Do You Sleep Like a Baby? Massage Therapy Can Help!
In recognition of April as National Sleep Awareness Month, we explore the connection between massage therapy and getting a good night’s sleep – every night!
“Sleep like a baby” is a misunderstood term in our language. It commonly means that one sleeps long and soundly. However, “long and soundly” is not the reality with most babies – in reality, they wake up and cry every 3 hours!
So… do you “sleep like a baby?” Or do you sleep like the millions of adults who suffer from chronic sleep problems?
There is a sleep crisis in our culture. Getting enough sleep is challenging for alarmingly large numbers of people. According to a National Sleep Foundation poll, 58% of adults experience at least one of the four symptoms of insomnia at least several times a week:
1. Difficulty falling asleep
2. Waking frequently
3. Waking and can’t return to sleep
4. Feeling unrested in the morning
37% reported that sleep deprivation interferes with daytime alertness and activities.
While sleep neurochemistry is very complex, this article explores the crucial neurotransmitter serotonin and its relationship to massage therapy.
Serotonin is essential to our survival, affecting mood, behavior, body temperature, physical coordination, appetite and sleep. Derived from the amino acid tryptophan, serotonin is a precursor to melatonin production. Melatonin quiets and resets the circadian rhythm – periodic cycles of sleep and wakefulness.
The chemistry of sleep is relevant to massage therapy because massage can directly influence the body’s production of serotonin. A study on back pain was conducted in January 2000 by the Touch Research Institute in conjunction with the University of Miami School of Medicine and Iris Burman of Miami’s Educating Hands School of Massage, and originally published in the International Journal of Neuroscience in 2001. It demonstrated that in addition to a decrease in long-term pain, subjects receiving massage experienced improved sleep and an increase in serotonin levels.
Massage is a healthy, intelligent and substance-free choice to help people who suffer from chronic insomnia. Because serotonin affects sleep in multiple areas of the brain, it is logical to seek ways to increase serotonin levels for people that are sleep-deprived. In addition, serotonin is needed for our bodies to produce melatonin. As melatonin influences the sleep stage of our circadian rhythm, a natural way of boosting serotonin is a positive sleep-inducing option. This connection calls for further research showing the direct affects massage therapy has on serotonin and sleep. Meanwhile, the existing evidence is adequate to confirm the effectiveness of regular massage therapy for sleepless patients.