We all know that consistently getting a good night sleep is a vital part in our overall health and well-being. What if you are one of the many people who struggles with insomnia? Getting a restful night sleep allows us to recharge our batteries, so to speak. It is our body’s time to rest and recover so that we can function at our best throughout the day, both physically and mentally. Not getting a solid night sleep every night can take a big toll on your health and mood.
Insomnia is when you have difficulties falling asleep at night or staying asleep. Acute insomnia may occur a couple of nights, but chronic insomnia happens multiple nights a week for at least several months in a row. The lack of sleep can cause the following symptoms:
• Waking up not feeling refreshed
• Feeling fatigued throughout the day
• Leads to feelings of irritability, anxiety, or depression
• Difficulties focusing and concentrating
• Can affect your memory
Some triggers that can cause insomnia to occur are:
• Stress and anxiety
• Pain and soreness
• Over eating or going to bed hungry
• Consuming caffeine, sugar, or alcohol before bed
• Lack of physical activity (exercise)
Insomnia is also often associated with a lack of serotonin, which plays a role in mood, behavior, body temperature, physical coordination, appetite, and sleep. The involvement of serotonin in sleep has been repeatedly proven and is needed for the body to produce melatonin. Melatonin being the hormone that influences the sleep stage of our circadian rhythm, the internal periodic rhythms that deeply affect sleep and wakefulness. When these rhythms are broken or interrupted, the result is unrest and possible feelings of anxiousness and stress.
If taking medications to try and help you sleep is not working, or you are opposed to taking any medications, there are other alternatives to help you get a more complete and restful night sleep. Massage therapy being one of the top ways to help reduce insomnia in a natural, drug-free, way. Massage has been shown to help promote sleep by:
• Promoting relaxation
• Calming the mind and body
• Reducing stress and tension
• Decreasing feelings of anxiety and depression
• Relieving pain and muscle soreness
• Soothing the nervous system
• Stimulating the production of serotonin
• Lowering heart rate and blood pressure
Massage has been known for bringing your mind and body back into harmony and for reducing the triggers that can lead to insomnia. Frequent massage sessions can help you fall asleep faster and promote a longer, deeper sleep. Even a simple back rub for 15 minutes every night before bed, or massaging your own forearms, hands, feet, neck, and face, can help reduce insomnia. Massage may not be the first thing someone with insomnia may think of trying, but those who have often claim to have had a better night sleep after receiving a professional massage. It just may be worth a try. Schedule yourself several massages in the coming weeks and see how it affects your sleep at night.
With Thanksgiving a week away, it is a perfect time to pause for a moment and think about all that you are grateful for in life. In our materialistic, instant gratification, modern world, we often forget to be thankful for everything that we have in our daily lives. We have become so focused on our wants and needs that we miss out on what is really important in our life, and it takes a toll on our health as well. There are many benefits when we express gratitude. It is mentally, physically, and emotionally healthy to focus on what we are grateful for each and every day.
Most people who practice the act of gratitude on a daily basis are happier and healthier than the average person. It is the simple fact that they focus on the positives in their lives, the things that are going right, and the things that make them happy. By showing gratitude, you are expressing appreciation, love, respect, kindness, and in turn, it brings you warmth, hope, and the feeling of great accomplishments. Think of Karma; what goes around comes around. If you are grateful and shower others with gratitude, it will come back to you in return. Thus, making obstacles and setbacks more manageable to overcome, and life happier and healthier.
Whether you express your gratitude out loud to yourself or to others, write it down, or simply think or meditate about it. The simple act of acknowledging the things that you are grateful for has many, scientifically proven, health benefits. Here are some benefits of gratitude:
The more you think about and express gratitude, the better you feel. It is a little addicting in that manner. It goes along with the power of positive thinking. The more you practice it, the more you feel uplifted, inspired, and happy. This in turn, often leads you to taking better care of yourself and your overall physical, mental, and emotional health. When things seem to be not going well for you, pause and think about what is good in your situation, your surroundings, your life. When you feel like you are not getting what you want or need, think about what it is that you do have and be thankful for the little things that are going well in your life. The more you focus on what you are grateful for, the more you will find that you will get what you need to succeed. It might not be what you thought initially, but a different way of looking at the same situation to get you the results that will lead to happiness in the long run.
If you are not already in the habit of practicing being grateful, take this next week to start writing a few things down each day that you are grateful for and share some of them next week with your friends, family, neighbors, or coworkers for Thanksgiving. Keep it up during the following month, even if it is just one thing every day that you are feel gratitude toward and see how you feel by New Years.
Even in dark times, there is always something to be grateful for in your life. A simple ‘Thank you’ or a hug goes a long way to help make someone else’s day a little brighter. Share your appreciation, your gratitude, and see how the benefits help both you and those around you.
I hope that you all have a very wonderful Thanksgiving holiday next week. Appreciate the small things and express your gratitude.
Courtney Truax, LMT is a graduate of East West College of the Healing Arts in Portland, Oregon. She is licensed through the Oregon Board of Massage Therapy and a member of the American Massage Therapy Association. She has her own studio massage practice in the heart of downtown Lake Oswego, Oregon.