We all require quality sleep for our physical and mental health. Not only does insufficient sleep impair overall mental stability, focus and concentration, but studies have also found a prolonged occurrence of poor sleep to be associated with numerous chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and depression.
Unfortunately, insomnia – defined as having difficulty falling asleep or remaining asleep – is a struggle for 50 to 70 million Americans. Chronic insomnia occurs when an individual experiences insomnia nightly (or nearly every night) for at least 6 months. Healthcare professionals can help to identify the root cause of sleeplessness, although approximately half of all chronic cases have no identifiable origin.
A growing body of research indicates that massage therapy may be beneficial in combating insomnia, as well as the many chronic conditions that contribute to this sleep disorder. Although people generally find massage to be very relaxing, many may not be aware of its holistic benefits.
Because massage promotes overall wellness, patients tend to experience relaxation and positive mood. Studies indicate it is also an effective option in reducing pain, muscle fatigue, anxiety and depression. Massage therapy is a drug-free, natural method to promote overall health.
Massage helps to combat insomnia by promoting the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter in the brain. It is believed that the area of the brain that facilitates the body entering into deep sleep uses serotonin to communicate. The brain also uses serotonin to produce melatonin.
Melatonin is a hormone which tells the brain to “slow down” and to prepare to sleep. Other research has found that delta waves – brain waves which appear in heaviest concentration during the deepest realm of sleep - increase as a result of massage.
The recommended duration of massage therapy varies widely depending on patient needs and co-occurring issues. Most studies were conducted over a period of 3 to 13 weeks, generally consisting of 30 minute sessions occurring twice weekly. Many patients report having experienced positive results after a single session.
Because insomnia can have many reasons for onset, it is important to seek the advice of a healthcare professional prior to committing to a specific treatment.
Partially due to the growing evidence of the benefits of massage, many medical facilities now employ licensed massage therapists as part of their regular staff. This helps patients to find a therapist while increasing the likelihood of communication between the therapist and the patient’s healthcare professionals. Many patients also opt to seek out their own therapists through traditional means or based on recommendations from those they trust.
"Massage Therapy for a Better Night's Sleep." accessed 01/06/2016, http://www.sleepreviewmag.com/2014/05/massage-therapy-sleep/
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Lawler, S.P., Cameron, L.D. (2006). A randomized, controlled trial of massage therapy as a treatment for migraine. Ann Behav Med. 32(1):50-9.