Massage for a Sounder Sleep?

massage for sleep
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To snooze more soundly, many people with sleeping problems such as insomnia seek alternative treatment with massage therapy. A type of bodywork that involves hands-on manipulation of the muscles, massage is said to promote healthier sleep in part by reducing tension and inducing relaxation.

Why Do People Sometimes Use Massage for Sleep Problems?

Many people frequently experience sleep disturbances. The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research estimates that about 70 million Americans suffer from sleep problems, and that 60 percent of those individuals have a chronic sleep disorder.

For help in sleeping more easily (and preventing health problems associated with sleep deprivation), insomnia sufferers often pursue alternative medicine treatments such as massage therapy. Such treatments are often used as a complement to or substitute for sleeping pills.

Although it's not known how massage might help promote a sounder sleep, it's thought that undergoing massage may help fight insomnia by reducing stress (often a key factor in sleep disruption).

The Science Behind Massage and Sleep

So far, most of the research on massage therapy and sleep has focused on the use of massage therapy among people with chronic health problems.

For example, a small study published in the International Journal of Neuroscience in 2001 found that massage helped improve sleep in people with low back pain. For the study, 24 adults with low back pain were assigned to half-hour-long sessions of either massage therapy or progressive muscle relaxation twice a week for five weeks.

Compared to members of the progressive muscle relaxation group, those assigned to massage therapy reported greater improvements in sleep (as well as in pain, depression, and anxiety).

Several studies also suggest that massage may help improve sleep in people with fibromyalgia. These studies include a clinical trial published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2011, for which 74 people with fibromyalgia received either massage therapy or a placebo treatment for 20 weeks.

Results revealed that those given massage therapy experienced a greater improvement in sleep, anxiety, pain, and quality of life (compared to those given the placebo treatment).

In addition, some research indicates that massage may help ease sleep problems in patients who have recently undergone heart surgery, as well as in older adults with dementia.

While research on massage and sleep among healthy individuals is currently lacking, it should be noted that massage may help boost your overall health by lowering your blood pressure, stimulating circulation, and boosting your immune system.


Massage is generally considered safe when performed correctly by a licensed massage therapist. Still, some individuals (such as pregnant women and people with bleeding disorders) are advised to take caution when receiving massage. It's important to note that sleep problems can be a symptom of another medical condition. If you're considering trying massage therapy for sleeping problems, consult your primary care provider first.

Avoiding or delaying conventional care can have serious consequences.

You can get more tips on using massage therapy here.

Alternatives to Massage for Healthier Sleep

Many self-care strategies may also help you sleep better naturally. These include practicing mind-body techniques such as guided imagery and meditation, as well as following healthy lifestyle practices like exercising regularly and lowering your intake of alcohol and caffeine.

There's also some evidence that herbal remedies like valerian and alternative therapies like acupuncture may help soothe insomnia.

How to Use Massage for Sleep Problems

Seeing a massage therapist isn't the only way to use massage for healthier sleep—you can also achieve sounder sleep by performing self-massage before bedtime. For additional sleep-promoting effects, consider massaging with calming essential oils like lavender and chamomile (both found to possess sedative properties in scientific studies). Go here to learn tips on how to use these essential oils.

For guidance in finding a massage therapist who can help you with your sleep problems, consult your physician. An organization such as the American Massage Therapy Association may also be able to help.


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Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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