Can massage therapy help with insomnia?

Can massage therapy help with insomnia?

Summary: One in three Canadian adults are not getting enough sleep. In fact, 50% are experiencing insomnia. Luckily, massage therapy can help. Research shows that massage therapy can improve quality and duration of sleep, and decrease pain levels associated with a variety of health conditions.

Getting a good night’s sleep helps everyone feel better. But how many of us are getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night? (Hirshkowitz) It turns out one in three Canadian adults are not getting enough sleep; and one out of two adults experience insomnia. Sound familiar?

So what is insomnia? And how can massage help?

Insomnia is trouble going to sleep or staying asleep (Government of Canada). It’s common to experience short-term insomnia due to stress, worry or drinking too much coffee but when insomnia lasts for weeks or months on end, it can take a toll on our quality of life. Lack of sleep also leads to chemical changes in the body. This can lead to increased pain levels (Moyer) and exacerbate other health conditions.

Thankfully massage therapy can help. Research demonstrates that massage therapy can help improve quality and duration of sleep, and decrease pain levels associated with a variety of health conditions (Moyer, Field, Jane, Oliveira, Baker, David). In fact, by promoting more restorative sleep, massage can indirectly reduce pain levels in the body (Jane).

“After the car accident I was in a lot of pain. At one point I was only sleeping for 3-4 hours a night which was making my pain and anxiety worse. I started weekly massage therapy sessions and calm breathing exercises. I began to notice that I could fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer. I had more energy during the day which helped me to move around more. My pain levels started going down, which made it easier to get more sleep.” —SL

In addition to massage therapy, check out the following practices and tips for getting a good night’s sleep:

If you’re experiencing sleep disturbances, consult your doctor to create a sleep management plan. Registered massage therapy may be a helpful part of it.


  1. Hirshkowitz M, Whiton K, Albert SM, et al. National Sleep Foundation's updated sleep duration recommendations: Final report. Sleep Health 2015; 1:233-43)
  2. Are Canadian Adults Getting Enough Sleep? Government of Canada. Accessed July 2021.
  3. Moyer CA, Rounds J, Hannum JW. “A Meta-Analysis of Massage Therapy Research.” Psychological Bulletin. 2004;130(1);3-18.
  4. Field, T., Hernandes-Reif, M., Diego, M., Fraser, M. (2007). “Lower back pain and sleep disturbance are reduced following massage therapy.” J Bodyw Mov Ther, 11(2):141-145.
  5. Jane, S.W., Chen, S.L., Wilkie, D.J., Lin, Y.C., Foreman, S.W., et al. (2011). “Effects of massage on pain, mood status, relaxation, and sleep in Taiwanese patients with metastatic bone pain: a randomized clinical trial.” Pain, 152(10):2432-42.
  6. Oliveira, D.S., Hachul, H., Goto, V., Tufik, S., Bittencourt, L.R. (2012). “Effect of therapeutic massage on insomnia and climacteric symptoms in postmenopausal women.” Climacteric, 15(1):21-29.
  7. Baker, S., McBeth, J., Chew-Graham, C.A., Wilkie, R. (2017). “Musculoskeletal pain and co-morbid insomnia in adults; a population study of the prevalence and impact on restricted social participation.” BMC Fam Pract, 18(1):17.
  8. David, S., Wilt, J., Covington, E., Scheman, J. (2014). “Variability in the relationship between sleep and pain in patients undergoing interdisciplinary rehabilitation for chronic pain.” Pain Med, 15(6):1043-1051.
  9. Linder, J., Jansen, G.B., Ekholm, K.S., Ekholm, J. (2014). “Relationship between sleep disturbance, pain, depression and functioning in long-term sick-listed patients experiencing difficulty in resuming work.” J Rehabil Med, 46(8):798-805.
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