For women struggling with menopause and age-related sleep disturbances, finding a solution to unwanted side effects and lack of sleep can feel like a desperate plea. It can also be concerning for some if the only solution seems to be medical intervention. For those looking for a natural solution to poor sleep, hot flashes, and other menopausal symptoms however, the solution may be as simple as a proper foot massage.
How Menopause Affects Sleep
It’s no secret that sleep is essential to overall health as it can affect mood, energy levels, and productivity. When it comes to menopause however, the drastic hormonal changes can interrupt the body’s circadian rhythm (the natural cycle of sleeping and waking). This circadian balance keeps the body in sync with nature’s 24-hour cycle of light and darkness.
When women go through menopause, however, their bodies decrease production of important hormones like progesterone and estrogen. This hormonal shift can not only lead to a number of unpleasant symptoms, such as hot flashes, restless legs syndrome, and depression, one major side effect is that the natural circadian rhythm can get thrown off balance, making it harder to fall asleep at night or stay asleep through the night.
To learn more about Sleep Disruptions Due to Menopause, click here.
A Look at Reflexology
Reflexology is a natural and noninvasive treatment that uses pressure points along the feet to stimulate reflexes in the body. It is based on the principle that specific points on the feet and hands correspond to every part of the body, including organs, glands, tissues, and bones. In theory, energy pathways called meridians can be manipulated by applying pressure to key reflex points. These pathways are connected to internal organs and glands, which can then be influenced by applied pressure at particular points.
In practice, some of the basic pressure points on the foot alight with the following specific areas of the body:
- The ridge under the toes and at the top of the ball of the foot: shoulders and neckline
- Ball of the foot: chest and upper torso
- Arch of the foot: digestive and internal organs
- The heel and ankles: reproductive system
Reflexology and Menopause Symptoms
The feet are one of the most sensitive parts of the body and have many nerve endings, making them very responsive to touch. A foot massage can not only feel amazing, but studies are finding that it can have many health benefits as well. In fact, getting a foot massage before bedtime can help with insomnia and menopausal sleep disorders by reducing stress and boosting endorphin levels, promoting the sensations of relaxation and calmness.
One study found that women, ranging in age between 40 and 60, experienced a significant reduction in sleep disorders after reflexology intervention. Other research conducted by the Cleveland-based North American Menopause Society (NAMS) found that regular foot massages during menopause can increase a woman’s average daily sleep duration by as much as one additional hour each night.
Additional reviews of the alternative approach to healing found that reflexology for 20-minutes each day for one week showed improved energy levels, better sleep health and decreases in anxiety and fatigue.
These studies provide hope for women struggling with menopausal symptoms and sleep conditions and offer reflexology as a potential solution for effectively improving sleep disorders and other symptoms associated with menopause.
Tips to Get Started with Reflexology
When it comes to getting started with reflexology treatments, massage therapists can specialize in providing a relaxing foot massage for a price, but the good news is that you can reap the benefits for free with an at-home session you perform on yourself with a few simple tips.
Select an appropriate location for your reflexology session. The best place is where you won’t be disturbed for at least 20 minutes and where you will be comfortable sitting.
- Sit somewhere that is comfortable; either on the floor or a bed where you can sit cross legged, or in a chair where you cross your ankle over your knee to reach your foot. Remove your shoes and socks so you can get full access to the soles of your feet.
- Take a few slow deep breaths as you begin your session. This helps relax both body and mind before you start working on any particular area of concern.
- Take one foot at a time in both hands, gently rubbing your thumbs over each toe, applying pressure via pressing and squeezing.
- Then move to massage the ball of the foot using circular motions with both thumbs while pressing down firmly but gently.
- Along the bottom of each foot, knead your thumbs from the base of the heel to each toe, applying additional pressure or spending more time in one area that is sore or feels stressed.
- Lightly switch between pressure and circular motions on the center area between the ball and arch of the foot.
- Apply light kneading pressure to the outer sides of your foot and lightly massage or roll your ankle before lightly running your fingertips down the top, bottom and sides of your foot.
- Repeat this process on the other foot and ankle.
Not only will this give you an opportunity to unwind and soothe any stress from the day, but it will leave your feet feeling fantastic and help reduce menopausal symptoms, recover from fatigue and improve your nightly sleep.