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Benefits of Massage Therapy for Sleep

Having difficulty sleeping, or insomnia is a common problem with half of women and 43% of men reporting having difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, and 33% of people don’t get enough sleep on an ongoing basis1. Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep, waking up frequently through the night or not being able to fall back asleep after waking. The consequences of long term insomnia include being tired during the day, decreased mental and emotional wellbeing and an increase in accidents2.

There are many causes of insomnia, however, the most common causes are depression and anxiety, having an existing health problems and potentially pain associated with the health concern, and sleep apnea (interrupted breathing during sleep). Sometimes the cause of the insomnia cannot be determined. This type of insomnia is called primary insomnia and only accounts for about 12% of people with insomnia3. Other causes of insomnia are medications, tobacco, caffeine or drug use, keeping an irregular sleep schedule, or working shift work, too much screen time before bed, and a poor sleep environment, such as too much noise or light4.  

How to improve your ability to get a good night’s sleep

For some people, practicing healthy sleep habits or good sleep hygiene can help alleviate insomnia. Good sleep hygiene includes reducing naps or not napping during the day, avoiding alcohol, tobacco and caffeine especially in the evening, limit screen time before bed and use your bed only for sleeping, not watching TV or reading. If you find you can’t sleep, get up and do a quiet activity then go back to bed when you’re tired. Lying in bed trying to fall asleep is often counterproductive5.

How massage can help

Massage therapy is a great drug free option to improve sleep quality. Massage therapy has been shown to improve the quality of sleep and improve a person’s ability to stay asleep6. Massage therapy can also help with decreasing pain, stress and anxiety which are leading causes of insomnia 7,8. Massage therapy has also been shown to release serotonin which is a precursor to melatonin, which is the hormone that controls sleep cycles9. Massage therapy also promotes a relaxed state in your body. It decreases heart rate and blood pressure which is beneficial for falling asleep10.

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1. Chaput, J.P., Wong, S.L., Michaud, Isabelle. (2017). Duration and quality of sleep among Canadians aged 18 to 79. Health Rep, 28(9):28-33. Accessed

2. Roth, T. (2007 Aug 15). Insomnia: Definition, Prevalence, Etiology and Consequences. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. 3(5 Suppl): S7–S10

3. Arroll, B., Fernando,A., Falloon, F., Goodyear-Smith, F., Samaranayake,C & Warman, G. Prevelence of Causes of insomnia in primary care: a cross sectional study. British Journal of General Practice 2012; 62 (595): e99-e103. Accessed



6. Bittencourt, L.R., Goto, V., Hachul, H.,  Riveira, D.S. & Tufik, S. (2012). Effect of therapeutic massage on insomnia and climacteric symptoms in postmenopausal women. Climacteric, 15(1):21-29. Accessed

7. Castro-Sánchez AM, Matarán-Peñarrocha GA, Granero-Molina J, Aguilera-Manrique G, Quesada-Rubio JM, Moreno-Lorenzo C. Benefits of massage-myofascial release therapy on pain, anxiety, quality of sleep, depression, and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:561753. doi: 10.1155/2011/561753. Epub 2010 Dec 28. Accessed

8. Castro-Sánchez, A.M., Matarán-Peñarrocha, G.A., Granero-Molina, J., Aguilera-Manrique, G., Quesada-Rubio, J.M., Moreno-Lorenzo, C. (2011). Benefits of massage-myofascial release therapy on pain, anxiety, quality of sleep, depression, and quality of life in patients with fibromyalgia. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, 2011:561753. 

9. Field, T., Hernandez-Rief, M., Diego, M., Schanberg, S., Kuhn, C. (2005). Cortisol decreases and serotonin and dopamine increase following massage therapy. Int J Neurosci, 115(10):1397-1423. [link]

10. Givi, M. Durability of Effect of Massage Therapy on Blood Pressure. International Journal of Preventative Medicine. (2013) May vol 4(5): 511–516. Accessed