Living amidst the rustle and bustle of the Bay Area isn’t always the intellectual paradise people make it out to be. It is a competitive environment, in which we work incredibly hard to succeed. Many of us are managers, employees, students, athletes, and parents with an interminable list of responsibilities. Though rewarding, our lifestyles can result in neglecting our mental and physical needs. Sleep is one of the most important and most commonly sacrificed of those needs. 

Sleep deprivation has significant long and short-term consequences. When we sleep our bodies heal, without that vital time of relaxation problems occur. One of the easiest, fastest, and lowest-risk strategies to improve your sleep schedule is incorporating more massages into your monthly or weekly routine! 

Central Nervous System

The central nervous system is responsible for how our brains process information, it consists of the brain and the spinal cord. A prevalent nervous system disorder and culprit of insomnia are migraines. We’ve all had them in our lives and they are the worst. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) conducted a study over the course of 13 weeks. They compared migraine patients who went through weekly massages versus patients who did not receive massages. They found that, compared to control participants, massage participants exhibited greater improvements in migraine frequency, anxiety, depression, coping efficacy, and sleep quality during the intervention weeks and the 3 follow-up weeks. As you can see, it isn’t just migraines that are aided by more frequent massages. It goes further back than that. Massages help our sleep, which then helps our central nervous system, which helps with migraines, anxiety, depression, and all kinds of other issues. 

Cardiovascular & Digestive Systems

As I mentioned before, sleep is the time the body heals, a simple way of saying our body produces all the necessary hormones and bacteria that keep us alive and healthy. Lack of sleep impacts two of the hormones within our digestive system: Leptin and Ghrelin. Leptin tells our brains when we are full and Ghrelin tells us when we are hungry. Fluctuation in these hormones can explain inconsistency with your appetite. Problems with your appetite inevitably result in poor eating habits without you even realizing it! Sleep deprivation also causes your body to decrease its production of insulin after eating, which is a hormone that helps reduce blood sugar. The consequences of these disruptions are pretty scary. The lack of sleep and its effects on your digestive and cardiovascular systems can increase the risk for a number of health problems including; high blood sugar, diabetes, obesity,  and cardiovascular disease. Massages have been proven to aid in your body’s production of these hormones and your sleeping patterns. 

Immune System

Massages not only improve the amount you sleep, they also improve the quality of your sleep. As we get older our immune systems weaken, and the lack of sleep accelerates that process. Our immune system produces antibodies and cytokines while we sleep, which help fight off diseases and heal our wounds faster. Another study by AMTA tested the effectiveness of massages on the sleep quality of the elderly. The study used the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PISQ)  to measure the sleep of three groups. The study concluded that the PISQ of the group that received massages was significantly higher. The cause of this seemed to be the decreased amount of times the subjects would wake up in the middle of the night after receiving massages. Massages are also known to help circulation and blood flow within our bodies. Therefore, in addition to helping us sleep, massages also boost our bodies’ ability to flush toxins out. 

Endocrine System

Massages aren’t only helpful for those of us getting older. They can be extremely helpful for children and adolescents as well. Throughout this blog post, I have talked extensively about how hormone production depends on sleep. In order to produce testosterone you need at least 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep. The lack of this hormone can disrupt growth hormones, which are the hormones that build muscle and repair cells. They are critical to the development of children. If your children play sports or are active, massages increase their range of motion and improve their muscle soreness in more than just one way. Yes, messages will help relax and ease tension, but further than that, they also help our bodies build muscle faster and less painfully by improving our sleep.

I hope I’ve sufficiently convinced you of the benefits of improving your sleep through massages. They are one of the only ways to naturally improve your sleeping habits non-pharmacologically and can be a fun way as well as a bonding experience for the whole family. 

Article contributed by Clara Velloso