Massage & Bodywork

NOVEMBER | DECEMBER 2018

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The biggest benefit I received from massage school, besides my career, was the ability to sleep. At 25, I went to massage school to learn a professional trade, but I also identified and addressed a problem I didn't even realize I had at the time. I assumed up to that point that everyone shared my two lifelong sleep strategies: either go, go, go until I just dropped and slept from exhaustion, or knowing it was time to sleep, completed the sleep preparation ritual, then lay in bed for 1–2 hours until my mind would stop (finally!). I would sleep until my wakefulness tormented me or until the alarm went off. What I found for myself was that after only a few weeks of regular massage during school, my ability to fall asleep improved, as did the overall quality of my sleep—and no, I'm not talking about sleeping on the massage table! No longer would my mind swirl when I lay down to sleep at night. No longer would I find myself waking up multiple times each night or well before my alarm in the morning, only to lie in bed not sleeping and getting anxious about how tired I was going to be the next day. What I think happened was that regular massage "trained" my body and mind how to relax. My sleep has since benefited, even during times when I am not able to have regular massage. Now, when I lie horizontally on a comfortable surface, my body takes the cue to relax, restore, and sleep. We sleep approximately one-third of our lives, and healthy sleep and sleep habits are critical for overall health. Sleep problems can be experienced at any time in life and can have multiple contributing factors, but sleep problems in early childhood have an impact on no less then two delicate health and well-being experiences— those of the child and the mother. When I had children, I innately included massage as part of my babies' bedtime preparation ritual. Massage is a practice my girls, ages 7 and 9, still enjoy, appreciate when they are unsettled, and benefit from due to the bond it has supported between us. While obvious for one trained in massage therapy, the practice of massage as part of a bedtime routine for infants with sleep problems may not be as evident to others; particularly, new mothers who are experiencing their own negative experiences with their child's sleep issues. Infant sleep issues can include difficulty falling asleep, trouble staying asleep, or compromised waking mood due to tiredness. These issues are often mirrored in maternal sleep experiences in addition to increased stress levels, heightened anxiety, and compromised well-being for the mother. Massage for infant sleep has been examined in research with the work of Tiffany Field and colleagues, perhaps of most note for those in the massage field due to its inclusion in textbooks. 1 Field's research reported that massage decreased the time it took for children 8 months to 3 years to fall asleep 2 and that newborns massaged with lotion have longer sleep durations and less night wakings. 3 However, other research has been unable to demonstrate meaningful effect, whether due to potentially too little massage exposure (as in the case with a study that examined a single night of incorporating massage for preterm infants 4 ) or due to the overall dearth of available high-quality research for inclusion in systematic review and analysis. 5 With an expertise in pediatric sleep, and research history in the importance of bedtime sleep preparation routines, Jodi A. Mindell, PhD, and colleagues have published a paper reporting outcomes of a real-world approach to incorporating massage into the bedtime routine for infants with mild to moderate sleep issues. THE IMPACT OF BEDTIME MASSAGE ON INFANTS Mindell's research was published in Sleep Medicine in early 2018 and examined the impact of a massage-based bedtime routine on sleep and mood in infants and mothers. 6 Researchers hypothesized that bedtime routines that incorporated massage would improve sleep and mood for both children and mothers. Study eligibility required mother identification of a mild to severe child sleep problem that did not exceed three or more wakings per night, nightly wakefulness of 60 or more minutes, or less than nine hours of nightly sleep duration. Children with acute or chronic illness were excluded from the study, as were those whose parents did not speak or read English or who routinely bathe or apply lotion to 52 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k n o v e m b e r / d e c e m b e r 2 0 1 8 education SOMATIC RESEARCH Sweet Dreams Infants and Mothers Benefit from Massage-Based Bedtime Routines By Niki Munk, PhD

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