Can a Shakti Mat Help with Sleep, Anxiety, and Backache?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

It looks like a bed of nails, but it provides the benefits of acupressure

Text: Lynda Williams & Rebecca Morais

The Shakti Mat is thin, foamy, and large enough to support your back.

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When it comes to the never-ending quest of achieving a good night’s sleep especially getting rest during this stressful pandemic, we at ishonest will try (pretty much) anything. From sleep apps to eye masks, aromatherapy to snooze-inducing foods, if it can furnish us with a full eight hours of shut-eye then we’re in, which is why I’ve spent the last few weeks supine on a Shakti Mat seeking help for sleep, anxiety and backache.

It’s a curious style of sleep aid, perhaps not different in appearance to a bizarre medieval torture device. The Shakti Mat is thin, foamy, and large enough to support your back. On top of the foam, 230 hard plastic buttons support a total of 6,210 tiny plastic spikes which is why it can be described as ‘laying on a bed of nails’. And seeing as it’s also a go-to for sleep, anxiety, and back pain issues for many friends of mine, I was intrigued to see if it actually worked.

Nails don’t sound relaxing

What exactly is a Shakti Mat, and what does it do?

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The Shakti Mat represents the original acupressure mat. It’s a brand launched in 2007 but has gained more popularity in recent years as a wellness tool for health and wellbeing. The design is based on Indian beds of nails used as relaxation aids for 5,000 years. The premise is simple: you lay down on the mat on your back, and the thousands of sharp plastic spikes apply pressure to your skin and muscles. Ideally, you need to stay on the mat for a minimum of 20 minutes to reap the rewards, of which there are many. The benefits of using a Shakti Mat mirror some of the benefits of acupressure and can include the following:

· Improving sleep

· Reducing stress

· Muscle tension recovery

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· Increased energy

· Easing back and neck pain

· Soothing headaches

· Supporting circulation

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Nails don’t sound relaxing

At the start, they aren’t. It’s clear from looking at the Shakti Mat that it’s going to feel a bit ‘pointy,’ so you could be forgiven for feeling apprehensive during the first few attempts. I slowly lowered my bareback down on the mat, so the spikes covered the base of my back, right up to the nape of my neck. The second my skin touched the spikes, I immediately bolted upright (possibly accompanied by shouts of WTF), but I do have sensitive skin. The feeling reminded me a bit of being sunburnt or of stinging nettles. I tried again and got through the first 20 seconds with my entire back flat on the mat with the assistance of some deep breaths and meditation.

After the initial shock, the pain disperses quickly and your body starts to relax. You become resigned to the feeling, which is not entirely comfortable, but not horrendous either. After a couple of minutes, any feelings of pain appear to disperse, and a gentle heat spread across all of my back. Ten minutes in and I was in a state of total bliss and relaxation, unaware of any prickly bits as my body felt as if it was being pulled nearer towards the floor. Talk about grounding.

The mat is recommended for winding down after a stressful day, a couple times a week

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Free of stress and anxiety

I got off the mat after 25 minutes, which is equally as awkward as getting on it for the first few tries, perhaps due to the fact both my body and mind had entered into what felt like a deep and soothing rest. I went to bed soon after and slept soundly.

I’ve used the Shakti Mat around eight times before I get into bed in the past month. The spiky feeling has become almost enjoyable (addictive even?), and I get up feeling tired yet lighter inside. On the other hand, I suffer a lot from backache and have noticed a marked difference in back tension.

While the mat is not a cure for severe cases of stress and anxiety, I’d definitely recommend it for winding down after a stressful day a couple of times a week. To turn it into a wellness ritual, I accompany my session with some breathing exercises, aromatherapy scents and a spiritual soundtrack. My tip to becoming a Shakti Mat convert would be to be patient, start in small doses if need be, and if the prickles are just too much, put on a vest and work your way up to enjoy the full experience.

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The black original Shakti Mat is priced at US 59 (about SGD 80) and can be purchased directly from the brand. International delivery is available.

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