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6 At-Home Massage Therapy Tips for Fighting Stress & Insomnia

When was the last time you were able to get a solid eight hours of uninterrupted sleep? If you have trouble falling and staying asleep, you're not alone. According to the CDC, more than one-third of Americans consistently lack the shut-eye their bodies so desperately need.

Although there are some commonalities like stress and anxiety, there is no one single cause of insomnia. Luckily, figuring out what's causing you to lose out on a good night's sleep may help you to create a plan to fight back! Take a look at the list below to see if you resonate with any of the common causes.

What Causes Us to Lose Sleep?

1. Medical Conditions

There are plenty of medical conditions that affect our ability to sleep as well as the quality of sleep. Some of the most common conditions include allergies, chronic pain, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

2. Mental Health

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, more than one-half of insomnia cases are related to depression, anxiety or psychological stress.  Considering the WHO estimates 1 in 4 people will experience some mental disorder during their lifetime, knowing the signs and options available to help you is all the more important. 

3. Lifestyle Choices

How we go about our days directly impacts sleep quality. Keeping irregular schedules, lack of exercise and sleeping patterns can all be linked to poor sleep health.

4. Stimulants and Sedatives

If you're like me and love coffee, you may want to say no to that late afternoon cappuccino. Depending on your metabolism, caffeine can stay in your system for as long as 8 hours! On the other end of the spectrum, sedatives (like alcohol) may make it easier for you to fall asleep but ultimately prevents you from reaching deeper sleep stages leaving you more restless during the night.

Fighting Insomnia with Massage Techniques

Struggling with bouts of insomnia myself and knowing the health implications of lack of sleep, I made it my mission to find a fool-proof strategy to help me fall and stay asleep. From diffusing calming essential oils to sleeping on an acupressure mat, I've tried just about everything to quiet my overactive mind. It wasn't until I started to incorporate these things into massage therapy that I realized I may have hit the jackpot!

After learning the major causes of insomnia, I tailored a massageto incorporate techniques that target common underlying issues - focusing specifically on sleep and stress therapy management. Below are some techniques I find most useful as well as some ways to use them at home!

1. Swaddling

It turns out that swaddling isn't just for infants. Studies suggest that swaddling infants results in better sleep continuity and fewer awakenings, so we decided to put it to the test in adults. When we incorporated into massage therapy, many of our clients leave feeling much more relaxed and some have even attributed it to sleeping better. To achieve similar relaxation at home, try wrapping up tightly in a comfy blanket!

2. Keep it Dark

Studies suggest that exposure to light close to bedtime may alter your circadian rhythm and melatonin production, negatively impacting the quality of your sleep. During a massage, we utilize eye masks to stimulate the production and circulation of the "darkness hormone", melatonin. You can help your body to naturally produce melatonin by unplugging from electronics two hours before bedtime and exposing yourself to natural light by sitting outside or taking a walk during the day. If you're really struggling, you may want to try taking 1-3 milligrams of a melatonin supplement two hours before bedtime. This is especially useful for those dealing with jet-lag!

3. Aromatherapy

Integration of lavender essential oil into your massage and bedtime routine may positively impact the quality of your sleep. One study showed that hospitalized patients, who typically struggle to get a good night's sleep, achieved a higher quality sleep when lavender was placed by their bedside. Try diffusing lavender using an ultrasonic or reed diffuser to get these benefits in your bedroom.

4. Compression Therapy

Using a rhythmic pumping action on muscles may help to spread muscle fibers, increase circulation and induce relaxation. When you're getting ready to lie down, use your hands and rhythmically massage whatever body parts feel tense.

5. Pay Special Attention to Your Head, Neck, and Upper Back

Many of us carry our stress and tension in our shoulders, neck, and upper back.Massaging these areas may help alleviate tightness and tension, giving you a much better night's sleep. One study even suggests that scalp massages may help to reduce stress and promote relaxation.

6. Target Reflex Points

During a massage, reflexology and acupressure are used on your hands and feet to promote rest and relaxation and reduce chronic pain.


I encourage anyone suffering from insomnia to try a variety of approaches and create a healthy routine that works for you and your lifestyle.

Sleep tight!


Lori Vargas, Spa Vargas Wellness founder, entrepreneur, spa consultant, mother, ironman triathlete

Lori Vargas founded Spa Vargas Wellness in 2001 and currently has 3 locations in the Chicagoland area. Since then, she founded Vargas Consulting with projects that include Hilton, Sheraton, Wyndham, and Key Lime Cove, and in 2009, the International Massage and Spa Academy. Based on her experience in the spa industry, the curriculum focuses on educating students to become business minded nurturing massage therapists. As a mother of two boys, Lori strives to create a balanced life and is always in the pursuit of living in the present. “My children have become my inspiration, and I am grateful to them for the happiness they have brought to my life. Of course, we have a dog, two cats, two parakeets and three fish, so our home is not a tranquil environment!

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