How to release tension

When you’re suffering broken sleep, treats such as massage become even more blissful. But which style is best – and how can you do a DIY treatment?IMG_2689

Close your eyes, take a breath in and a big sigh out. Now imagine you have an hour-long massage booked. As you lie on the massage table, you hear the tranquil sounds of relaxation music and then  the warm, reassuring touch as your massage therapist gently unravels those knots of tension from your neck and shoulders…

After an hour, if you haven’t already nodded off, you’ll probably sleep well that night. And if you don’t, then you’ll be so relaxed you won’t mind!

Yes, massage is a luxuriously indulgent way of succumbing to sleep and promoting the release of feel-good hormones through the body. It works on the emotional body and the physical body by “unlocking” stress, nurturing the nervous system and allowing the mind to “let go” of worries and tension.

Of course it does depend on which massage therapy you choose and if you opt for a Chinese or sports massage then you may find it’s a bit more “ouch” than “ooh”. (Although you’ll probably find you sleep well that night – just not during the massage!).

But to really promote those zzzs then it’s a good idea to opt for a Swedish massage which is a full body massage and includes long, sweeping strokes and kneading movements.

Relaxation massage is generally a lighter, soothing massage with gentle touch and long flowing strokes. And Aromatherapy massage is a delicious holistic massage using essential oils such as lavender to help induce relaxation.

And of course, if you like having your feet rubbed then book a reflexology session. There are certain points on the feet which can help to release stress and encourage deep, restful sleep.

Why massage helps promote sleep

Massage works by releasing the body from the build up of stress which accumulates through our day. Most of us lead busy lives and when we are stressed our body releases those “flight and fight” hormones such as adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol which lead to our muscles tightening, our heart rate and breathing increasing and our perception of pain diminishing.

Our body is preparing to fight, but of course sitting in a traffic jam or faced with a dressing down from the boss in the morning meeting – you’re hardly likely to be able to act on your emotions. So we sit with this cocktail of hormones whizzing around the body.

The long term effect of this will lead to our health being compromised and most likely our sleep being disturbed. In order to counteract the stress of modern day life then we need to incorporate relaxation, meditation and exercise into our daily lives, such as yoga, walking, swimming and having a regular weekly or monthly massage.

DIY massage

The good news is that you can get those dreamy benefits by simply giving yourself a head and neck massage before bed or better still, get your partner to swap a massage with you.

Try this wonderfully relaxing massage technique from my book, Mother Me to help you both drift off to a lovely long sleep…

Supported head roll

This is one to do with your partner just before bed. The person doing the movement sits upright, preferably cross legged, but make sure you are comfortable! Your partner cups their right hand over your forehead and cradles the back of your head in their left hand. Their support is gentle and guiding. Slowly, lower your chin towards your chest and allow your partner to take the weight of your head. Then, on an inhalation tilt your head back, allowing your head to be supported by your partner’s left hand. The slower you move, the more beneficial the practice. Just move your head forwards and backwards – you are controlling the movement and your partner is simply taking the weight of your head, so they are not moving your head for you. Practise for a few minutes and then swap – and snooze!

*always check with your healthcare provider before booking a massage or trying a massage technique

* Copyright – Katie Brown