For many busy women, the only solution to frustrating menopause symptoms is “deal with it.” Our schedules don’t slow down because we had a horrible night’s sleep or are having our fourth hot flash of the day. And while the latter can be mitigated with a hands-off solution, a new study suggests a more touchy-feely approach for the former.
Sleep disturbances are arguably the worst of the many symptoms menopause has to offer. Poor sleep affects our mood, concentration, immunity, and stress tolerance. But according to a recent study published in Menopause, the solution might be at your local spa (or with your significant other).
As it turns out, a foot massage is more than a treat-yourself luxury. It could serve as a non-hormonal alternative to combatting menopause-induced insomnia.
The Science Behind Massage Therapy
Turkish researchers studied 70 postmenopausal women, dividing them into experimental and control groups. The lucky experimental group received a 20-minute foot massage every day for a week. The unfortunate control group received no intervention.
The study found the sleep and stress statistics between the two groups were significantly different. Those in the experimental group reported less fatigue and stress. They also slept an average of one more hour a night than the control group.
So, what makes a foot rub so powerful?
According to the Institute for Integrative Healthcare, it all comes down to hormones—specifically serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is a precursor to melatonin. If the body produces less serotonin (like during menopause), then it can’t produce melatonin to prepare the body for sleep. Massage therapy restores these serotonin levels, thereby increasing melatonin production.
A 2020 Chinese study found similar results after analyzing the effects of foot reflexology on sleep disturbances. Essentially a massage, foot reflexology involves applying pressure to specific points of the feet. The study suggests that “foot reflexology produces significant improvements in sleep disturbances.”
Scientifically Proven Self-Care
In a perfect world, we’d have ample time and money for self-care practices like massage therapy. But a perfect world this is not, and massages are often delegated to the “if I ever had the time, which I don’t” category. However, these studies prove that a massage is more than just a splurge. It’s medicinal.
Whether you book a session with a masseuse pro or enlist the helping hands of your significant other, receiving a regular foot massage can help you get deeper, more restful sleep. You have enough things on your plate to worry about—how tired you are should not be one of them.
And if you prefer to do your massages solo, that’s an option too. The Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals outline five simple self-massage techniques on MassageTherapy.com:
- Ankle circling: Place your right foot on top of your left thigh. Rotate your foot at the ankle using both hands.
- Sole rub: Place one hand on top of your foot and the other on your sole. Rub your hands back and forth across your foot in short strokes.
- Toe stretch: With one hand, gently stretch your toes back. With the other hand, gently tap the sole of your foot to stimulate blood circulation.
- T-shape fan: Use both thumbs to sweep up the center of your sole. Then, near the toes, fan the thumbs outward toward opposite sides to stretch the foot.
- Thumb circling: Move your thumbs in rhythmic, kneading circles across the entire sole.
If reaching for your feet is uncomfortable, MassageTherapy.com also suggests rolling the foot on a tennis ball while seated. Placing a handful of marbles across the floor and gently rubbing your feet across them is another option.
An Effective, Non-Hormonal Solution
No matter how you choose to receive your massage, the science is clear (and something we can 100% get behind). This therapy can be an effective alternative to melatonin supplements, hormone medications, or just staring at your dark ceiling at 3 a.m. yet again.
As far as we’re concerned, these scientific findings are the definition of a win-win. Best case scenario, a massage helps reduce menopause-related insomnia and improve mood, concentration, immunity, and stress tolerance. Worst case scenario, you got to enjoy a soothing massage guilt-free. And that’s the best kind of self-care.
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