Healing Hands: Therapeutic Massage and Sleep

Healing Hands: Therapeutic Massage and Sleep

Sleep, diet, and exercise are three points of a triad, which is a stable basis for creating health and wellness using self-care. This triangle is formed because diet, exercise, and sleep share certain major mutual characteristics, such as, the need for commitment to setting and achieving long term health goals.

Diet and exercise have long been considered partners in health while somewhat excluding sleep. In this article, the focus is on sleep and how therapeutic massage can improve sleep. In further articles the focus will be on diet and exercise.

Go to http://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.htm to find out what the CDC recommends for sleep in your age group and if you are one of many people in this country suffering from a problem sleeping, see your doctor. Inform yourself, keep a sleep log, develop good routines around bedtime, get quality therapeutic massage, eat right for yourself and get exercise. Call your local therapeutic massage therapist, schedule an appointment, and find out if you too can get more restorative sleep.   

Therapeutic massage relieves pain and reduces stress, which results in better sleep. In my practice of therapeutic massage, I have found that most of the people I work with report sleeping better after a therapy session. Those that I have worked with for years report that the quality of sleep has improved over the time period which they have received therapeutic massage.

Our common experience with sleep debt encourages us to study sleep physiology, but the scope of therapeutic massage is to seek results from everyday self-care health routines. A more common sense approach includes sleep as part of an exercise-diet-sleep triangle, and understanding what we can do to help ourselves improve the quality of our sleep.

There is good science behind the theory that routine restful sleep promotes health and wellness. Most of us have experienced a sleepless night or two and recognize the symptoms, which occur in the days that follow such as fatigue, loss of concentration and irritability. Chronic sleep debt is much more serious and has been linked to development of a number of chronic diseases.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, “chronic diseases have assumed an increasingly common role in premature death and illness, interest in the role of sleep health in the development and management of chronic diseases has grown. Insufficient sleep has been linked to the development and management of a number of chronic diseases and conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression.”

Therapeutic massage can be integral for improving sleep in short and long term health and wellness self-care practices because it reduces tension in the physical and emotional body. Lower stress in the muscle, fascia, and bone tissues, lower blood pressure and endocrine functions (thyroid hormone and melatonin secretion) that influence sleep are created during a therapeutic massage session. Sleep debt is another reason why people report sleeping during a massage.

Growth hormone secretion typically takes place during the first few hours after sleep onset and generally occurs during slow wave sleep, while thyroid hormone secretion takes place in the late evening. Melatonin, which induces sleepiness, likely by reducing an alerting effect from the suprachiasmatic nucleus, is influenced by the light-dark cycle and is suppressed by light.

These are the science based ideas that make me believe therapeutic massage is a baseline health building activity that almost everyone can participate in.