Can Massage Promote Better Sleep?
“Every day we have new scientific connections about sleep and [its connection to] every aspect of our health, from obesity and hypertension to heart disease, cancer, every aspect of our emotional intelligence and mood.” ~Arianna Huffington
Scientific sleep studies have discovered that, next to pain, sleep deprivation is one of the prime issues that affect our well-being.
What Causes Sleep Deprivation?
Any number of issues can be at the heart of your inability to experience vital, restorative sleep. Stress and worry about personal finances, family problems or the chaotic state of world current events; physiological sleep disorders such as insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy; interrupted normal wake/sleep cycles from shift work, new motherhood, cramming for deadlines, travel; addiction to technology (have you ever fallen asleep with your smartphone in your hand?) are just a few of the reasons that healthy sleep can be elusive.
Why is Sleep so Important?
Sleep is anything but a benign state of unconsciousness. When you lay your head down, close your eyes and embrace the stages of light sleep, slow wave sleep, deep sleep and dream time, your whole being repairs, resets and rests:
- Your Brain
- gets to work clearing away toxic by-products from cellular activity that would otherwise collect and cause problems;
- resets the hormones responsible for normalized 24-hour circadian wake/sleep cycles;
- stores the information gained throughout the day and filters out what isn’t needed.
- Your Dreams
- repair any physiological damage in the cerebral cortex during the REM (Rapid Eye Movement) period when your dreams occur;
- help work through the psychological issues of emotional events and trauma;
- support learning and synthesize memories;
- access creativity that can support making important innovative connections and discoveries.
- Your Body
- drops your heart rate, breathing, blood pressure and body; temperatures – to induce a restful ‘mini hibernation’;
- detoxes, repairs and rests your muscles and organs including adrenals (fight or flight cortisol producers) and liver;
- pumps up the production of growth hormones and resets/regulates hunger hormones;
- enlists your immune system to actively repair any cell damage throughout your body.
Results of Inadequate Sleep
According to sleep expert and researcher, Dr. Eve Van Cauter of the University of Chicago, “ A lack of sleep disrupts every physiologic function in the body. We have nothing in our biology that allows us to adapt to this behavior.”
Proper requirements vary at each stage of growth and aging but lack of down time for adequate sleep is both a personal and public health issue that can:
- cause depression, moodiness, irritability and a sense of exhaustion;
- upset normal cortisol levels that induce sympathetic nervous system responses causing anxiety and higher stress,
- impair the ability to concentrate and focus resulting in increased mistakes, poor decision making, impaired learning, memory, alertness, problem solving and reasoning, as well as increased risk of accidents (drowsy driving and slow reaction time).
- slow the immune system making you more susceptible to recurring infections
and creating the risk for increased heart rate, blood pressure and diabetes and cancer risk, weight gain, even bone loss
How Massage Can Help
Massage has the ability to promote sleep in infants, children, adults, and the elderly that encourages more time in deep sleep, the most restorative stage of rest.
The supportive and caring environment of massage experience encourages busy thoughts to quiet whilst the body relaxes. The resulting deep and complete relaxation lowers heart rate and blood pressure, which contributes to deep sleep.
Massage can increase serotonin levels in the brain, which is a precursor to the production of melatonin in the pineal gland. Serotonin production plays a critical role in the sleep cycle as well in the relaxation response.
If the sleep issue is pain-related, massage therapy can help alleviate headaches, muscle tightness and joint stiffness and thus provide an opportunity for the body to sleep comfortably.
Historically, the need for sufficient sleep has been dismissed in favour of the cultural dedication to hard working values and the job. Today, the landscape is changing as research is catching up with the truth that healthy and adequate sleep is vital to our ability to not only survive but also to thrive. Massage can provide a drug free solution that is both immediate and effective.