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Sleep and Reflexology

Sleep and Reflexology

All too often these days, I hear my clients describing their issues with sleep, and often feel tired, lack energy and feel frustrated. It’s a hot topic, and we are often bombarded with media adverts offering the solution via the latest mattress which promises to solve all your problems. But can Reflexology help?

After listening to Nick Littlehales, an Elite Sports sleep coach, in his book ‘Sleep’, I’ve discovered there is much more to getting quality sleep than the traditional advice of ‘adults need 8 hours of sleep a night’.

It has been estimated that over 20% of adults suffer from some form of sleep deprivation, and not getting enough sleep can have a significant impact on your health, daily life and your mood. Quite simply, good sleep is needed for good health. The benefits of getting enough sleep were covered in a previous blog, and you can read this here.

Reflexology research into sleep

Sleep is so important to the recovery of health that hospitals have started to show concerns for patients, who during their hospital stay find getting a good night’s sleep can be problematic in such a busy environment.

There have been several studies using Reflexology to aid sleep in a variety of hospitalised patient groups. Reflexology has been tested in women who have just had a baby, patients with breast cancer, those with acute coronary syndrome, patients undergoing haemodialysis, and with a group of elderly patients. In all of the studies, on all of the various groups, reflexology was shown to make a significant difference in the quality of sleep obtained.

A meta-analysis, which is several studies joined together and re-analysed giving it greater statistical strength, stated that foot reflexology is a useful nursing intervention to relieve fatigue and to promote sleep. Finally, a research project that looked into what Reflexology does in improving sleep showed there are changes in activity in the brainwaves. The changes correspond with an increased level of sleepiness and going into the deep level of non-rapid eye movement sleep. There is a gradual transition from wakefulness, through sleepiness to deep sleep, and back to wakefulness, which occurs over a 90-minute cycle according to Nick Littlehales, and is essential for recovery. This pattern may explain many of the benefits discussed in the research studies carried out so far. It seems that Reflexology is good for our levels of sleep, and anyone who has had a great night’s sleep after a Reflexology treatment will agree!

How Reflexology can help with sleep

My clients typically come to me for reflexology to help them relax, not necessarily because they cannot sleep but many of them say how well they slept after a treatment.

Sleep forms part of the body's natural circadian rhythm, the other part to this being wakefulness. When the sun sets, and the body prepares for sleep, it produces melatonin, a derivative of serotonin, but modern-day technology and the use of artificial light in our televisions, computer screens and smartphones, often means that this natural pattern is disturbed.

Massage, through the use of various techniques including Reflexology, is able to re-align the body's circadian rhythm, resulting in more restful sleep.

Particular attention should give to the adrenal gland because it is responsible for stressful situations (many sleep disorders are caused by stressful lifestyle factors). Massaging the adrenal reflex can help your body by relieving stress and helps to attain a calm mind.

Massaging the reflex points of the organs that cause sleep disorders can help to provide relief from these disorders.

  • Brain – Helps to relieve mental stress, anxiety & fear

  • Solar plexus - Tension and stress commonly result in a “tight chest” and “shallow breathing.” This technique is useful for anxiety, improved breathing, to ease distress, anger, and pain.

Interestingly, it is estimated that 80% of the body's serotonin levels can be found in the gut, and reflexology, in particular, is often used to treat digestive disorders, as well as mental stress, breathing and circulation problems.

Part of what we offer in our Reflexology treatments is a safe place where clients know they can totally relax and genuinely enjoy the treatments. Falling asleep, dropping off, and deep sleep is all about mentally relaxing and letting go. This is often about feeling warm, comfortable and safe enough to let go and drift off.

Optimise your sleep quality

Reflexology can help with sleep problems, but reflexology alone is only part of a solution. You may also need to make small changes to your lifestyle and environment. There are simple changes you can make to help you get a good night’s sleep. The following advice is useful to anyone who is struggling with sleep issues.

  • Using the ideal 90-minute sleep cycle, work backwards from your wake time to discover your ideal sleep time. For example, if you wake at 7am, your perfect bedtime would be 10pm or 11:30pm. Regulate your body clock by sticking to these sleep and wake times.

  • If you need to get up to go to the toilet more than once in the night, then you need to consume more fluid in the day, and stop drinking at least 90 minutes before your regular bedtime.

  • Do you notice how happy you are to get into a clean bed? Old pillows can be too soft or too hard and can have a detrimental effect on posture as well as the quality of sleep, so consider getting fresh bedding and updating your pillows and duvet covers.

  • Introducing blackout blinds or curtains in the bedroom can help enormously, especially in the summer when mornings are lighter, or for those who work shifts patterns and need to sleep in the daylight hours.

  • A notebook by the side of the bed is useful to write down any lingering thoughts or worries. It's best to write them down as mental clutter will prevent a good night’s sleep or cause you to awaken with a head full of ‘To-Do’s’. Downloading this onto paper allows it to be picked up in the morning, and your mind can relax back into sleep.

  • Switch off all blue light technology at least an hour before bedtime. Leave smartphones and iPad/tablets downstairs. Ensure the bedroom is a tranquil space that your brain associates with sleep by leaving the stress of work and TV’s out of the bedroom.

Good health is a precious commodity, and sleep is a great healer. Reflexology can play a very positive role in helping you to achieve a good night’s sleep.

Prioritising good sleep is good self-care

Sharon Cole

Learn more about my Sleep Well, Feel Well Series

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