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Sleep and Massage Therapy
Hands-On Therapy for Peaceful Sleep
By : Nikos Linardakis
Co-Author: Carli Dixon
One alternative medicine approach is a perfect option for relaxing your tension and allowing you to sink into deep, restful sleep: massage therapy.
If you are comfortable with someone touching your body, a therapeutic massage is a wonderful sleep aid. In simple terms, massage therapy turns OFF the sympathetic nervous system, and turns ON the parasympathetic system. Thus, it relaxes the body and relieves neuromuscular problems.
I (Dr. Nikos) recently tried this method by actually getting a massage during a recent trip to the suburbs of Chicago. I peacefully drifted off to sleep with no trouble at all, even during the massage.
Relaxation techniques, such as massage therapy, can reduce the frustrations, stresses, and other turmoil that lead to a night of tossing and turning-and anxiousness and poor performance during the daytime.
It seems we all have the need for human touch. Therapeutic massage can have both an internal psychological benefit and an external physical benefit-improving physiological responses for the body.
Therapeutic massage can help with sleep disorders that have a neuromuscular origin such as pain, tension, involuntary muscle contractions, and "restless muscle" syndromes, notably, "restless legs syndrome."
After having a daily massage for ten days, even adults with chronic fatigue syndrome sleep better.
BALMS AND OILS
Massage and aromatherapy can relax your muscles and offer improved blood and lymph circulation. A backrub can reduce nerve irritation and assist by increasing production of pain-killing endorphins. The time-honored healing potential of a good back massage is well known and has many enthusiasts.
Several sweetly-scented natural balms and massage oils are available to use with massage therapy to relieve stress. The aroma, texture, and feel of the oils offer a calming effect in a relaxing environment.
Insomnia is common problem for hospitalized patients. Consequently, a search for non-drug alternatives for the treatment of insomnia has been necessary. Massage has been useful as an adjunct or alternative option to drug therapy for insomnia, for example benzodiazepines.
One study, conducted at the University of Arkansas, concluded that back massage is useful for promoting sleep in critically ill older men.
SOOTHING YOUR CHILD WITH INFANT MASSAGE
It may interest you to know that restless babies and children may also benefit from a massage by sleeping more peacefully. In one study of children and adolescents, those who participated in a 30-minute massage (daily for five days) slept longer and more soundly.
In addition to helping an infant sleep, the "calming touch" of a parent establishes a valuable opportunity to soothe and nurture your baby. As little as 15 minutes of massage a day significantly benefits infant weight gain as well as mental and motor development, according to research. Infants' sleep patterns improved with deeper sleep of longer duration.
Baby massage has many benefits, including improved parent-infant interaction, infant relaxation and reduced crying for colicky babies. Some newborns may develop a more regular sleep cycle as well.
In addition, a study by Dieter, et al., discovered that pre-term infants given five days of massage therapy gained weight and improved sleep-wake behavior. The therapy used was a simple, easy-to-learn method of body stroking combined with passive limb movements for three 15-minute periods per day to improve the health of the stable pre-term infants.
THERAPEUTIC MASSAGE TECHNIQUES
Massage can also help a couple reconnect. It can be a great way to re-acquaint with your partner. You might want to give each other a nightly massage before sleep.
Some of the most common therapeutic massage techniques are:
• Swedish massage: a smooth, flowing style that improves overall relaxation, circulation and range of movement, and relieves muscular tension.
• Deep-tissue or Neuromuscular massage: a style that reaches the connective tissues, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. This releases tension areas called "trigger points."
• Sports massage: a style that improves athletic performance by massaging specific muscles, tendons and ligaments.
• Reflexology: a style for massaging specific "reflex zones" on your feet that relieves tension and pain, and improves circulation in areas of your body corresponding to reflex zones of the feet.
• Specialized forms: other forms of therapeutic massage.
A "PEACEFUL, EASY FEELING"-- AND A POEM
After you have experienced a therapeutic massage, drink plenty of water (to avoid dehydration and to help in the removal and filtration of toxins) and enjoy the sweet peace of relaxation to benefit your sleep.
As I was drifting into relaxation by the end of my own massage therapy session, the therapist recited a wonderful poem. It had an effect when it was spoken slowly and received in a restful state. "Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery, but Today is a gift-that's why they call it the Present."
Nikos Linardakis, M.D. is a chief physician in Boston, Massachusetts for Tharos Laboratories, Inc. He currently writes and has previously published articles on evidence-based natural alternatives. He is the author of several medical books, and Editor-in-Chief at McGraw-Hill Companies Health Sciences Division, New York. He can be reached at Nikos@TharosLabs.com
Carli Dixon, M.A., M.S. is a writer/editor who specializes in health, nutrition, the management of stress and change, and current research findings that focus on anti-aging and wellness issues.
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