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Final Report Summary

Recipient: The Governors of the University of Alberta
Project: Give a Hand to Sleep: Hand Self-Shiatsu to Promote Sleep in Veterans and their Family Members
Province: Alberta
Period: Fiscal year 2018-2019
Funding: $85,480


The University of Alberta discovers, disseminates, and applies new knowledge through teaching and learning, research and creative activity, community involvement, and partnerships. The Give a Hand to Sleep (GAHTS) project tested Hand Self-Shiatsu (HSS) — a pragmatic, no-cost, Non-Pharmacological Sleep Intervention (NPSI), on whether it can improve sleep onset and maintenance for Veterans and family members with sleep difficulty due to chronic pain. HSS involves comfortable pressure on established points on the body related to anatomy and physiology. Shiatsu may exert a sleep-positive biomedical influence related to improved blood circulation, reduced muscle tension, and possible endogenous release of serotonin.

Project Goals:

The project’s goals were:

  • To test the hypothesis that participants in the Hand Self-Shiatsu (HSS) group will demonstrate reduced sleep latency time and increased sleep efficiency and maintenance compared to the non-HSS group.
  • To evaluate the potential relationship between attitudes towards Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) interventions (i.e., sleeping pills) and adherence to the HSS protocol.

Project Activities:

The project worked toward achieving these goals through the following activities:

  • A non-randomized control trial was arranged with participants assigned to either the HSS group or the control group. Participants were offered the HSS intervention at the end of the 8 week data-collection period.
  • HSS intervention: Baseline data was collected (self-report sleep questionnaire data and 7 days of baseline sleep actigraphy). Each participant in the HSS group was then trained in a 1-on-1 HSS training session.
  • Assessment tools: Objective electronic measurement of sleep/activity patterns, ambient light exposure sleep efficiency and subjective questionnaires and scales were given to collect data surrounding participants’ sleep throughout the study.
  • Qualitative outcome: An interview regarding perceptions of desirability, practicality, and effectiveness of HSS to promote sleep was conducted at the end of the study. Data analysis was then completed on the collected data.

Project Results:

Sleep and daytime fatigue of 50 participants (30 who were taught HSS and 20 who were not) were compared across a two-month period. Although there was no statistically significant change in objectively measured actigraphy measures of sleep, results from the intervention group’s subjective self-report measures demonstrated statistically significant improvement in sleep disturbance. The findings regarding perceived ease of learning, sense of control, and acceptability of the intervention are important, given their relationship to sleep insufficiency and the shortage of non-pharmacological sleep interventions. It appears that perceptions of restorative sleep, although not well studied, can be related to daytime functioning, depression, and other quality-of-life factors, all of which are important considerations in older adults’ ability to age well. There is a significant gap in understanding of the role that subjective feelings of restorative sleep play in overall well-being, and this is an important area for future research.

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