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Self-Massage Techniques To
Promote Better Sleep

hand shiatsu

By Peter Jackson

Insomnia, sleep deprivation and low-quality sleep may be caused by a number or combination of factors such as a medical condition, the food you eat at night, the cleanliness of your bedroom environment, the condition of your mattress and pillows, the room temperature and even your exposure to bright light at night.

Before reaching for that sleeping pill to help you get the zzz’s you need, you should try other methods that don’t involve medication. One of the proven ways to get a better night’s sleep is through massage.

A study published in 2007 in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies reported that participants with chronic back pain who received massage therapy (a 30-minute session two times a week for five weeks) had less sleep disturbance than participants who received relaxation therapy.

But while getting a massage at the spa or through a home massage service is a great way to relax the muscles and promote better sleep, doing so on a regular basis may not be feasible. Good thing there are massage techniques you can do without anyone’s help and without having to spend any money.

Try these self-massage techniques before going to bed and enjoy a more calm, relaxed and restful sleep every night.

Hand shiatsu

The traditional Japanese shiatsu massage can be applied to your own hands to help you sleep better. There are different shiatsu pressure techniques you can apply to your own hands to relax you and prevent pain from keeping you up at night. Here’s how to self-administer hand massage:

  • Cradle your right hand with your left hand. Using your thumb, start massaging from the wrist of your right hand to the center of your right palm. Apply a firm pressure.
  • Turn your right palm over. With your left hand, squeeze the webbing or the space between the right hand’s thumb and index finger, starting from the part near the wrist all the way to the curved portion. Do this squeezing-sliding motion three to five times.
  • Massage the back of the wrist to release tension in the wrist bones.
  • Flip the palm over again and gently push the right hand fingers backward.
  • Use the left hand to turn the right hand in small circles.
  • Do the same on the left hand, this time using your right hand to massage it.

Face massage

When you’re stressed, it shows in your face. A 15- to 20-minute face massage can help stimulate blood flow and release tension, resulting in collagen production to make your face glow. It’s also a soothing activity that promotes a good night’s sleep - a real beauty rest!

  • Start on the sides of your head. Apply a light and gentle downward motion from your forehead to your chin using your fingertips.
  • Locate the muscles below your cheeks and gently pull them to release tension in those areas.
  • Move to the middle of your face. Starting from the forehead again, apply gentle strokes to the bridge of your nose. Do this two to three times before using the same motion from the sides of your nose to your cheekbones.
  • With eyes closed, massage the eye orbits starting from the inner corners outward, then below the eyes.
  • Next, concentrate on your jaws. Wiggle your fingers while using downward strokes. Do the same along the jawline starting from the bottom of the ears. Repeat this eight times.
  • Move up again, this time focusing on the temples. Use circular strokes downward to your cheeks and the muscles near your ears.
  • When you reach your ears, pull or massage them gently downward 20 times. Do this by placing your thumb on the back of the lower shell of your ear (called the bilateral auricle), and your index finger at the front. After this, rub your earlobes 20 times until they feel hot.
  • Last, the chin. Apply circular stokes starting from the middle toward your jawline, then move back to the middle of the chin.

Foot reflexology

Giving yourself a foot massage can help you reach a state of calmness for better sleep. You can do this after soaking your feet in warm water for best results.

  • Stroke, press, knead or squeeze your foot. Press the solar plexus (located at the center of the sole of your foot, just a little bit below the ball) using your thumb for 10 seconds.
  • Move your thumb along your foot’s inner side starting from the heel’s base going to the top of your big toe.
  • Pause to press the following reflex points: the ball of the foot, the toe ridge, the outer side of the big toe, the center of the big toe and the top of each toe. Each reflex point corresponds to a different body part that releases tension and controls hormone secretion to induce deep relaxation and sleep.
  • Press the solar plexus again for 10 seconds and do the same on the other foot.

Head massage

In traditional Chinese medicine, a head massage effectively balances the body’s flow of energy and aids in regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
  • Focus on the acupoint in the middle of the top of your head. It’s also at the middle of the line that connects the left and the right ear. Press and knead this acupoint 100 times using your middle finger.
  • Using your two middle fingers, knead the two acupoints at the inner ends of your eyebrows 50 times.
  • Close your eyes. Using your index fingers, wipe the orbits starting from the inner to the outer corner 30 times. Begin with the upper portion first.
  • Rub your palms together to make them hot, then cover your eyes for 60 seconds with your palms. Apply a light, kneading motion on your eye orbits 10 times.

Abdominal massage

Massaging the abdomen promotes digestion and helps cure insomnia. This is a good massage to do if you’re having tummy troubles because of what you ate for dinner or another gastric condition.

  • Warm your hands by rubbing them together. Touch your palm to your abdomen and apply a gentle massage in a clockwise direction 20 times.
  • Alternate with your other hand and do a counterclockwise massage 20 times.

Practicing self-massage every night before you go to sleep can help you relax your muscles and fall asleep easier. It also calms the nervous system so you can stay asleep longer, so get massaging!


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