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How a Foot Massage Can Actually Help You Sleep Better

A foot massage can help create a deeper sleep by reducing anxiety and relieving chronic pain.

Close up of a foot massage
Getty Images/101dalmatians/E+

If you're trying to sleep better, you may have tried remedies like soothing teas at bedtime, a bedtime meditation practice or cutting screen time out of your nightly routine. However, there's one counterintuitive practice you might not have heard of to help with sleep: foot massages.  

Have you ever thought of trying a foot massage to help you sleep? There has actually been a study through the nursing research journal JAN covering how foot massages can actually help you sleep better. Foot massages can also promote relaxation, improve deeper sleep, ease menopausal symptoms, decrease anxiety and help relieve chronic pain. Below we'll go over the benefits of a foot massage and how to perform one on yourself properly. 

Looking for more sleep tips? Read about how to adjust to the end of daylight savings, seven natural sleep aids for insomnia and how to take a coffee nap.   

5 benefits of a foot massage before bed  

Foot massages can lead to a number of benefits that help you sleep better. Below we'll cover how a foot massage helps with sleep. 

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Promotes relaxation  

Many people have had the experience of trying to sleep with a tense muscle or even just an overall feeling of tension. You may toss and turn to get comfortable, never quite getting there. Or you may not be able to relax enough to drift off to sleep, always thinking about the pain somewhere in your body. If that pain or soreness happens to be in your feet, massaging your feet before bed can ease that pain and promote a deeper sense of relaxation, allowing for easier sleep.  

Improves deeper sleep 

The study in the nursing journal JAN looked at foot reflexology and how it affected the sleep of study participants. Foot reflexology is the practice of applying pressure to the feet for specific health outcomes. The study found that the people who received foot reflexology intervention were less likely to experience sleep problems than the people who did not receive the treatment. It might be worth it to massage your feet for insomnia.    

May ease menopausal symptoms  

A study from Inonu University is scheduled to see how foot massage applied to menopausal women may affect wellness issues. One of the factors it will measure is how foot massage affects sleep levels. "It is stated that reflexology is an effective complementary treatment method that can help the body relax, reduce the symptoms of menopause by affecting the nervous and endocrine system, and thus create a smooth transition to the menopausal period," the study says. No results have been posted, but it may be worth trying your own experiment at home to see if foot massage eases sleep problems during the menopausal years. 

May decrease anxiety  

One study looked at how massage affected depression and anxiety levels. It specifically looked at how foot reflexology affected depression and anxiety levels in older women who had acute coronary syndrome. The study found that foot reflexology massage reduced both anxiety and depression in the patients who received the treatment.   

Help relieve chronic pain 

Applying pressure to certain points of the feet can reduce certain types of pain, such as lower back pain or menstrual cramps, as mentioned in an article by Insider. The article mentioned a small study of 50 nurses with chronic low back pain. Three 40-minute sessions weekly of foot reflexology helped lower pain intensity scores and cognitive aspects of pain. In another small study, foot reflexology was associated with more severity reduction for menstrual cramps than Ibuprofen.   

How to massage your own feet 

Below are some tips for performing a self-massage on your feet right at home.

1. While sitting, place the foot you're massaging on your opposite leg so it's easier to reach.
2. Use your thumbs to rub in circles over the heel.
3. Rub your thumbs over your arches to reduce arch pain.
4. Rub in circles over the ball of your foot, moving outward.  
5. Repeat the steps as many times as feels comfortable.   

You can also try putting a tennis ball on the floor and rubbing your foot over it.  

1. Press your foot on the tennis ball until you feel gentle pressure. 
2. Move your foot so the tennis ball rubs along the bottom of your foot. 
3. Do as many repetitions as feels comfortable, moving the ball against the sorest parts of your feet most often.

Sleep tips don't end here. Check out five tips for sleeping on the couch, how to sleep better with your pet and three melatonin alternatives.  

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.