Aims: To systematically summarize and quantify the effects of foot reflexology on improvements in sleep disturbances. Design: Systematic review and meta-analysis. Data sources: Datasets including PubMed, Web of Science, Scopus, EMBASE, Cochrane Library, Google Scholar, CINAHL and two Chinese electronic databases (i.e., AiritiLibrary and China National Knowledge Infrastructure) were used to search from their inception to 31 January 2019. Review methods: Studies which were randomized controlled trials that reported changes in sleep disturbances after the intervention among adults over 18 years old and written in the English or Chinese language were included. Two reviewers’ independently assessed the eligibility, extracted data, and conducted a quality assessment. Based on the extracted data, two separate meta-analyses were performed. Results: Forty-two articles with a total sample of 3,928 participants were included in the systematic review and were eligible for the meta-analysis. The most commonly employed outcome measurement tool was the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, followed by the therapeutic effect between the intervention and control groups (as evaluated by participants with sleep problems compared with those without sleep problems in each group after the intervention). Results revealed that foot reflexology resulted in a greater reduction in the sleep quality score compared with the controls (Hedges’ g = −1.37; 95% confidence interval (CI) = −1.81~-0.94). As for the therapeutic effect, participants in the intervention group were less likely to have sleep problems than those in the control group (pooled odds ratio = 0.25; 95% CI = 0.19 ~ 0.31). Conclusion: The findings suggested that foot reflexology produced significant improvements in sleep disturbances. Impact: Foot reflexology is a non-invasive and convenient intervention and regularly receiving foot reflexology can be considered complementary therapy to improve the sleep quality of adults with sleep disturbances. Furthermore, healthcare providers can actively press the solar plexus and heart zones to alleviate sleep disturbances when performing foot reflexology.
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