Acupressure mats: the celebrity secret to great sleep

Disclaimer: this is not some quirky Goop merchandise.

Female feet standing on acupressure mat - stock photo
(Image credit: Sasha_Suzi/Getty Images)

Acupressure mats, also known by the non-cutesy moniker of 'bed of nails', may sound like some weird form of Goop sadomasochism. But they are, in fact, an ancient remedy for sleepless nights, poor circulation and muscle pain. And they're proving a hit with A-listers too, as Jennifer Lopez, Elle McPherson and even Britney Spears are all reportedly huge fans.

What exactly are acupressure mats?

Acupressure mats are essentially foam mats with hundreds of plastic spikes embedded in them (in the case of the original Bed of Nails, that's 8,820 plastic points BTW).  Imagine row upon row of upturned beer caps on a sun lounger and you get the idea.

Much like acupressure treatments, the plastic spikes push down on different pressure points on the back when you lie on the mat for the recommended 20 minutes. The idea, according to Chinese medicine, is that this strategic pressure can clear blockages in the body and release Qi (aka energy) to relieve any aches and pains. 

What are the benefits?

I tried the Bed of Nails after a few months of fitful sleep. The spikes should ideally come in contact with bare skin (park your best workout clothes for this one) so at night, I pop in my AirPods and lie back on the bed in just my bra with a blanket over me to spare my blushes. The first time I used the mat I felt so relaxed afterwards it was like I'd spent the weekend swaddled in white towels listening to whales at a top notch spa. 

Since then an acupressure mat has become the route to a healthy, sustainable feeling of calm at bedtime.

Acupressure mats are also said to improve circulation, relieve stress and muscle aches. Research also indicates that using a mat can have a positive impact on your mental wellbeing. For instance, one study conducted in 2015 found that participants who used an acupressure mat three times a week for four weeks had lower instances of depression and anxiety. 

Basically, it's a cure-all for all the daily gripes of isolating during a pandemic.

Does a bed of nails hurt?

OK, I'm not going to lie. Yes it hurts, but in a good way. Like when you go for a run and you push through that initial burn knowing you're then reaping the calorie-burning benefits.  

If you're a beginner it's advisable to start off by lying on the mat while wearing a thin t-shirt, which makes the whole experience less intense. And, to be fair, once when you're down, the heat generated by the acupressure points actually starts to feel quite pleasant.

Or to be more scientific, the endorphins that have been summoned to fight the pain have now kicked in and are getting to work relaxing and energizing your body.

The best acupressure mats...