Here is a definition of the relaxation response: "The Relaxation Response is a physiological reaction of deep rest that changes, more effectively than rest alone, the physical and emotional response to stress." (Provided by The Center in Joliet, Illinois)
In relation to massage, I once again quote The Center: "Once viewed as a luxury of indulgence, research has now proven that massage therapy and bodywork provides physical, mental and emotional benefits at all stages of life." Experientially I could add spiritual benefits as well.
The implications are that a one hour massage has the potential to be more restful than sleep. This is not to say that massage can replace sleep. However, I am saying that a one hour massage often activates the relaxation response to a greater, more health benefiting level, than sleep alone can. Many people go to bed "stressed out", sleep poorly, then awaken still feeling "stressed out". Many of my clients come to their massage session saying "I am so stressed out". They don't leave that way. After a session clients are much more likely to say, "I am so blissed out". Why? Because "The Relaxation Response" has been activated. And these same clients are more likely to sleep better, feel better and be more vibrant.
In summation, massage therapy counteracts the stress response by activating the relaxation response. Regular massage therapy counteracts the snowballing effects of a stressful lifestyle. In time, regular massage may lead to a different snowballing effect, one that leads to a state of bliss. Stressed out or blissed out - you choose.