Massage for serene sleep

Massage has had a positive effect on every medical condition we’ve looked at.
– Tiffany Field, PhD

This second blogpost on sleeplessness, and how to overcome it, looks at the power of massage and aromatherapy. Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Psychology, and Psychiatry at the University of Miami School of Medicine, Tiffany Field, believes massage has a myriad of wellbeing benefits. Let’s see how it works for sleep.

Morpheus has been a less than reliable bedfellow of late. Routines have been interrupted and, much to my shame, I spent several days last week running on six hours or less. And you know how these sleep-less habits can kick in…

When you’re practising what you preach and the lovely, fickle Morpheus still appears to be spending his early hours elsewhere, then it’s time to try another tack.

So when I booked myself in for a Serene Sleep Spa Day at The Midland Hotel in Manchester I was in the perfect state to test. It’s possible to arrive an hour early and take advantage of the spa’s pool, sauna and steam room facilities, all of which I tried out.

As Tom Cruise tells Rene Zellweger in Jerry Maguire, ‘You had me at “hello”…’ Once I was wrapped up in my robe and slippers and padding towards the Himalayan salt-walled sauna I was at the “hello” point. By the time I’d swum about, steamed myself liberally and tropical showered myself back to consciousness, I wanted to move in. How could this get any better?

How little I knew.

A Serene Sleep massage here involves the power of aromatherapy, hot oils, hot stones and rose quartz crystals. Face down on the massage table, swaddled in towels, my therapist asked me to deeply inhale three times from a steaming bowl filled with a concoction that included rose, sandalwood, ylang-ylang and lavender oils.

Up I go to another relaxation level.

And then the massage begins. Ever had a hot stone massage? I’d seen advertisement pictures of women with stones balanced down their bare-backed spine. I’d thought: ‘hmm, that looks a bit odd/potentially tortuous’. That is not what a hot stone massage involves. The hot stones are held by the therapist. As she pushes them into the muscles of the back, the back muscles relax under the pressure. And, of course, all the heat just enhances the effect as the quartet of aromatherapy oils sink deep into the skin as the stones are swooshed about in a smooth, sweeping action.

My face receives similar attention, this time using polished smooth rose quartz and my scalp is massaged as well. Yes, my hair is now full of oil. I don’t care. I don’t care about anything at this point. I just don’t want it to stop. Ever.

My therapist asks me if I have any questions. I’m so relaxed I find it hard to formulate any in-depth thoughts, but I manage to ascertain that this blend of oils is especially formulated to aid relaxation and restful sleep. Deeply inhaling the oils was to get them into my blood stream through my olfactory system, while the back, face and scalp absorb them in through the skin.

I spend a dream-like half hour sipping herbal tea and reading a magazine in the relaxation suite before wolfing my high tea and saying goodbye to the very lovely spa team. I float off into the icy cold late afternoon, oblivious to the world. I couldn’t care less that I was waiting for  bus with no make up on and hair full of oil (Apparently the trick is to keep the oils on for as long as possible; so I slept in them).

The journey home swam by and I cheerfully sat down to three hours’ work without a care.

And did I sleep like a baby? I read for about 15 minutes before nodding off and I slept five-star restorative sleep. Yes, I woke up a couple of times, but I slipped back without more than a murmur of ‘what’s the time?’.

As a therapist I’m always interested in others’ practices and I cannot fault aromatherapy-based spa experiences for bringing a delicious sense of ‘because I’m worth it’ luxury into our lives. You get what you pay for in life. The energy put into the spa day experience at The Midland more than justified the investment I brought to the table.

My only quibble; why create a package that includes a high tea that’s so cake-centric? It’s like you slip from one zone of herbal teas and health into another of retox by sugar and less-than-complex carbs. Don’t get me wrong, the dainty sandwiches were tasty and I’m confessing here I parked my Lent pledge to enjoy two very delicious scones. Surely there’s room on the menu for a more healthful high tea option?

And of course, there’s the question; is this a long-term solution to sleeplessness? Perhaps not; I’ll let you know how long the effects last, but I’m certainly a fan of the serene sleep massage can bring to a woman’s wellbeing and as I type this, more than 24-hours later, I still feel the ripple effects of all that calm and balance.

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