot and back massage on blood pressure and sleep quality in females with essential hypertension: a randomized controlled study. J Hum Hypertens. 2020;
  8. Malekshahi F, Aryamanesh F, Fallahi S. The effects of massage therapy on sleep quality of patients with end-stage renal disease undergoing hemodialysis. Sleep Hypn. 2018;20(2):91–5.
  9. Dai XJ, Xing XY, Shi Y, Jiang WX, Zhou ME. Lower extremity point massage for improving quality of sleep in patients with end-stage renal disease: a clinical study of 42 cases . Vol. 48, Journal of traditional chinese medicine / chung i tsa chih ying wen pan. 2007. p. 44‐46.
  10. Sturgeon M, Wetta-Hall R, Hart T, Good M, Dakhil S. Effects of therapeutic massage on the quality of life among patients with breast cancer during treatment. J Altern Complement Med. 2009;15(4):373–80.
  11. Hsu, Wen‐Chi, Su‐Er Guo and CC. Back massage intervention for improving health and sleep quality among intensive care unit patients. Nurs Crit Care. 2019;24(5):313–9.
  12. Ko YL. Randomised controlled trial of the effectiveness of using back massage to improve sleep quality among Taiwanese insomnia postp…. Midwifery. 2014;30(1):60–4.

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Dr Graeme

About Dr Graeme

Several years ago Dr Graeme, a Chiropractor practicing in Victoria, Australia was looking for a serious hand held massager his patients could use at home to get the extra quality massage they needed. The ones he found in the shops and on-line for home use looked nice but were not serious, and... read more

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