A proven solution to menopause-induced insomnia that we can get behind

For many busy women, the only solution to the frustrating symptoms of menopause is to “deal with it”. Our schedules don’t slow down because we’ve had a terrible night’s sleep or have our fourth hot flash of the day. And while the latter can be mitigated with a hands-off solution, a new study suggests a trickier approach for the former.

Trouble sleeping is 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 Menopausethe solution could be at your local spa (or with your partner).

Turns out, a foot massage is more than a do-it-yourself luxury. It could serve as a non-hormonal alternative to combat menopause-induced insomnia.

The science behind massage therapy

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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 that 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 hour more per night than the control group.

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So what makes a foot massage 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 (as during menopause), it cannot 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 on the feet. The study suggests that “foot reflexology produces significant improvements in sleep disturbances.”

Scientifically Proven Personal Care

Woman giving herself a foot massage
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In a perfect world, we would have plenty of time and money for self-care practices like massage therapy. But it’s not a perfect world, and massages are often delegated to the “if I ever had time, which I don’t” category. However, these studies prove that a massage is more than just insanity. It’s medicinal.

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Whether you book a session with a professional masseuse or enlist the help of your partner, getting 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 shouldn’t be one of them.

And if you prefer to do your massages solo, that’s also an option. Associated bodywork and massage professionals outline five simple self-massage techniques on MassageTherapy.com:

  1. Ankle circumference: Place your right foot on top of your left thigh. Rotate your foot at the ankle using both hands.
  2. Rub the sole: Place one hand on top of your foot and the other on your sole. Rub your hands back and forth over your foot in small strokes.
  3. Toe stretch: With one hand, gently stretch your toes backwards. With the other hand, gently tap the sole of your foot to stimulate blood circulation.
  4. T-shaped fan: Use both thumbs to sweep down the center of your sole. Then, near the toes, fan the thumbs to opposite sides to stretch the foot.
  5. Thumb circumference: Move your thumbs in rhythmic, kneading circles all over the sole.

If reaching your feet is uncomfortable, MassageTherapy.com also suggests rolling your foot on a tennis ball while seated. Placing a handful of marbles on the floor and gently rubbing your feet over them is another option.

An effective and non-hormonal solution

However you choose to receive your massage, the science is clear (and we can 100% accept it). This therapy can be an effective alternative to melatonin supplements, hormone medications, or just staring at your dark ceiling at 3 a.m. Again.

As far as we are concerned, these scientific discoveries are the definition of a win-win. In the best-case scenario, a massage helps reduce menopause-related insomnia and improves mood, concentration, immunity, and stress tolerance. Worst-case scenario, you need to enjoy a soothing, guilt-free massage. And that’s the best kind of self-care.

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