Getting a bad night’s sleep is the worst. Having a bad night’s sleep every night is much worse. If you’ve ever spent a restless night awake, as you watch the minutes aggressively pass by, you have an idea of the pain associated with insomnia. Millions of Americans suffer from the sleep disorder and desperately look for ways to get to snoozeville. Medication and lifestyle changes are used to treat insomnia, but massage is a natural method to consider. There is a simple correlation between sleep and massage: insomnia is associated with a lack of serotonin and massage increases serotonin levels.

Studies have demonstrated the necessity of serotonin for healthy sleep. Serotonin is a precursor to the body’s rendering of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone released by the brain to quiet and reset the part of the brain that directs your body to prepare for sleep. Many over-the-counter drugs have melatonin in them, but why not encourage your body’s own production? The chemistry of sleep is relevant to massage because massage can directly influence the body’s production of serotonin and, in turn, melatonin.

“In the past I had worked with a client who had insomnia, neck and back pain and general tiredness for as long as he could remember. After committing himself to bi-weekly massage we were able to work through the muscle tightness and eventually he was able to finally get some sleep.” — Leigh Olander, Elixir Mind Body Massage in Denver, CO

In addition to sleep, serotonin also plays a role in mood, behavior, body temperature, physical coordination, and appetite. Massage makes you feel better AND helps you sleep. That’s chemistry that won’t keep you up at night.

“I always am amazed by how far massage reaches into my life, helping me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I sleep better, I work out more and it even makes me want to eat better.” — Heidi Winkel, The Spa at The Sporting Club at The Bellevue in Philadelphia, PA

Before you pop two Tylenol PMs, consider massage as a substance-free choice to treat insomnia. Every person’s body is different, but using a natural remedy to stimulate your body’s own processes can get your body back on the right track. (And hopefully it’s the fast track to sleep.)

Maybe all the petting is why dogs have no problem getting their beauty sleep.