The benefits of massage therapy have been noted before in our blog and on our website (and you can rest assured they will be again), but today I just want to focus on one, sleep. Can massage therapy help you sleep better, and if it can, why does it matter?
Lets tackle the second question first. We are programmed to be asleep for about one-third of our lives, so it must be an important piece to our overall health. Sleep is when the body grows and repairs itself. According the Sleep Health Centers, sleep is a time when the brain reorganizes itself, which appears to be key in learning and memory. Dr. Shawn Talbott, PH.D, author of The Cortisol Connection also notes that cortisol (the body’s main stress hormone) levels are higher in people who only get 6 hours of sleep per night. The National Sleep Foundation states that 30% of us report some type of insomnia over the course of a year and 10% say it is chronic. And half of those people blame their insomnia on…you guessed it, stress. More stress à worse sleep à bad or less productive days à more stress…well, you can see where this is going.
So can massage therapy help? It certainly appears so! A 2005 study found that cortisol levels decreased after massage. Less stress equals better sleep. The same study also found that following massage there was an increase in the “good stuff”, serotonin and dopamine. Not enough of those two things can lead to anxiety, irritability, depression-all stress inducing. So lets look at that loop again, but lets change the “bad” days to “good” days now because we have less cortisol (bad stuff) and more serotonin and dopamine (good stuff) and see what it looks like now…good daysàless stressàbetter sleepàgood days…now, isn’t that better.
If you feel less stressed now just knowing how massage therapy can help, think how good you’ll feel after you have scheduled your massage and then actually had it!