Adequate sleep is necessary for healthy functioning, and quality sleep is vital to health and wellness. But many people experience sleep issues from time to time, that can affect their health, often leading to low work performance, slowed reaction time, obesity, higher risk of long-term disease, and substance abuse.
Chronic insomnia causes extreme fatigue and problems with concentration, and can adversely affect a person’s mood and well-being.
For healthcare professionals, helping patients overcome insomnia is critical for fostering overall health and wellness. According to Ralph Pascualy, MD, medical director of the Swedish Sleep Medicine Institute (SSMI) in Seattle, both the quantity and quality of an individual’s sleep directly affect their health.
Nutrition and exercise are often recommended as the foundation of good health, but research shows that quality sleep should also be part of any holistic treatment. Those who sleep less than 8 hours per night are experiencing “sleep debt,” which cannot be reversed by sleeping more on the weekend.
According to the Mayo Clinic, studies have found massage to be beneficial for insomnia-related stress, as well as:
Myofascial pain syndrome
Paresthesias and nerve pain
Soft tissue strains or injuries
Temporomandibular joint pain
Benefits of Massage Therapy
The National Institutes of Health has advised that massage therapy can reduce fatigue and improve sleep5 and, based on research gathered by the American Massage Therapy Association, massage has been shown to improve sleep in infants, children, adults, and the elderly alike, as well as individuals with psychiatric disorders, fibromyalgia, cancer, heart disease, lower back pain, cerebral palsy, and breast disease.
Anne Williams, director of education, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals, and author of Spa Bodywork and Teaching Massage, says, “Massage helps people spend more time in deep sleep, the restorative stage in which the body barely moves, which reduces the neurotransmitter associated with pain.”
The chemistry of sleep is relevant in relation to massage because it directly influences the body’s production of serotonin, which is essential for the production of melatonin. A study on back pain, published in the International Journal of Neuroscience, demonstrated that in addition to a decrease in long-term pain, subjects receiving massage experienced improved sleep and an increase in serotonin levels. Results were based on twice-weekly, 30-minute massages for 5 weeks, using Swedish massage techniques.
Massage is a smart, healthy, and drug-free option that has helped many people overcome insomnia. Because melatonin influences the sleep stage of an individual’s circadian rhythm, a natural way of boosting serotonin is a positive sleep-inducing option. This connection calls for further research showing the direct effects massage therapy has on serotonin and sleep. In the meantime, the existing evidence is enough to recommend regular massages for sleepless patients.
A growing number of healthcare professionals recognize the benefits of taking a multidisciplinary approach to patients in order to better identify the source of illness—rather than simply treating the symptoms. At the same time, sleeping pills and pain killers should take a back seat to complementary and alternative forms of medicine, including massage therapy, for treating the whole person and improving outcomes.
Article by Kray Kibler, sourced from Sleep Review Magazine
1. AMTA; Massage Therapy Can Help Improve Sleep; October 2012;
2. Mayo Clinic Staff; Insomnia; Mayo Clinic;
3. Cutler N; Insomnia, Serotonin and Massage; Institute for Integrative Healthcare; August 19, 2005;
4. Vanderbilt S; Sound Sleep; MassageTherapy.com; 2005;
5. Nerbass FB, et al; Effects of massage therapy on sleep quality after coronary artery bypass graft surgery; National Institutes of Health; 2010;