Massage for Insomnia

Disrupted sleep patterns happen to everyone at one time or another because of temporary factors, like a snoring partner or medication. Unfortunately, there are other factors, like stress, that can cause sleep patterns to disrupt, sometimes over a long time.

The typical adult needs slightly more than 8 hours of sleep every day, but fewer than 35% of American adults get this level of rest. Actual insomnia is defined as difficulty initiating, or maintaining sleep 3 or more nights in a week, in addition to sleep related daytime impairment. Typically, someone with insomnia feels unrefreshed when they wake, can’t get to sleep despite being really tired, has daytime drowsiness or fatigue, sometimes has difficulty concentrating, sometimes gets headaches.

Causes of insomnia

Most physicians believe that insomnia is related to disruptions in you body’s internal clock, the one that controls the timing of hormone production, sleep, body temperature and other functions. Everyday anxiety and stress, too much coffee, too much alcohol, some medications, hormonal imbalance, even partners who snore, can also lead to insomnia.

Generally, women are more prone to insomnia than men. The older you are, the more likely you are to be at risk for insomnia, too. Other factors include going through a traumatic event, working night shifts or dealing with constantly changing work schedules, international travel (jet lag), asthma, lack of exercise, and substance abuse.

What to do

There are many changes in your lifestyle you can make to reduce the risk of insomnia.  They include getting up and going to bed at exactly the same time every day, not taking naps after 3pm, no drinking water or exercising within two hours before you go to bed, not drinking caffeine after dinner.  Some have had success staying away from screens of any kind (yes, that means TV, smartphone and computer) for at least an hour before bedtime. Losing weight can help, too.

Some people turn to over the counter and prescribed medication for sleep.  While they may help promote sleep in the short term, the quality of the sleep is likely to be poor and there are risks of physical or psychological addition. That’s why more an more, people are turning to massage to help them get a better night’s sleep.

Why massage works

There is good evidence that massage can help. For literally thousands of years, massage has been associated with relaxation and rest. Research indicates that massage can improve sleep in:

  • infants, children, adolescents, adults (including the elderly)
  • those under stress
  • those experiencing anxiety
  • those who have been involved in a trauma or stressful event
  • those with psychiatric disorders
  • those who are hospitalized or institutionalized
  • those with lower back pain
  • those with cerebral palsy
  • those with fibromyalgia
  • those with insominia
  • those in pain
  • those with hand pain
  • those with cancer
  • infants with dyssomnia
  • those who have had heart surgery
  • those with breast disease
  • those with migraines
  • caretakers of hospitalized individuals

(Source: AMTA, October 2012)

The addition of aromatherapy to your massage, with essential oils like lavender, may improve sleep quality and cause you to fall asleep more quickly as well.

No matter what you try, combining massage with other lifestyle changes, like the ones mentioned above, are a great alternative to turning to pharmaceuticals. Visit a qualified massage therapist and tell them you’re having trouble sleeping. They will tune your session for maximum relaxation, the effects of which can last for days, hopefully ensuring that you’ll get some much needed sleepy time.



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Krystal AD. Treating the health, quality of life, and functional impairments in insomnia. J Clin Sleep Med. 2007;3(1):63-72.