Insomnia is a condition in which a person has trouble falling or staying asleep. In North America, 30 percent of adults suffer from insomnia, and 10 percent suffer from chronic (long-term) insomnia. Insomnia can be caused by a number of conditions including: mental health disorders, such as depression, anxiety, stress, chronic pain, difficulty breathing, a change in your normal schedule, poor sleep habits, and medications. Insomnia can cause a person to become extremely fatigued, have poor concentration, and can dampen your mood. If you are having trouble falling or staying asleep at night, or even have normal sleep habits, a professional relaxing massage performed by your massage therapist could benefit you.

Chemicals in the Brain
Massage therapy has been proven to increase serotonin and dopamine levels in the body. Researchers in a 2005 article of a review of studies showed that cortisol levels decreased, while dopamine and serotonin levels in the brain increased after massage therapy. In the research reviewed, it was found that there was an average decrease of 31 percent in cortisol levels in participants. In studies where dopamine and serotonin levels were assessed, average increases were recorded, 31 and 28 percent respectively.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter produced by the pineal gland in the brain to make melatonin, the hormone directly related to sleep. Serotonin plays an important role in mood, behavior, body temperature, coordination, appetite, and sleep. When serotonin levels are low, the body can experience sleep disruptions and disorders, including insomnia. Stress has been shown to cause low serotonin levels.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced in your brain that plays an important role in movement, memory, pleasurable reward, behavior and cognition, attention, mood, learning, and sleep. When your massage therapist provides you with a professional massage, the pleasure center of your brain is activated, increasing levels of dopamine produced, therefore helping to reduce stress.

Cortisol is commonly known as the “stress-hormone”, because it is activated in the body’s fight-of-flight response when faced with a stressful stimuli or situation. When levels of cortisol are high, there can be negative effects on the body including but not limited to: weakened cognitive performance, high blood pressure, imbalances in blood sugar, and increased abdominal fat. Cortisol need to remain within normal levels, in order for your body to return to a relaxed state after the fight-or-flight reaction is activated. Massage therapy can help you relax, and when your body and mind are relaxed, stress is reduced, which decreases the risk that sleep problems or disorders will develop. When your body and mind are at ease, you may notice that the quality of your sleep increases.

Relieving Stress
Massage therapy can also be a helpful aid in treating sleeping problems that stem from stress, migraines, pain, and muscle or joint stiffness. With the tranquility and soothing nature of a massage by your professional massage therapist, feelings of stress are reduced and muscles become much more relaxed. The calming effects of a good massage have the potential to aid in restoring your best sleep.

Your massage therapist can provide you with a soothing massage that can aid in reducing stress and relaxing muscles. Not only will you feel rejuvenated after your massage, you may notice that you will feel less stressed and tense, and also get a better night’s sleep. This may be due to lower levels of cortisol, and increased levels of dopamine and serotonin in the brain, released by the gentle and comforting touch your massage therapist uses while performing your relaxing massage.

Article Author: Shelly Jackson is a Registered Massage Therapist and owner of Buena Vista Massage Therapy Clinic in Vancouver, BC.  On a daily basis we deal with: resolving muscle and movement stiffness and pain; injuries from vehicles or sports; post breast cancer rehab; pregnancy related discomfort; repetitive strain and overuse injuries.  We work with clients to reduce their anxiety and stress, improve joint movement, sleep and quality of life.  Working with qualified massage therapists is necessary for your continued health.  Contact us at 604-538-7166 and we would be happy to answer any questions you have.

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