Can Massage Therapy Help You Sleep?

February 15, 2023

Can Massage Therapy Help You Sleep?

It can’t be stressed enough how important sleep is to your overall health. Countless studies show that lack of sleep in adults can lead to an onslaught of health issues, including increased cortisol levels, cardiovascular disease, disruption of the body’s production and regulation of hormones and neurotransmitters, and more.

Despite this, experts report over 50 to 70 million are currently experiencing sleep issues, such as persistent insomnia, sleep apnea, Restless Legs Syndrome, and other sleep disorders. On the other hand, you may simply be experiencing temporary trouble falling asleep, or poor sleep quality.

No matter the root cause, quality sleep is essential to your overall health and wellness. But, can massage help you sleep?

Regardless of whether your sleep problems are ongoing or have recently begun, it is likely that regular massages can have many benefits, and lead to positive results when it comes to sleep quality.

Identifying Your Sleep Disorder

According to the American Massage Therapy Association, it’s important that you start by pinpointing the possible cause of your poor sleep quality. Sleep disorders can manifest in many forms, both mental and physical. The most common sleep disorder, insomnia, tends to act as a catch-all term, meaning you lack the ability to fall asleep and/or stay asleep.

Quite a number of things can lead to insomnia. You can experience insomnia during a period of high stress. You could experience insomnia as a side effect of medication, or you may have an underlying condition such as arthritis. It’s important to consult your doctor first and foremost, then move on to your own personal body and lifestyle assessments.

Which Sleep Disorders can be Helped with Massage?

While it can be difficult to identify the root cause of your sleep disorder, many of them can be improved upon with massage.


While there is not always a clear cause for insomnia, research published in the 2017 Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics that chronic pain can be a huge contributing source. Massage can help by aiding in pain management, assisting with overall muscle relaxation, and improving circulation.

Stress is another contributor to insomnia. Massage can help by promoting relaxation, and reducing stress hormones.

Restless Legs Syndrome

If you’ve ever experienced a tingling, achy, or creepy-crawly sensation in your legs when attempting to fall asleep, it could be Restless Legs Syndrome. Oftentimes, this can be a side effect of medication, muscle tightness, or brought on by stress. Massage can help by forcing those muscles to relax, leading to less pain and better sleep.

Other Sleep Disorders that can be Helped with Massage

According to studies on holistic treatments performed by the Mayo Clinic, additional sleep disorders that can be improved by massage include:

  • Anxiety
  • Digestive disorders
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches
  • Myofascial pain syndrome
  • Paresthesias and nerve pain
  • Soft tissue strains or injuries
  • Sports injuries
  • Temporomandibular joint pain

What is Massage Therapy?

Massage therapy is considered to be a part of integrative medicine. The act of massage consists of a certified professional, i.e. a massage therapist, manipulating your body tissue using movement and pressure.

More and more, massage therapy is being recommended by medical professionals to accompany standard medical treatment, and aid in overall good health. Studies show that regular massages not only improve sleep, but increase serotonin production, relieve stress, reduce cortisol, relieve muscle tension, improve immune function, and much more.

How can Massage Therapy Benefit Your Sleep?

Time and time again, studies show that therapeutic massage can improve quality of life by promoting less stress, less pain, and better sleep. Here’s how massage helps benefit your  sleep:

  • By alleviating muscle tension and tightness
  • By promoting relaxation in the body and mind
  • By alleviating muscle aches and pains that lead to discomfort when sleeping
  • By reducing your stress, thus reducing your cortisol levels
  • By lessening chronic pain or inflammation
  • By relieving chronic migraines, neck, or back pain
  • By improving your blood circulation
  • By treating underlying anxiety that could be contributing to insomnia
  • By aiding in serotonin production

How can Massage Therapy Benefit Your Health?

When you improve your sleep quality through massage therapy, it quickly benefits your overall health. Here are some ways massage therapy benefits your health:

  • Improved sleep quality
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease
  • Reduces cortisol levels
  • Reduces the risk of high blood pressure
  • Reduces the risk of stroke
  • Reduces mental distress and anxiety
  • Aids in your ability to relax
  • Promotes overall good health

What are the Types of Massage for Sleep?

There are many types of massages that help improve sleep. When you’re exploring the benefits of massage, make sure to consult a professional massage therapist on which type of massage might be best for you.

  • Swedish massage. Swedish massage is typically considered a “classic” massage. It consists of a combination of rubbing, kneading, and tapping at various pressures and speeds.
  • Deep tissue massage. A deep tissue massage is similar to a Swedish massage, but typically uses an increased amount of pressure and/or force to alleviate muscle tension. Deep tissue massage can be painful, but benefits severe muscle tightness greatly.
  • Hot rock massage. A hot rock massage consists of a professional massage therapist heating and placing flat rocks, typically made of basalt, on certain parts of your body, usually the spine. Oftentimes, your massage therapist will employ Swedish techniques, such as rubbing and kneading, using the stone rather than their hands.
  • Shiatsu massage. Shiatsu massage focuses on your body’s specific pressure points. Massage therapists will use thumbs, fingers, and palms to apply pressure strategically on points that will promote improved circulation, lymphatic drainage, and more.
  • Sports massage. Sports massage is geared towards athletes or those who frequently participate in sports or fitness. Sports massage is also an option for those who may have experienced an injury.
  • Foot reflexology. Reflexology employs shiatsu massage techniques, but this massage focuses on the feet and calves. Reflexology benefits those experiencing Restless Legs Syndrome tremendously.
  • Pregnancy massage. Pregnancy massage, typically referred to as prenatal massage, is a special type of Swedish massage geared toward pregnant women. The benefits of prenatal massage are endless. Aside from improving your sleep, pre-natal massage promotes natural pain relief, and helps prepare the body for labor and birth.
  • Trigger point massage. Trigger point massage can also be referred to as Shiatsu massage. Again, this massage focuses on your body’s specific pressure points. Your therapist will use thumbs, fingers, and palms to apply pressure strategically on certain points of your body.
  • Self-massage. While it’s not quite as convenient as hiring a professional massage therapist, it is possible to massage yourself at home. Tools such as foam rollers and massage guns can be very helpful when self-massaging. For areas such as your feet, calves, and forearms, you’re able to use your own hands and fingers to rub or knead sore spots.

Can Massage Therapy Help Insomnia?

If you’re one of the 50 to 70 million Americans experiencing sleep issues or insomnia, massage therapy can help. Start by consulting your doctor, and try to identify the root cause of your insomnia. In many cases, you’ll find there is no obvious reason you are experiencing insomnia. Assess your body for pain or other issues, then consult a massage therapist to see what type of massage can help you fall asleep.

Can Massage Therapy Help Sleep Disorders?

Research conducted by the Mayo Clinic suggests massage therapy can be used to aid in the treatment of numerous medical conditions, one being sleep disorders. If you notice you can’t fall asleep or stay asleep, it’s possible you have a sleep disorder. Reach out to your family doctor, as well as a licensed massage therapist, to see if massage therapy is the right option for you.

Are There Any Risks Associated with Massage?

While there are endless benefits to getting regular therapeutic massages, there are some risks involved. Some of these risks may become apparent if you have any of the following issues:

  • Burns or healing wounds
  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Broken bones
  • Severe thrombocytopenia
  • Severe osteoporosis

It is important to consult your doctor before pursuing massage therapy as a means to improve your quality of sleep.

Professional Massage Therapy vs. In-Home Massage

There are many benefits to seeking professional massage therapy from a certified massage specialist, but there are countless options available if you’re seeking to get your massages at home.

If you’re seeking a licensed massage therapist, you’ll most likely take a few factors into account. First, consider what type of massage you’ll reap the most benefits from. You may want to try different types of massage therapy before settling on one. If persistent back pain is keeping you from falling asleep, seeking a professional may be your best option, as it can be difficult to treat these hard-to-reach areas with at-home options.

It’s important to remember that massage can much more effectively help with sleep disorders, if you stay consistent. If you’re going for professional massages weekly, or even monthly, it could cost you. Consider at-home options to keep up with maintenance in between massages.

Some options for in-home massage therapy include massage chairs and pads. Depending on your budget, a one-time purchase of a full-body massage chair may do the trick. If you’re looking to save money, moveable electric pads are available for placing on problem areas, such as your upper or lower back.

If you struggle with Restless Legs Syndrome, foot and calf massagers are available in a number of different price ranges. Massage guns have recently increased in popularity, and you can easily use them on yourself or a partner.

Massage Therapy Tips for Better Sleep

Massage therapy can be an immediate and enjoyable solution to achieving your best quality of sleep, but not without consistency. When you choose massage therapy to help you sleep, it’s important to remember these tips and tricks.

  • Be consistent. Make sure you are getting regular massages, but find a regular schedule that works best for you. For example, start with a professional massage once every two weeks. If you notice your sleep quality improving, continue with this schedule or scale back to once a month.
  • Maintain your massage. While it may not be within your price range to get a professional massage every two weeks, there are ways to maintain the benefits of a monthly massage. One of the best ways to ensure long-lasting massage benefits is to make sure you have the right mattress.
  • Assess your mattress. It’s possible your current mattress is contributing to your persistent sleep issues. Examine what type of mattress could be best for you. Explore all of your options, as mattress technology continues to rapidly improve.

    Patrick Gunther

    Patrick is an accomplished writer. He has been in the retail mattress space for the past 13 years, and more specifically in the natural mattress niche. He blogs on the subjects of natural mattresses, sleep, health, fitness, and green living.