Massage, Bodywork, Health and Fitness

Massage Therapy and Insomnia

tiredchildInsomnia is a pervasive disorder that affects more than 30% of American adults in the United States.  Insomnia is defined as a disorder that makes it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep, as well as waking up too early or getting poor quality sleep.  Chronic insomnia could last months to years and it affects daily living, work performance and more.

The biochemistry of insomnia is complex. However, a central cause of insomnia is due to low levels of melatonin in the brain. Melatonin is a neurotransmitter produced in the pineal gland from converted serotonin, another important neurotransmitter.  The secretion of melatonin in the brain is directly related to the exposure of light to the eyes. Higher levels of melatonin are secreted during the night and lower levels are secreted during the daylight hours. Darkness is therefore an important component to getting a good nights rest. If you get up during the night, it is better to not turn on any lights (unless it is a hazard).

Serotonin, the precursor to melatonin, is produced from the amino acid tryptophan (think Thanksgiving turkey).  Serotonin is a critical neurotransmitter in the brain that regulates complex systems such as the cardiovascular, renal, immune, and gastrointestinal systems. Extremely low levels of serotonin have been found in disorders like schizophrenia, compulsive disorders, learning deficiencies, and major depression. It is often referred to as the feel-good neurotransmitter.

Interestingly, several studies demonstrate that serotonin levels increase significantly during and after massage therapy. In a study done on depressed pregnant mothers, serotonin levels increased by 23% in women who received massage therapy. Another research study examined infants of depressed mothers.  Infants were assigned to either a massage therapy group or a rocking group for a 6-week period. After the 6 weeks, serotonin levels increased by 34% in infants that received massage therapy and cortisol levels decreased by 53%.

Repeatedly, massage therapy has demonstrated in a number of studies that it is effective in decreasing cortisol levels and increasing serotonin and dopamine levels.

Does this mean that massage therapy is an effective aid in treating insomnia? A study done on postmenopausal women measured whether therapeutic massage had an effect on insomnia.  The therapeutic massage group did show an improvement in insomnia related symptoms as well as in depressive symptoms.  In a study done on chronic low-back pain, individuals were assigned to either a massage therapy group or a relaxation therapy group.  The massage therapy group experienced less pain, anxiety and improved quality of sleep.

The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) has even made the position that massage therapy does help improve quality of sleep. Click here for list of studies they use to support their position. Overall, massage therapy seems to be effective therapy to help improve insomnia and sleep related disorders.

Massage Works Los Gatos offers massage therapy that does just that, it works, to help you get relief from chronic or acute pain as well as stress and strain. Our mission is to help active women and men incorporate massage as part of a healthy lifestyle to live with positive energy and vitality. Our skilled massage therapists help you get relief from problems such as headaches, carpal tunnel, knee pain and sciatica.

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