MANAGE YOUR STRESS WITH MASSAGE AND BETTER SLEEP HABITS
Stress and anxiety are a growing part of everyday life. They often bring sleeplessness along with them. To keep it all under control, you need effective ways to manage stress and get the rest you need. What better way than a massage? Massage does more than make you feel good, it activates the nervous system, reduces stress hormones, and decreases pain. When you put those benefits together with healthy sleep habits, you’re looking at better sleep and stress that doesn’t determine the course of your life.
YOUR BODY UNDER STRESS
Stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s your body’s way of telling you you’re in danger. However, if your body stays in this heightened state, it can be bad for your health.
The body releases high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which can cause painful inflammation. Tense muscles in and of themselves can be painful, but they can make any injuries or weak areas sore too, compounding any chronic pain points. Stress also equals less sleep, and inadequate sleep increases pain perception.
Sleep loss can then lead to health taking a dive. Appetite control reduces, muscle recovery decreases, and emotions become erratic.
MASSAGE TO THE RESCUE
When massage enters the picture, things don’t look so bleak. Studies have shown that massage can lower cortisol levels and related inflammation. It also activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure while increasing digestive activity. Brain scans have found that massage can even aid emotional regulation.
If you add it all up—less cortisol, lowered heart rate and blood pressure, better emotional control—you get less stress and anxiety. Bringing all those parts of your health together puts you on the offense when stressful events and situations arise so they impact you less.
IMPROVE SLEEP HABITS
When we’re talking about sleep, reducing stress is only part of the equation. Massage prepares your body for sleep, but your sleep environment and habits could still keep you lying awake at night.
Prep your bedroom for the best sleep possible. Keep the room temperature comfortably low. Your body temperature needs to drop and the lower room temperature helps your body maintain that. Block out all light. Any light from televisions screens to street lamps suppresses sleep hormones. And, make sure your mattress supports your weight and favored sleep position to reduce wakefulness and soreness.
You also need habits that support good sleep like:
A Consistent Sleep/Wake Schedule: Consistency trains your brain when to release sleep hormones. You’ll fall asleep faster when it’s not trying to guess.
A Solid Bedtime Routine: Meditation, yoga, reading a book, or taking a bath—it doesn’t matter what’s in your routine as long as it relaxes you. Make sure to do the routine in the same order and start at the same time every day, even weekends.
Talk a Walk in the Sunshine: Sunlight regulates sleep hormones. Make sure you’re getting some, especially in the morning and early afternoon. Then, once it starts to get dark, your sleep hormones are prepped and ready to go.
Massage is a tool to give you control over your physical, mental, and emotional health. As you use it to manage stress and get better sleep, you’ll be able to handle the expected and the unexpected with a clear, well-rested mind and body.
Samantha Kent is a researcher for SleepHelp.org. Her favorite writing topic is how getting enough sleep can improve your life. Currently residing in Boise, Idaho, she sleeps in a California King bed, often with a cat on her face.