The Massage Edition

I’ve been in Thailand now for barely 7 days and have had 7 massages. I’ve been to Southeast Asia plenty of times, so I’m no stranger to the massage-tourism here.

The Massage Edition

I’ve been in Thailand now for barely 7 days and have had 7 massages (I’m literally about to get another one after I finish writing this email!). I’ve been to Southeast Asia plenty of times, so I’m no stranger to the massage-tourism here. However, I can safely say that I’ve never had THIS many massages in such a short period of time. Noteworthy is the corresponding changes that I have seen in my sleep & recovery biomarkers. Now obviously, I’m in a completely new environment with new variables such as way more sunlight, foreign foods, unpredictable sleep environments, etc. However, I’ve visited these areas many times before and have not experienced such a tremendous uptick in my overall health stats, so I think it's worth exploring the one variable that is different on this trip than the others...

Getting a s&*t ton of massages!!! 😂

With massages here ranging from $4.50-$15, I’ve made it my personal mission to take advantage of the madness and test out what life is like with a massage-a-day (because apples have too much sugar, anyway).

Below are just a few of the changes that I have experienced so far between NY and Thailand since adding in a daily massage:

Lowered Heart Rate: My weekly average dropped over 10 points in 1 week (in alignment with the findings from this study on a corresponding drop in heart rate with massage).

Deeper Sleep: At a new average of 2hr and 39mins of deep sleep, I am now achieving well over double the average deep sleep scores for people my age.

Average Heart-Rate Variability (Typically the higher, the better!!): I am up over 20 points from the previous week back in New York (quite noteworthy considering you usually experience a decent hit in HRV on account of jet lag /circadian disruption).

***NOTE: If you’re not tracking your HRV, you are really missing out on one of the coolest and most dynamic biometric tools that we currently have to monitor your body’s response to its environment /stressors. Harvard Medical School puts it this way in an article entitled, Heart rate variability: A new way to track well-being:

“It is fascinating to see how HRV changes as you incorporate more mindfulness, meditation, sleep, and especially physical activity into your life. For those who love data and numbers, this can be a nice way to track how your nervous system is reacting not only to the environment, but also to your emotions, thoughts, and feelings.”

So many things can go into this number, but I do find it very interesting that out of the 6 months I’ve been measuring this, the past week has brought the highest scores that I have ever gotten.

So why might massages be a contributor to these changes?

One look at PubMed and you can find hundreds of studies on massages. Honestly, a lot of them stink and need more funding BUT there seems to be a common theme between many that points to massages activating a relaxation response (duh). Systemically, this is important because some of these studies general thesis seem to support the idea that massages lower cortisol and increase serotonin & dopamine…all of which are fundamental to turning on melatonin production and strengthening the quantity and quality of our sleep.

I also like this take from an MD on “Why Massages Really Do Keep You Healthy: A Cardiologist Explains” who says that, “Several recent studies point to benefits of massage therapy that help heal the heart” and “massage therapy can join acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi as complementary approaches to maintaining optimal vascular health.”

Being that a calm heart often leads to a great sleep…. I will continue to practice this “rough” experiment and chart my results.