Although most of us recognise the importance of a good night’s sleep, we may not be fully aware of quite how crucial a regular and deep sleeping pattern is to our overall health and well being. On a physical level, sleep gives our body a chance to ‘rest & repair’, it enables tissue regeneration and cellular growth to occur as well as the cleansing and elimination of toxins. Effects of poor sleep can include accelerating ageing, memory loss, weakening of the immune system, and it can also be a contributing factor towards weight gain. Clearly, sleep is a very important ingredient for our overall health.
It is also well known that sleep and stress are inversely related. Also, they tend to reinforce each other in a vicious cycle. The worse we sleep, the more likely we are to become stressed, and the more stressed we become, the more difficult we will find it to sleep! Thankfully, as we will see, massage can help us deal with both problems together. Stress affects the body and mind and some outward signs of stress include tense muscles and poor posture. So, if stress and tension are the reasons why you are not sleeping very well, you might be relieved to know that some of the benefits of massage are the relaxing of muscles, improved posture and improved sleep patterns. Also, positive feelings and mood may be enhanced. When you have a massage, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated, and this allows your body to relax.
Of course, there are other causes of poor sleep in addition to stress. A very common sleep disorder is that of insomnia. The consequences of insomnia on your health include loss of concentration and decision-making abilities. It can cause irritability and emotional instability. Insomnia is often associated with a lack of serotonin. Serotonin is our ‘happy hormone’ which influences our well being. Serotonin plays a role in mood, behaviour, body temperature, physical coordination, appetite and sleep. One study has shown that massage therapy can help to boost serotonin levels by up to up 28 per cent. In addition, massage can trigger melatonin, our ‘sleep-inducing hormone’ which increases with the darkness of the night. Here is an interesting article about the efficiency of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (including massage) in treating sleep disturbances. Overall then, one can say that massage is an excellent natural remedy that helps restore balance so that the rhythms of your life ebb and flow in a more natural pattern.
Of course, massage alone may not be the only answer to finding a good night’s sleep. For a handy list of Top Tips For Good Sleep head over to the website of nutritional therapist and health coach Clare Shepherd (Note, the post says top tips for a good sleep during menopause but actually most of the tips hold good for anyone!) In addition to those tips you might also wish to explore the practise of Yoga Nidra, translated as Yogic Sleep. This is a form of deep, guided relaxation and though ideally you shouldn’t fall asleep during the practise itself, it can help to prepare you for a good night of sleep as this article reveals. Here is a nice Yoga Nidra recorded by Jo of Yoga Nature Sheffield:
If you are interested in finding out more about what sleep is good for and how massage, breathing and other things can help with sleep, come along to one of our Sleep Well workshops at The Therapy Room…