What do massage therapy and healthy sleep have in common? Massage therapy helps promote a healthy lifestyle, through relaxation and stress relief. It is often viewed as a luxury activity. However, it can be a powerful tool in addressing a common problem that people have these days: lack of sleep. Although we all know that we need 8 hours of sleep every night, many people still try to get by with 6-7 hours, and often even less. At the same time, we’ve seen an increase in health problems like obesity, heart issues due to stress, and chronic fatigue. We trudge through our days, and drink quantities of caffeine in an effort to just function at minimum levels.
Benefits of Sleep Adequate, restful sleep is essential not just for physical health, but also for mental and emotional well-being. When we spend sufficient time in the different stages of non-REM (rapid eye movement) sleep and REM sleep, we reap the following benefits: 1. Physical energy Anyone who’s had only 4-5 hours of sleep during the night can attest to the fact to its negative effect on the entire day. It’s as if our body is reminding us that it needs more sleep that we’d given it. We are sluggish, and feel as though a nap is in good order even in the middle of the day. People who literally bounce out of bed in the morning, ready to take on anything that comes their way, are more likely to be those who have slept 8 hours or more. 2. Mental alertness Lack of sleep results in reduced alertness and short-term memory loss. These, in turn, affect our capacity to perform and stay with complicated mental tasks. This is why students are often reminded to get a good night’s sleep before an important exam. No matter what the industry, sleep deprivation negatively affects job performance. 3. Appetite control Research has shown that a chemical associated with hunger signals are released in large quantities during sleep deprivation. At the same time, lack of sleep suppresses another chemical that signals when we’ve had enough to eat. This double chemical whammy, plus the fatigue brought on by sleep deprivation, wreaks havoc on people who want to lose weight. No matter what diet they are on, people who are sleep deprived night after night find themselves struggling to control their appetite. Any weight-loss strategy must be coupled with adequate sleep in order to succeed. 4. Healthy immune system Simply put, the body needs adequate rest in order to fight infections. Even though, we may compensate for the decreased alertness by imbibing caffeine, there is no substitute for the regeneration that our cells undergo during sleep. Healthy cells mean higher chances of beating germs that bring sickness. 5. Ability to combat stress High-quality sleep contributes to the body’s ability to fight stress. When we are sleep-deprived, our stress responses tend to go to extremes and/or last longer than necessary. This is why chronically-sleep deprived individuals are more short-tempered and irritable than those who make their 8-hour sleep a priority. In addition to these benefits, healthy and adequate sleep has also been shown to decrease the risk of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, and other ailments.
Massage Therapy and Healthy Sleep The best way to achieve healthy sleep habits is by natural medication-free means. Studies have shown that regular massage therapy reduces fatigue, promotes relaxation and contributes to high-quality sleep. The benefits of massage are both immediate and long-term. People who receive massages experience a more restorative type of sleep, both immediately following the massage and even several hours afterward. Their bodies are more relaxed, with reduced aches and pains, and able to fall more quickly into deep sleep. Parents who have given their babies gentle massages can attest to similar results. Infants who have been massaged are more relaxed, and undergo fewer disturbances of their sleep. In addition to regular massage, we can encourage healthy sleep by: – establishing a set bedtime – avoiding caffeine a few hours before bedtime – ensuring that the sleeping area (bedroom) is quiet, dark and comfortable – turning off electronics such as TVs, video games and smartphones at least an hour before bedtime Sleep is one of the cornerstones of a healthy lifestyle. Regular massage therapy is one of the things you could do to help you achieve better sleep and stress-free days and nights.