Progressive Muscle Relaxation: This technique allows you to relax your entire body by tensing and relaxing a series of muscles. Follow these steps:
1. Find a place to sit or lie down and get into a comfortable position. Put a pillow under your head, or place one under your knees to relax your back. Rest your arms, with palms up, slightly apart from your body.
2. Take several slow, deep breaths through your nose. Exhale with a long sigh to release tension.
3. Begin to focus on your feet and ankles. Tighten the muscles brieﬂy (ﬁve to ten seconds) and then relax them. Let them drop from your consciousness.
4. Slowly move your attention up through different parts of your body: your calves, thighs, lower back, hips, and pelvic area; your middle back, abdomen, upper back, shoulders, arms, and hands; your neck, jaw, tongue, forehead, and scalp.
5. If thoughts distract you, try to ignore them and return your attention to your breathing.
Deep Breathing: Also known as diaphragmatic breathing, this technique slows respiration, leading to relaxation and then sleep. The idea is to replicate the type of breathing you do when you’re asleep (slow and predominantly from the diaphragm—the muscle between the abdomen and the chest), instead of the type you do when you’re awake (faster and using the diaphragm and chest muscles). Follow these steps:
1. Start by ﬁnding a place where you can lie ﬂat on your back with your feet slightly apart. Lightly rest one hand on your abdomen, just near your navel, and rest your other hand on your chest.
2. Inhale through your nose and calmly exhale through your mouth until you’ve emptied most of the air from your lungs. Focus on your breathing and watch which hand is moving. You want the hand on your chest to stay still or follow after the hand on your abdomen.
3. Gently inhale, slightly distending your abdomen to make it rise. Imagine warmth ﬂowing into your lungs and all parts of your body. Pause for one second. Then, as you slowly count to four, gently exhale, letting your diaphragm relax and your abdomen slowly fall. Pause for another second.
4. Repeat this process ﬁve to ten times.
Meditation: There are many types of meditation that can reduce stress and help you relax just before bedtime. The speciﬁcs vary, but key steps typically include the following:
1. Sit somewhere quiet in comfortable, loose clothing.
2. Close your eyes, allow your hands to rest on your legs, and relax your muscles.
3. Take a deep breath and let it out slowly.
4. Choose a simple word such as relax or easy, a religious word or phrase, or a meaningless word like the mantra om. As you breathe, repeat the word aloud or in your mind.
5. Continue breathing regularly with your muscles relaxed. It may help to count your breaths, starting over with every ﬁve breaths.
Visualization: Also known as guided imagery, visualization is a form of meditation that helps you mentally remove yourself from stress. Follow these steps:
1. Sit or lie somewhere comfortable and close your eyes.
2. Imagine you are somewhere that makes you feel good, such as the beach or the woods, a spot where you have spent a restful vacation, or a beautiful place you can picture even if you have never been there.
3. Breathe slowly and deeply until you feel relaxed.
4. Focus on all ﬁve senses, imagining what you see, feel, hear, taste and smell. Continue to visualize yourself in this place for ﬁve to ten minutes.
5. Gradually return your focus to the room you are in.
Biofeedback: Most commonly used to treat migraine headaches, biofeedback is a form of therapy that teaches you to control physiological functions such as heart rate, muscle tension, breathing, perspiration, skin temperature, blood pressure, and even brain waves. By learning to control these functions, you may be able to reduce stress and improve sleep.
During biofeedback training, sensors placed on your body are attached to a machine to detect changes in your pulse, skin temperature, blood pressure, muscle activity, brain-wave pattern, or some other physiological function. These changes trigger a speciﬁc signal—a sound, a ﬂashing light, or a change in pattern on a video screen—which tells you that the physiological change has occurred.
Gradually, with the help of your biofeedback therapist, you learn to alter the signal yourself by controlling your body’s physiology. After a few sessions, there’s no need for sensors or monitors, and you can use the same control techniques at home without supervision.
The success of the ﬁve relaxation methods presented here depends on whether you continue to practice them. It’s common for people to begin with enthusiasm, achieve moderate success, but then fall back to their prior sleep level because they abandon the method or practice it much less frequently. These relaxation methods are not as effective as the behavioral methods described earlier, but people who continue to practice regularly are likely to be rewarded with improved sleep.Relaxation, Meditation & Relaxation