With up to 70 million Americans suffering from chronic sleep disorders and countless experiencing occasional insomnia, we need to start thinking multidimensionally in order to get adequate rest (Institute of Medicine. (2006). Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.). Studies show that massage therapy is an all natural and enjoyable path to better sleep. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): “Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions—such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression—which threaten our nation’s health. Notably, insufficient sleep is associated with the onset of these diseases and also poses important implications for their management and outcome. Moreover, insufficient sleep is responsible for motor vehicle and machinery-related crashes, causing substantial injury and disability each year. In short, drowsy driving can be as dangerous—and preventable—as driving while intoxicated. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011). Sleep and Sleep Disorders. Retrieved on January 9, 2012 from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: http://www.cdc.gov/sleep/.) Fortunately, there are many new studies that conclude that massage consistently helps our sleep.
Massage causes the body to respond in two ways:
Relaxation response – an overactive nervous system slows down involuntarily.
Mechanical response – physical effects such as pain and headache relief, decreased blood pressure, muscle relaxation, serotonin production, and a reduction in stress hormones are all shown to occur.
Pain relief: If the source of insomnia is pain, then this therapy can help relieve the symptoms.
Relaxation: Many people find that stress and anxiety are keeping them up at night. A massage is a peaceful and quiet time to put our worries on the shelf and escape from the day-to-day while being pampered. Get one in the evening to allow these feelings to carry over to bedtime.
Hormone production: People suffering from insomnia often show a deficiency in serotonin levels. This hormone is referred to as the “happiness hormone,” and it’s also a precursor to melatonin, which is a natural chemical produced in the brain that causes sleepiness. This therapy boosts serotonin levels, and therefore, melatonin production.
(American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA))
According to Healthline, here are some other tips for upping your sleep quality:
Daily sunlight or artificial bright light can improve sleep quality and duration, especially if you have severe sleep issues or insomnia. Your body has a natural time-keeping clock known as your circadian rhythm that affects your brain, body and hormones, helping you stay awake and telling your body when it’s time to sleep. Natural sunlight or bright light during the day helps keep your circadian rhythm healthy. This improves daytime energy, as well as nighttime sleep quality and duration. In people with insomnia, daytime bright light exposure improved sleep quality and duration. It also reduced the time it took to fall asleep by 83%. Try getting daily sunlight exposure or if you live in Seattle, invest in an artificial bright-light device or bulbs.
Try to sleep and wake at consistent times. Your body’s circadian rhythm functions on a set loop, aligning itself with the sunrise and sunset. Being consistent with your sleep and waking times can aid long-term sleep quality. Studies have highlighted that irregular sleep patterns can alter your circadian rhythm and levels of melatonin, which signal your brain to sleep. If you struggle with sleep, try to get in the habit of waking up and going to bed at similar times. After several weeks, you may not even need an alarm.
Supplements known to aid sleep: *Check with your doctor before taking these please* and Make sure to only try these supplements one at a time. While they are no magic bullet for sleep issues, they can be useful when combined with other natural sleeping strategies.
-Ginkgo biloba (herb), glycine (amino acid), valerian root (often found in tea), magnesium (vitamin), L-theanine (amino acid) and lavender (herb).
There are many other natural ways to improve sleep other than the above, but the one that really seems to help me personally is massage. Combined with some of these methods of natural sleep improvement, get ready to say nighty night on a regular basis.
Rielle Pruitt, LMT