Sweet Dreams: National Sleep Awareness Week

Sleeping Woman

Sweet dreams are made of this: National Sleep Awareness Week is March 7 – 11. I’ll be posting videos this week of massage tips for insomnia, so check back later in the week.  Before we get started with acupressure points to help you fall asleep tomorrow, I’d like to give you some basic information about insomnia.

What is Insomnia

Insomnia is typically defined as difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep/wakefulness.  There are two broad types of insomnia, primary and secondary.  Primary insomnia is a sleep disorder that is not associated or caused by another condition or health issue.  Secondary insomnia is caused by another health disorder or condition, medication, or some other cause.  In these cases, secondary insomnia is a symptom of another disorder or condition.

What are the symptoms of insomnia?

A common misconception is that insomnia simply an inability to fall asleep.  While that is the primary symptom in some cases, it is extremely common to have trouble staying asleep through the night.  Early wakefulness, or waking in the middle of the night and being unable to fall back asleep is a common experience of insomnia. For some people, falling asleep isn’t the problem, it’s staying asleep that challenges them.

Insomnia causes memory and attention problems, sleepiness during the day, feeling tired or fatigued during the day, and interferes with the daily lives of sufferers.

What are some of the causes of insomnia?

I did a little research online about insomnia and there hundreds of causes.  In cases of acute and/or secondary insomnia, causes can include (among many others)

  • medication
  • significant life-change or stress
  • pain/discomfort
  • sleep apnea
  • obesity
  • hormonal changes (i.e. menopause or pregnancy)
  • acid reflux
  • hyperthyroidism
  • depression
  • fibromyalgia
  • restless leg syndrome

In addition, primary insomnia can be caused by long-term emotional distress:

  • worry/anxiety
  • chronic stress and other psychological issues

How can massage help insomnia?

Massage turns muscles into jelly.  In my massage office in Louisville and in Nashville I have clients who can barely form a sentence after a great massage, let alone perform complex tasks. That sleepiness and relaxed sensation after a really good massage feels (to me) very close to the state of relaxation we experience as we fall asleep and start to dream. In fact for many people, including myself, the massage table is the location of some of the most restful naps of all.

Because massage can relax you and turn you into pudding, it can reduce the physical effects of stress, making it easier to fall and stay asleep. I often have clients who report sleeping long and hard the night after a massage – and staying asleep through the night.

Here’s evidence from a study on back pain where massage clients reported better sleep:

The chemistry of sleep is relevant to massage therapists because massage can directly influence the body’s production of serotonin. A study on back pain, conducted in January 2000 by the Touch Research Institute in conjunction with the University of Miami School of Medicine and Iris Burman of Miami’s Educating Hands School of Massage demonstrated that in addition to a decrease in long-term pain, subjects receiving massage experienced improved sleep and an increase in serotonin levels.(3)

from Insomnia, Seratonin and Massage

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