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Difficulty Sleeping? Massage Therapy Can Help

June 29, 2021

According to the American Psychiatric Association, sleep disorders involve problems with quality, timing, and amount of sleep, resulting in daytime distress and impairment in daily function. Sleep is a basic human need and is critical to both physical and mental health, and how much sleep we need varies depending on age and the individual. According to the National Sleep Foundation, most adults need about seven to nine hours of restful sleep every night—but many of us get less than that amount.

Insomnia and Sleep Deprivation
Insomnia is the most common sleep disorder, with more than 30 percent of American adults suffering from occasional bouts. From that, approximately 10 percent of Americans experiencing chronic insomnia, which is defined as poor sleep every night or most nights for more than six months.

Sleep helps the brain function properly, and not getting enough or getting poor quality sleep has many consequences. In addition to fatigue, decreased energy, irritability, and difficulty focusing, the ability to make decisions and regulate your mood can also be affected. Sleep deprivation compromises immune function and, if left untreated, increases the risk of developing chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, depression, obesity, and even cancer.

Massage Therapy as a Sleep Aid
According to the National Institutes of Health, massage therapy can reduce fatigue and improve sleep. Based on research compiled by the American Massage Therapy Association, massage therapy has been shown to improve sleep in infants, children, adults, and the elderly, as well as individuals with anxiety, depression, fibromyalgia, cancer, heart disease, menopausal symptoms, migraines, arthritis, and lower back pain. These benefits can be linked to massage therapy, as massage reduces stress in the body and stimulates hormones that result in a good night’s sleep.

In times of stress, our bodies respond by releasing the hormone cortisol, which negatively affects sleep patterns and decreases the quality of sleep. Massage therapy increases the release of serotonin and melatonin (hormones that allow the body to reset its circadian rhythm). Serotonin, a vital neurotransmitter that is essential to our survival, plays an important role in mood, behavior, body temperature, physical coordination, appetite, and sleep and is necessary for the brain to produce melatonin, which induces sleep. The release of serotonin and reduction of cortisol can also improve mood and reduce stress levels.

In times of stress, our bodies respond by releasing the hormone cortisol, which negatively affects sleep patterns and decreases the quality of sleep. Massage therapy increases the release of serotonin and melatonin (hormones that allow the body to reset its circadian rhythm).

Added Benefits of Massage Therapy
A January 2000 study on back pain conducted at the Touch Institute, in conjunction with the University of Miami School of
Medicine and Iris Burman of Miami’s Educating Hands School of Massage, concluded that in addition to a decrease in long-term pain, subjects receiving massage experienced improved sleep and an increase in serotonin levels. The subjects in this study received 30-minute massages, twice weekly, for five weeks. The results of this study were originally published in the International Journal of Neuroscience in 2001.

Researchers at the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil conducted a pilot study to assess the impact of massage on seven post-menopausal women suffering from insomnia. Participants received a 60-minute massage twice a week for eight weeks. At the conclusion of the study, the researchers observed a significant improvement in sleep quality and a decrease in symptoms of anxiety and depression among the participants. These findings were confirmed in a randomized trial carried out the following year.

Pain—whether from an injury, sore back, or achy joints—can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Massage therapy can relieve pain so you can improve the quality of your sleep. In 2012, Time Magazine cited research stating that massage reduces inflammatory cytokines, which are known to cause inflammation and pain. The article asserts that essentially, massage therapy has the same effect as other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Tylenol and ibuprofen. Decreased inflammation translates to less pain, which results in better sleep.

Individuals suffering from insomnia should always consult their licensed healthcare practitioner. For anyone seeking a non-pharmaceutical treatment for improved sleep, massage therapy is a safe and healthy alternative.

Kristina Mozzicato is a Licensed Massage Therapist and Board Certified in Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork by the NCBTMB. A 2009 graduate of the Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy, she is also certified in Cupping and ACE MediCupping™. Kristina is the owner of Abundant Health Massage Therapy & Wellness in Farmington, CT and was named a Natural Nutmeg Magazine 10Best Award recipient in the category of Massage and Bodywork. For more information and convenient online booking, please visit:

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