Relax Before Bed

Nearly a third of adults experience difficulties falling and/or staying asleep. Regardless of whether you have a diagnosed sleep disorder, or you toss and turn every now and then, there are relaxation exercises to help you fall and stay asleep.

Before you employ these exercises, it is important to remember a few things:

– Think of these exercises as tools. Sometimes one tool works better than others. Sometimes it takes more than one to get the job done.
– Just like learning any new skill, relaxation exercises take practice. Getting results takes intentional, and often repetitive, ongoing use. Relaxation exercises for sleep are no different.
– While it’s tempting to look for the secret ingredient, what’s most important is to find what works for you. We are all unique, as are effective well-being and self-care plans. Experiment and stay curious.

While these exercises are safe for most people, others may benefit from talking to their doctors before trying these techniques.

1. Breathing Exercises – Taking slow, deep breaths might be one of the best relaxation techniques out there. Try diaphragmatic (fancy term for belly breathing) to reduce stress, gain some mindfulness, all while strengthening your diaphragm to increase the efficiency of our breathing. Need more structure? Try 4, 7, 8 breathing where you inhale for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7, and exhale for 8.

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2. Visualization Exercises – Often used in meditation, a body scan focuses the attention to different parts of the body. To try this, lay down comfortably in bed, take a few deep breaths, then bring your attention to your feet, noticing any sensations or discomfort. Acknowledge it and try to let go. You can visualize the tension leaving your body as you continue your deep breathing. Once released, continue moving up your body and repeat the process until you’ve reached the top of your head.

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3. Progressive Muscle Relaxation – This technique’s premise is that it’s hard to be tense when your muscles are relaxed. To employ this technique, methodically tense and relax all your muscle groups. Similar to the body scan, do each tension and release process one by one. Take about 30-45 seconds per each muscle group with a 10-20 second rest in between. As you finish, focus on keeping this relaxation through your body as you drift to sleep.

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Which of these tools sound most interesting to try out now? Your mind, and your body, will thank you!