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Can Massage Therapy Help You Sleep Better?
By Ashley Zimmermann
image by CDD20 via Pixbay
Many people take a good night's sleep for granted, while for others, it is elusive. Can massage therapy help you sleep better? The short answer is yes! Sleep.org tells us that massage therapy can improve sleep in two main ways:
1)Massage helps to relax the mind and body and to relieve stress.
2)Massage can help manage pain, which can be a source of poor sleep.
As with all things health-related, awareness of solutions and actions you can take may help in ways you never considered possible. Read on to learn more.
(*Disclaimer* As always, consult your licensed massage therapist or physician for medical advice. This article is not intended to treat or diagnose.)
Massage helps to quiet the mind and wind down the body. Sleep.org gives us a scientific explanation: "Massage reduces stress by decreasing cortisol (a stress hormone) and increasing serotonin and dopamine (neurotransmitters that help to stabilize mood)." This explanation comes from a clinical trial conducted by Touch Research Institutes, University of Miami School of Medicine. The clinical trial measured cortisol, serotonin, and dopamine levels before and after massage therapy and found that cortisol levels decreased significantly while serotonin and dopamine increased significantly.
From personal experience, I can confirm that I always feel more relaxed and de-stressed after receiving a massage. The science backs it up!
One of massage's best-known therapeutic uses is chronic pain management. Naturally, if one is experiencing chronic pain, one's sleep is likely to be less restful and of poorer quality.
Harvard Medical School's Harvard Health Publishing tells us about several studies. They cite this study:
"A study published in Annals of Family Medicine in 2014 found that 60-minute therapeutic massage sessions two or three times a week for four weeks relieved chronic neck pain better than no massage or fewer or shorter massage sessions."
Harvard Publishing mentions another study published in Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice regarding massage for hand pain:
"[This study] showed a reduction in hand pain and an improvement in grip strength among people who had four weekly hand massage sessions and did self-massage at home. They also slept better and had less anxiety and depression than people in the control group who didn't receive hand massage."
Massage for Insomnia
Have you ever heard of a sleep massage? Yes, this is a real thing. In the Elle article titled "I Tried A Sleep Massage For Insomnia," author Julie Schott walks us through her experience of receiving an in-home sleep massage from the sleep massage company, Zeel, specifically to achieve improved sleep. She said the experience worked for her, and she slept more hours that night than her average. Erin Jensen of USA Today also tested out Zeel's in-home sleep massage services and said she fell asleep quickly (3 out of 4 times) and woke before her alarm after testing out the sleep massage sessions for a month.
I can testify to a sleepy massage experience I had a few years ago. My current massage routine has focused on deep tissue techniques for pain relief these past few years. Contrastingly, a few years ago, I visited a local massage school for a massage given by one of the school's students. I experienced a Swedish-style massage, and there was an emphasis on essential oils and transcendent music to aid in the journey to relaxation. The massage was a very different experience from others I've had; it started with my usual enjoyment of the gentle, soothing touch, but I increasingly became more and more relaxed to the point where I believe I did fall asleep! I don't know what the massage therapy student did precisely, but she said this was a common experience for clients. It was lovely!
Improved sleep is not the primary goal of my current massage routine, but it is a bonus. Also, I doubt I could fall asleep while receiving a deep tissue massage, but Dana of Picturesque Massage Therapy says some of her deep tissue clients have fallen asleep before, believe it or not. If you struggle to achieve quality sleep, massage may also offer you relief.
https://www.sleep.org/can-massage-help-you-sleep/ - Can Massage Help You Sleep?
https://www.elle.com/beauty/a14402744/zeel-sleep-massage/ - I Tried A Sleep Massage For Insomnia
https://www.healthcentral.com/article/improve-your-sleep-with-massage-therapy - Improve Your Sleep with Massage Therapy
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16162447/ - Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy
https://www.health.harvard.edu/alternative-and-complementary-medicine/therapeutic-massage-for-pain-relief - Therapeutic massage for pain relief
https://www.usatoday.com/story/life/entertainthis/2018/03/12/tested-sleep-massages-month-and-heres-what-happened-when-got-into-bed/402822002/ - I tested sleep massages for a month and here's what happened when I got into bed