The prevalence of insomnia— trouble either falling asleep or staying asleep—is staggering. More than 30 percent of American adults suffer from occasional bouts of insomnia, and 10 percent of Americans experience chronic insomnia. In the latter case—chronic insomnia is poor sleep every night or most nights for more than six months—the seemingly endless cycle can cause extreme fatigue, problems with concentration, and can adversely affect mood and well-being. Worse, sleep loss can contribute to low work performance, slowed reaction time, obesity, higher risk of long-term disease, and substance abuse.
What Can Trigger Insomnia?
Many things can interfere with sleep. Worry is absolutely one. What we bring to bed with us can often wake us in the wee hours. Other behavioral factors include diet—sugar or caffeine too late in the day, for example. Insufficient exercise or the flip side of that, an overly sedentary lifestyle, is another. Aches and pains may also rouse us from our dreams.
Another trigger of insomnia is any shift in our clock—the literal one— whether from travel or that twice-yearly event for most of us, going on or off daylight savings. Even a single hour’s difference can throw us off our familiar sleep cycle, and it may take days to adjust to each hour of difference in our clock.
Science Weighs In
The neurochemistry of sleep is relevant because massage directly influences the body’s production of serotonin. Derived from the amino acid tryptophan, serotonin is converted by the brain into melatonin, which in turn influences the sleep stage of our circadian rhythm. In addition, Anne Williams, director of education, Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals and author of Spa Bodywork and Teaching Massage, notes, “Massage helps people spend more time in deep sleep, the restorative stage in which the body barely moves, which reduces the neurotransmitter associated with pain.”
The neurochemistry of sleep and the effect massage has on that neurochemistry indicates a solid link between massage and insomnia treatment. And while a visit to a massage chair may not be the first thing that an insomniac thinks of, it is in fact a very wise choice. Based on research gathered by the American Massage Therapy Association, The National Institutes of Health has advised that massage therapy can reduce fatigue and improve sleep.
What Kind of Massage is Best?
When you are struggling with insomnia, what massage techniques offer the best results? A study 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 suggests gliding strokes to the neck and abdomen, kneading of the anterior thighs, the rectus and oblique muscles that help bend the trunk of the body forward, and rubbing and gentle pulling on both legs.
These benefits and more are available in adjustable intensity in the Panasonic MAJ7, or more affordably in the Positive Posture Brio+ or the Panasonic MA73. Check elsewhere in the WBMC University tab to learn more.
The Smart At-Home Option
Massage is a smart, healthy, and drug-free option that has helped many people overcome insomnia. A premium massage chair offers those benefits on-demand in your own home.
Of course, recurring insomnia should be evaluated by a healthcare professional or a sleep disorder specialist. While further research is needed to show the direct effects massage therapy has on serotonin and sleep, in the meantime, existing evidence is certainly sufficient to recommend regular massage chair treatments for anyone suffering from insomnia.
If you have questions or need a recommendation, don’t hesitate to contact us.
Cutler, Nicole. L.Ac, “ opens in a new windowInsomnia, Serotonin and Massage.” Massage Professionals Update, Institute for Integrative Healthcare Studies, 17 Mar. 2014,
Kibler, Kray. “ opens in a new windowMassage Therapy for a Better Night’s Sleep.” Sleep Review, 23 May 2014.
Breus, Michael J. “ opens in a new windowHow Sleep Is Affected by Time Changes.” WebMD, WebMD, 2003.