Opioids are brain chemicals that bond us to other humans. Scientists theorize that opinoids are the brain chemical that promotes lasting relationships. Seeing a loved one promotes a release of the drug, giving us that “being in love” high.
Studies on animals have found that opioids are critical to pair bonding. When normally monogamous prairie voles have their brain opioids blocked, they seek out other partners. Monkeys with blocked opioids groom others less and neglect their babies.
However, a new Finnish study found that when men were gently touched by a loved one, their level of brain opioids went down. Researchers theorize that it is because the touch reduces fear and anxiety, so the brain can reduce the amount of soothing drugs being released into the system. We see the same effect when patients in pain are touched by loved ones – their need for painkillers decreases.
Massage has been shown to reduce anxious behavior, pulse and cortisol levels. It helps premature babies gain needed weight more rapidly. Massage reduced anxiety and depression in child and adolescent psychiatric patients, and promoted healing sleep in critically ill patients more effectively than muscle relaxation, mental imagery and calming music.
Still no research though to verify the old college standby: Back massages in the front room lead to front massages in the back room. You might just be putting your intended to sleep….