How Does Massage Improve Your Sleep?
If you’ve ever read a bulleted list of massage benefits, you’ve likely seen the words sleep promotion just below pain relief and stress relief. But how exactly does massage promote restful sleep? Why is it that half of us want to crawl into bed post-session, and the other half fall asleep on the massage table itself?
Massage Improves Sleep by:
Serotonin and Melatonin Production
When you receive a therapeutic massage, increased levels of serotonin release from your pineal gland. Known as the happy chemical, serotonin does more than contribute to emotional relaxation. It also plays an important role in sleep promotion.
How so? This mood-related hormone is vital in the production of another important hormone: melatonin. Melatonin, also a chemical secreted from the pineal gland, regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
Melatonin production is connected to the time of day, increasing in the evening and decreasing in the morning. The dark stimulates the sleep hormone, whereas sunlight lessens it. While most people produce enough melatonin on their own, some of us need a little extra help to get through the night. You can either do that with melatonin supplements, or you can find alternative ways to calm yourself and get that serotonin flowing. Bodywork is an excellent way to get the melatonin synthesis going. And just to further promote the feel-good hormones, your therapist should keep the lights dim and the music soothing.
Since we just talked about the happy chemicals, let’s move onto the not-so-happy ones. Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, increases heart rate and blood pressure. It’s not really a bad hormone, as it plays a crucial role in your fight-or-flight response.
But while cortisol has helped us flee from danger time and time again, you don’t want excessive levels of it gushing from your adrenal gland. Anxiety, irritability, and depression are all connected to elevated cortisol levels. Likewise, those negative emotions have an adverse impact on your sleep.
This is where bodywork comes to your aid, once again. Therapeutic massage doesn’t just elevate serotonin and melatonin. It reduces cortisol levels. When you’re in a safe and comfortable environment, your body isn’t likely to release stress hormones. And the rising serotonin levels further decrease cortisol production. With less emotional stress comes a less disturbed sleep.
It’s no surprise the physical pain has a detrimental effect on sleep. Your neck might hate your pillow no matter how you position it. Your back yells at you when your mattress touches it. And all the pain relievers have caffeine in them. All you want to do is sleep!
So how about getting that pain worked out by a professional? Once you get those muscular knots loosened, your body might not hate your bed as much. You deserve to be comfortable and restful sleep depends on your level of comfort! Get yourself a massage!
Now you know what to do!
Whether you have insomnia, high anxiety, are a new parent, or have a relatively healthy sleep routine that you just want to maintain… massage can help!
Author, Licensed Massage Therapist
Katrina Jenkins graduated from Towson University in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science and worked as a nurse’s aide briefly before pursuing her true passion. She graduated from the Massage Therapy Institute of Colorado in April 2016 with honors and completed the Touch of Healers Scholarship Program the following summer. She has been a part of the Moyer Total Wellness Team since the summer of 2017.
Canva by Jupiter Images from Photoimages
Bruno, Karen. “The Stress-Depression Connection | Can Stress Cause Depression?” WebMD, WebMD, 12 Apr. 2011, www.webmd.com/depression/features/stress-depression.
“Can Massage Help You Sleep?” Sleep.org, 31 Jan. 2020, www.sleep.org/can-massage-help-you-sleep/.
“Melatonin for Sleep: Does It Work?” Johns Hopkins Medicine, www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/melatonin-for-sleep-does-it-work.