Sleep well: how massage therapy can improve your quality of sleep
- Sunday, 02 May 2021
A good quality sleep is vital for both our mental and physical health. Not only does insufficient sleep impair overall mental stability, focus and concentration but scientific studies have also found a prolonged occurrence of poor sleep to be associated with numerous chronic illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes and depression.
With the challenges of the current pace of life, insomnia (defined as having difficulty falling asleep or remaining asleep) is starting to occur more frequently for many of us and finding remedies to fight it has become an important part of our overall wellness.
How can massage therapy help you achieve a good quality sleep?
Amongst the various benefits of massage therapy, such as pain and stress relief, body injuries recovery, blood circulation improvement, mood boost and relaxation, are the positive effects on the quality of sleep.
A growing body of research indicates that massage therapy is beneficial in combating insomnia, as well as the many chronic conditions that contribute to this sleep disorder. Although clients generally find massage to be very relaxing, many may not be aware of its holistic benefits.
Let's have a look in detail at how a professional massage can promote a good quality of sleep. Massage helps to combat insomnia by increasing 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, which is the hormone responsible for telling the brain to “slow down” and to prepare for 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 the client 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.
Which types of massage are recommended to improve the quality of sleep?
Our team of therapists in Fulham recommends Swedish massage, which is very popular and known for being gentle and involving techniques like long strokes, kneading, and circular motion to help your body relax.
Another great option is the Sports massage, similar to the Swedish but tailored towards people who work out regularly or practice a certain sport. Also, Deep Tissue massage is recommended as it utilises techniques to get down into layers of muscles, promoting pain relief and body relaxation.
Last but not least, Trigger Point massage can help improve the quality of sleep as it focuses on releasing muscles on specific sore spots.
What can you do between treatments to facilitate a better sleep?
Alongside to have a balanced lifestyle and a healthy diet including plenty of water, there are some self massages that you can perform between treatments in order to maximise the positive effects on your sleep quality.
Our team in Fulham recommends the following:
Foot reflexology. The bottom of the foot has up to 15,000 nerve endings, and massaging these has been shown to improve health all over the body. While different parts of the foot seem to be connected to particular parts of the body, massaging the bottom of the foot as a whole can also help with relaxation.
- Start your foot massage by squeezing or pushing your foot in a way that feels good to you. You can even roll the bottom of your foot with a physio ball, like the ones we can provide you with in our clinic, or a golf ball if that feels good. Spend some extra time pushing on your foot right below the ball of your big toe. Push and hold this for 5-10 seconds at a time.
- Spend some extra time rubbing the outside of your big toe, which can stimulate melatonin production. Rubbing the ridge of your toes can help relax your neck and shoulders and pressure on the ball of your foot can relax your breathing. Overall, it is recommended to spend 5-10 minutes massaging each foot before bedtime.
Head massage. It can be hard to massage certain parts of your own body, but you should be able to easily reach your head, which has some acupressure points that can be helpful for sleep.
- Start by rubbing the middle of the top of your head. If you drew two lines up your skull from the top of both ears, this point is right where they would meet. Push straight down and rub around in 100 circles.
- Move to the points where your eyebrows end near your nose. Again, you can apply direct pressure here or move your fingers in tiny circular motions. Try to apply pressure again and make 30 circles.
- Finally, rub along your eyebrows and just under your eyes. Use longer, sweeping motions here, rubbing the whole eyebrow in one movement. Try to do both eyes at the same time, at least 20 times.
Face massage. If you carry stress in your muscles, you may carry more of it in your face than you had thought. Rubbing your face can release this tension, helping you rest better.
- You can begin this massage wherever your face feels tight. Start with the large muscles at the back of your jaw. Press gently into them and make small circles with your fingers. Explore these muscles for hidden tension, massaging it out as you can.
- Move to your temples. Don’t put too much pressure here, but explore for places that are tender and make gentle circles on top of them. As the pressure releases, you can press harder.
- End by massaging your forehead. You can go straight up and down from the bridge of your nose, or follow the pattern of your eyebrows in bigger and bigger arcs until you have covered your whole forehead
We hope that you enjoyed reading this article and we would be delighted to hear any feedback or questions about it from you.
We look forward to seeing you soon in our Fulham clinic!