Massage Your Way To Better Slumber


We live in a high-tech world, where we are addicted to our cell phones, social media and caffeine. This lifestyle is affecting one of the most important things to human health–sleep. It is estimated that over one-third of the U.S. population does not get enough sleep,1 but we can all probably relate to having the inability to shut down. Many nights it seems impossible to get the rest one requires unless a sleeping aid is introduced.

Proper sleep allows our mind and body to recharge and, most importantly, stay healthy. This insufficient sleep epidemic will result in chronic diseases such as hypertension, depression, diabetes, anxiety, obesity, lower life span, cancer and poor quality of life.

We all understand the physical benefits of massage; however, being touched in a therapeutic way itself has many other benefits. One of the most important aspects is helping with sleep, especially deep REM sleep that helps the body rebuild. Discussed in this article are body massages that can help improve clients sleep by helping them relax and reduce stress.

1. Scrub/Wrap/Massage Package

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Many spas are incorporating a body polish with a marine body wrap followed by a relaxing massage. These two-hour treatments are designed to create a sense of well-being and improve one’s health. Generally, this treatment starts with dry brushing, which will stimulate the lymph and blood circulatory system to detoxify the body. The body polish will smooth and hydrate the skin, whereas the salt scrub nourishes and creates more detoxification of the body. A warm marine mud filled with minerals and vitamins or an algae wrap filled with trace elements is then applied, and a thermal blanket helps to infuse these ingredients into the skin. During the wrap, the therapist will perform acupressure on the client’s face to stimulate melatonin production, which is a vital hormone that regulates the sleep cycle. After a quick warm rinse, a customized massage is conducted. A full body massage will stimulate serotonin production, which will aid with a restful sleep. Utilizing calming essential oils such as lavender also increases the ability to allow the brain to relax and induce a much needed good night’s sleep.

2. Hot/Cold Stone Massage

La Stone Therapy created by Mary Hannigan utilizes hot basalt and cold marble stones during a massage to activate the self-healing process of the body. By utilizing both hot and cold alternatively during a massage, both a sedative and a re-energizing response are produced in the body, mind and spirit. La Stone Therapy massage achieves a deeper form of relaxation than a traditional massage.

Traditional hot stone massage only utilizes hot basalt stones during the massage. Hot stone massage is a therapeutic full body massage to achieve deep relaxation, deeper muscle response, increased circulation, detoxification and ultimately a sense of well-being. When hot stones are applied to the body, the immediate heat signals our brain to instantly allow the body to relax and rejuvenate.

3. Salt Stone Massage

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The benefits of salt therapy are wide ranging, which brings us to the new Himalayan salt stone massage trend. What makes this massage different from the other stone massages? Himalayan salt stones emit negative ions, which aid in decreasing inflammation caused by too many positive ions in the body.

We are surrounded by positive ions generated by computers and cell phones, which suppress the immune system, causing anxiety, headaches, migraines, fatigue, insomnia, poor concentration, nausea and lack of energy.

Plus, free radicals are positive ions that increase acidity of the blood, raising lactic acid levels and increasing the aging process.

The 84 naturally occurring minerals in Himalayan salt stones help to balance the positive ions with the negative ions. Blood and lymph flow are stimulated to increasing the detoxification process. They also are a mineral and offer a gentle exfoliation of the skin during the massage. One of the amazing benefits is the effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes deep relaxation.

In our stress filled lives, our sympathetic nervous system is automatically activated, creating muscle tension, anxiety, insomnia, restless sleep and fatigue.

4. Poultice Body Treatments/Massage

Poultices date back about 5,000 years and are an Ayurvedic medicine concept. The feeling of heat being pressed on skin instantly induces an inner calm and relaxation. Herbal poultices contain extracts of plants, spices, leaves, flowers and herbs wrapped in a natural cloth. These poultices are heated in a steamer between 10 to 15 minutes prior to the massage. This allows the aromas of the essences to be released. A warm herbal poultice massage can be performed with a gentle touch, pressing, light massaging or a vigorous pounding depending on the client’s needs. Ideally, two herbal poultices are used by the massage therapist to create a deeply relaxing massage; however, it can also be performed with one poultice during a treatment. This body treatment is a detoxifying therapy that releases tension to help the client feel better and rest more soundly.

Sometimes, a traditional Thai massage is followed to complete the ultimate sense of well-being. This is one of the most powerful massages to affect the mind, body and spirit.

5. Bamboo Massage

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Another trend in the United States is bamboo massage, which incorporates various bamboo stalks varying in different lengths and diameters to provide deep tissue work. Some of the bamboo sticks are warmed in a special case specifically for the massage.

The massage therapist can utilize the various bamboo sticks for many different techniques and massage modalities to customize the massage for the client. Bamboo massage allows the massage therapist to utilize all their expertise in a treatment and really be able to focus on specific client needs. Bamboo massage is sometimes compared to deep tissue massage, but it can also be utilized to perform strokes similar to a Swedish massage depending on the pressure. To personalize or customize to our client’s needs, bamboo massage can be combined with Thai massage, lymphatic drainage massage and even Ayurvedic techniques customized to the client’s Dosha of vata, pitta or kapha.

Additionally, it can be combined with the elements of shiatsu to stimulate acupuncture pressure points to focus on meridians and tsubo points. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), bamboo massage can be combined with bamboo cupping jars. The smallest bamboo sticks can be incorporated during hand and feet reflexology to activate specific tsubo points during a massage or reflexology treatment. Receiving a bamboo massage will immediately aid with stress reduction to help with receiving a much deserved deep sleep.

Go Beyond The Treatment Room

In our wonderful health and wellness industry, we have many options to help with stress reduction in the epidemic of insomnia. Besides offering our clients amazing body treatments to achieve deep sleep, we also need to offer home care advice. Clients can improve sleep by utilizing relaxing oils such as lavender, neroli and sweet orange in bath salts, bath oils, body oils, diffusers and candles. Plus, clients can be advised on how lifestyle choices such as meditation, exercise, yoga and diet can help to improve sleep. Clients should be told to turn off their cell phone or computer an hour before going to sleep. Remember, we are so much more than a client’s skin or massage therapist.


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Goldie Bonnell is an international training manager for ESPA’s American division. She has more than 25 years of experience in the skin care and wellness industries. She has designed programs and client treatments for many spas and she is a featured speaker at industry trade shows.

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