This is a discussion of the results of a systematic review of 22 articles examining the effect of massage on relaxation, comfort, and sleep. The most consistent effect of massage was reduction in anxiety. Eight of 10 original research studies reported that massage significantly decreased anxiety or perception of tension. Seven of 10 studies found that massage produced physiologic relaxation, as indicated by significant changes in the expected direction in one or more physiologic indicators. In the three studies in which the effect of massage on discomfort was investigated, it was found to be effective in reducing pain. In only three studies was the effect of massage on sleep examined. The methods for measuring sleep were unclear in two of the studies, and results were inconclusive in the other. Further research is needed to investigate the effect of massage on discomfort and promoting sleep.
Promoting the quiet and relaxation necessary for sleep in a busy, noisy critical care environment is a problem critical care nurses face daily. Descriptive studies have defined and increased understanding of this problem, but few interventional studies have been accomplished. Interventions that have demonstrated significant improvements in sleep quality in the critical care environment are an audiotape of the sounds of the ocean or rain, a masking signal, and a back massage