I’m a Massage Therapist, and This Pre-Bed Bodywork Melts Tension for Better Sleep

Photo: Getty Images/ Dulin
Next to my bed, there are three different bottles of CBD tinctures, two types of sleep-inducing gummies, some lavender essential oil, plus an eye mask and a pair of ear plugs. In other words, I have tried everything—including sleep apps, meditation, putting my phone in another room, and good old fashioned counting sheep—in pursuit of better sleep. One method worth adding to the arsenal that won't take up any added space on the nightstand? A cranial sacral massage for sleep, which pros say can help you drift off to dreamland more easily.

Cranial sacral massage, which can be done on your own or at the hands of a massage therapist, is a "non-invasive hands-on therapy that aims to enhance the body's [own ability] to help relieve pain and dysfunction," says Jelena Capkunovic, licensed massage and cranial sacral therapist at Exhale Spa, explaining that the method uses gentle, small touches to manipulate the joints and soft tissues in the skull and spine. "The therapist is trying to affect the pressure and circulation, or 'balance the flow,' of cerebrospinal fluids." This helps the areas that frequently get tense as stress occurs throughout the day (the neck, shoulders, and head) to relax and return to a point of normalcy so you can sleep better at night.

Small studies have found that cranial sacral therapy, was helpful in treating chronic neck pain, and while more research needs to be done to prove it an ironclad solution, many people also turn to it for migraine and stress relief. "From my professional experience I have seen my clients lower their stress levels through this treatment, and they're usually able to fall asleep faster and more easily," says Capkunovic.

The good news? You don't have to book an appointment at a spa to reap the snooze-inducing benefits of cranial sacral massage—Capkunovic says you can give yourself a massage in the comfort of your own home. Lying down, hold the back of your head with both of your palms, feeling the temperature in your palms on your neck. Slowly move your hands to the front of your head and palpate your temple bone. Then, move your palms toward the back of your skull where you can hold your neck and give yourself a little bit of neck massage. Move slowly and gently, focusing on the feeling of warmth and the energy in your hands. The process will help calm the mind and prep your body for sleep.

To see how it's done by the professionals, check out this video: 

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