A massage is appreciated for many reasons, its sedative effect being one. Some of my clients require 2-hour massages during which they capitalize on their sleep, especially if they’ve been working long hours and can feel their sleep deficit beginning to require payment. During a regular 1-hour massage there are those who look forward to a nap while lying prone, and allow themselves a little snore or dribble. Others put some effort into staying awake, even if that means talking the whole time. And there are the non-sleepers, whether because they have had their sleep quota, or they just don’t sleep on other people’s bed.
Sleep requirements are highly individual, so it is necessary each person to find their ideal balance of sleep, rest, and activity in order to stay as healthy as possible. In the absence of good quality sleep there could be reduced immunity, daytime drowsiness, higher stress levels, impaired memory, reduced coordination, mood shifts, etc. Sleep continues to be a subject of study using both animals and humans. One method of assessment is the testing of their blood for levels of chemical markers such as T-cells. Below are some of the results from sleep deprivation tests:
• Loss of five hours of sleep in one night – there was a 30% reduction in infection-fighting T cells. After a night of recovery sleep, the T-cell activity returned to the original level, but interleukin (important in stimulating immune responses) levels remained depressed.
• Loss of four hours of sleep per night for six nights – a temporary condition developed that resembled diabetes, which interfered with hormone production and the subjects’ ability to metabolize starches and sugars.
• Five days without sleep – decreased antibody levels with the most dramatic decreases being in antibodies that respond to immediate infection, i.e. IgM, which dropped by 35%. White blood counts also dropped by 30-50%.
• No sleep for forty days – the signs and symptoms included debilitated appearance, skin lesions, wasting syndrome, increased energy expenditure, decreased body temperature, and increased levels of stress hormones.
Supporting the immune system through sleep may call for a shift in lifestyle. For example, the travelling businessman who has to be awake most of the night preparing presentations for the next day could consider the convenience of a massage in his hotel room. The housewife and mother of two who suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome could benefit from massage-induced sleep in the ambiance of a spa whenever her budget allows. Or they could both forego late-night activities that they consider essential to the flow of the next day, have a hot shower and settle down to a few self-massage techniques that improve sleep quality. However it is achieved, quality sleep provides the body with a chance to rest and repair.