Massage Reduces Insomnia During Menopause
New research is showing that menopause and massage therapy should go hand in hand. Massage therapy assists in the reduction of insomnia and other adverse effects menopausal women experience.
What is Menopause?
Menopause quite literally means the cessation of one’s menstrual cycle. This is a process that generally begins in the late 40’s to mid 50’s. Once complete eggs are no longer released from the ovaries and reproduction can no longer occur.
Perimenopause is the transition period leading up to the last menstrual cycle. It can last anywhere from 4-12 years in length. During this time a woman’s estrogen levels drop and her menstrual cycle becomes less and less frequent.
Once a woman has been without a menstrual cycle for 12 months, she is said to be post menopausal. At this time menopause is complete.
Menopause affects each woman differently. Some women seem to move through this transition rather seamlessly, while others can struggle physically and emotionally with the changes. The effects of menopause can include:
- Hot flashes
- Mood swings
- Decreased quality of sleep
- Memory problems
Insomnia is defined by the inability to fall or stay asleep. Over time insomnia can lead to grievous functional deficits during waking hours. Cognitive processing, mood and behaviour can all be affected.
Menopause and Insomnia
To understand fully how menopause can cause insomnia, one must look at what generally occurs as we go to sleep.
During the evening our body temperature drops slightly. This drop in temperature allows wakeful hormones, such as adrenaline, to also take a dip. In fact, our deepest levels of sleep occur when our body temperature is at its lowest in the middle of the night.
Any time our body temperature cannot drop to its optimal sleeping level, quality of sleep will be affected. It is therefore quite easy to see how hot flashes would interrupt quality and quantity of sleep.
Many perimenopausal women struggle with some level of insomnia. This insomnia likely accounts for some of the changes women experience in their mood, energy levels and cognitive acuity.
Insomnia, Menopause and Massage Therapy
Recent research has shown that menopausal women receiving frequent massage therapy treatments experienced a significant improvement in the following measures:
- Insomnia Severity Index (ISI). The ISI measures things such as daytime functional deficits, the extent to which others notice your sleep issues and distress caused by lack of sleep.
- Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). The BDI measures characteristics such as feelings of hopelessness, guilt, irritability, changes in weight and loss of interest in sex.
- Menopause Quality of Life Questionnaire (MENQOL). The MENQOL measures the severity of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, feelings of anxiousness, and body aches.
Massage therapy cannot ‘cure’ menopause, but research is showing that massage can help improve your quality of life while going through this transition.
Climacteric. 2012 Feb;15(1):21-9. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2011.587557. Epub 2011 Oct 23. Effect of therapeutic massage on insomnia and climacteric symptoms in postmenopausal women. Oliveira DS; Hachul H, Goto V, Tufik S, Bittencourt LR.
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Updated Feb. 29, 2016