Sweet dreams?

head under the covers

Research about reflexology is still in its infancy and for those who rely on scientific proof of what works, that may be a reason not to try it. There are many factors why there is limited evidence, including lack of investment, but I am glad to say that this is gradually changing. I am grateful to my professional organisation, the Association of Reflexologists, for the efforts they are making, not only to improve the data by encouraging more reflexologists to participate in research but also because they helpfully gather and share new research with the membership as it is published. This is incredibly useful for practising therapists as we are able to cite these studies when talking with clients or potential new clients about how reflexology can help them.

‘I slept so well’ is often the feedback from clients at follow up treatments so it is not surprising to me is to see the growing body of knowledge that demonstrates the positive impact of reflexology and foot work on sleep.

Now, I generally sleep well but on occasion I will have a difficult night with wakefulness and a buzzing mind and the next day I will suffer as a result. One night of sleeplessness is bad enough but when it becomes a regular occurrence it is problematic. The UK’s Health Security Agency[1] says that not getting enough sleep impacts our ability to function and makes us more vulnerable to infection and raises the risk of accident and injury. Good sleep hygiene, which essentially means taking care what you do each day to enhancing sleep such as exercise, healthy eating and reducing exposure to devices close to bedtime, is key. As is doing things that help reduce stress and help you relax.

So, how can reflexology help and where is the proof?

There are two studies which I think are really interesting. One published in Burns[2], December 2020, tested the effect of foot reflexology on patients hospitalised in intensive care units for burns.  In addition to reducing pain anxiety levels related to changing dressings, foot reflexology was found to improve sleep quality and quantity for those patients and the authors recommended it as an appropriate therapeutic method for burn ICUs . Also published in 2020 were the results of a randomised control trial[3] which aimed to assess the impact of foot massage on postmenopausal women on anxiety, fatigue and sleep. The study found statistically significant differences between those women who had foot massage and those who did not. It was found that foot massage during menopause increases average daily sleep duration and reduces women’s fatigue and anxiety levels. Now while this latter study was on foot massage, I still think it is relevant given that reflexology treatments are a more precise form of therapeutic massage.

So, in addition to the anecdotal evidence clients of mine share, I think the research is quite clear, that if you are having trouble sleeping, reflexology might be worth a try.

[1] https://ukhsa.blog.gov.uk/2018/01/30/is-lack-of-sleep-affecting-your-work/


[2] https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0305417920303466?via%3Dihub


[3] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36126237/