According to a recent national poll, 4% of respondents reported having sleepless nights at least once in the previous month as a result of stress. All that tossing, turning, and looking at the ceiling the night before might leave you exhausted and agitated the next day. If you’re stuck in a vicious cycle of worry and insomnia, there’s some good news: simple relaxation techniques can help you sleep better and feel calmer.
1. 4-7-8 Breathing Exercises
Taking calm, deep breaths is one of the most fundamental and straightforward techniques to activate your body’s natural relaxation response. Start by taking 10 deep breaths if you find yourself awake in bed. This alone can help to slow the breath and induce relaxation. Here are a few more breathing exercises to try if you’re seeking something different.
This significantly more sophisticated breathing method allows you to manage the rate at which you breathe. If you are uncomfortable holding your breath, this may not be the ideal option for you, but it is generally regarded as safe and simple. This is how it works:
- Inhale deeply for 4 seconds.
- For 7 seconds, hold your breath.
- Slowly exhale for 8 seconds.
- Repeat numerous times more
What effect can deep breathing have on the body and mind in terms of relaxation and promoting healthy sleep? Inhaling deeply and holding your breath raises the body’s oxygen level, allowing it to work slightly less hard. A long, steady exhale has a meditative quality that is naturally calming. That gradual exhale is also extremely similar to the rate at which your body breathes when you’re going asleep. Deep breathing before bedtime simulates the breathing patterns of sleep beginning, encouraging your body and mind into their all-important period of rest.
See also How to Sleep Better: Proven Tips
2. Body Scan
Body scans are a sort of meditation in which you pay deliberate, concentrated attention to various regions of your body. Try these steps for a peaceful body scan once you’re lying comfortably in bed:
- Begin by taking a few deep breaths, perhaps using diaphragmatic or 4-7-8 breathing to calm your body.
- Bring your attention to your feet, noting any feelings in your toes and any stiffness in this area of your body.
- If you sense any discomfort here, accept it and attempt to let go of any stories you have in your head. Visualize the tension leaving your body as you breathe.
- When you’re ready, shift your attention to your calf muscles and continue the process of recognizing sensations, letting go of thoughts or tales, and visualizing tension leaving your body through your breath.
- Move your focus to each portion of your body one at a time, from your feet to your head, until you’ve scanned your entire body.
3. Autogenic training
Autogenic training (AT) is a simple, effective way to reduce stress and improve sleep. AT follows the same stages as the body scan but includes self-statements of heaviness and warmth in each section of the body. AT employs a series of exercises that direct the mind’s attention to certain bodily sensations in order to relax both mentally and physically. This is how it works:
- Begin by doing a few minutes of breathing exercises to relax.
- Bring your attention back to your feet, and slowly repeat to yourself six times, “my feet are really heavy, but I am absolutely relaxed.”
- Focus on your feet again, then slowly repeat 6 times more, “my feet are really warm, I am fully peaceful.”
- Repeat this procedure as you shift your focus from your feet to your head, repeating each sentence about weight and warmth.
Autogenic training trains the mind to cultivate sensations of warmth and heaviness in various parts of the body. These exercises involve both visual imagery and verbal cues to help people relax physically as well as quiet and calm their minds. The exercises are most helpful when done on a regular basis, and you can utilize them to reduce stress throughout the day. Autogenic training can help you prepare the body and mind for sleep by incorporating it into your nighttime power-down regimen.
4. Muscle Relaxation
This mind-body relaxation technique is a simple and effective way to become acquainted with your body and the areas of stress and tension. Progressive relaxation is working with different locations and muscle groups of the body one at a time, first tensing and then relaxing them. This helps you become more aware of how tension and relaxation feel in your body. With that knowledge, you are more prepared to deal with the physical tension—as well as any mental or emotional stress that may accompany it.
To begin, write down all of the muscle groups or create an audio recording of yourself speaking each one, allowing around 45 seconds between each group to enable yourself enough time to complete the process. Hands, wrists and forearms, biceps, shoulders, forehead, around the eyes and nose, cheekbones and jaw, around the mouth, back of the neck, front of neck, chest, back, stomach, hips, and buttocks, thighs, and lower legs are the muscle groups.
When you’re ready, lie down in bed and try the following technique:
- Inhale deeply and tension the first set of muscles for 5-10 seconds.
- Exhale swiftly and relax the muscles in that group.
- Hold your breath for 10-20 seconds before moving on to the next muscle group.
- Repeat until you’ve worked through all 16 muscle groups. After you’ve completed it, focus on keeping all of your muscle groups relaxed as you fall asleep.