Sleep relaxation techniques: calm your busy mind (2023)

Sleep relaxation techniques: calm your busy mind (1)

It's not easy being human. I often say this to people to remind them that it's okay to be angry, stressed, anxious, upset, worried, or just plain grumpy at times.

I think the original phrase is "it's okay to be human", which I'll also use where appropriate (humor and sulking don't always go well together). However, the more cheerful version usually does a good job of bringing a smile in the dark, which is sometimes all it takes.

In fact, when we take stress, anxiety, or worry to bed, it often leads to another very human problem: not being able to sleep when we really need to.

Of course, there are many possible explanations for poor sleep, and everyone is different. However, one thing that seems to unite many of us is that it's difficult to fall asleep when you're not relaxed.

In this article, I'm going to cover different relaxation techniques you can try if you're regularly unable to sleep because your mind is racing. There's no rule as to when to do them, so feel free to try them before bed, during the day when you're feeling stressed, or even when you're already in bed when you can't sleep.

More than a way to relax

I know not everyone finds the idea of ​​meditation or yoga appealing, so I'll also suggest some other techniques that you might find less esoteric in connotation.

However, if you haven't tried meditation, breathing techniques, or yoga because you think they belong in an overly eclectic realm of New Age wind chimes and incense, I can assure you they are practiced by people from all walks of life. including myself.

Much of what was once New Age is now quite popular. You only have to look at how often people bring yoga mats to cafes to see what I mean.

I don't think there is a single technique that beats all the others when it comes to sleeping. So if walking helps you relax more than sitting cross-legged and eyes closed, that's all that matters.

I would just suggest keeping an open mind and trying different techniques. You have nothing to lose and you don't need candles, incense sticks or gong-filled music to meditate if that's not your thing.

Sleep relaxation techniques: calm your busy mind (2)

1. Guided Meditation

If you're new to the idea of ​​meditation, a guided meditation is a good place to start. That way, you don't have to read a book, visit a website, or attend a workshop. Just press play, close your eyes and let a soothing voice take you on a journey to a calmer state of mind.

There are many different styles, so it's worth exploring YouTube, Spotify, or the downloadable apps to see what works best for you.

Some include techniques such asfull attention, with concepts such as not being stressed by normal thoughts. Others may be more likely to take you on a journey that can be a pleasant distraction from an overactive mind.

When I can't sleep, I sometimes listen to a meditation video or audio track on my phone. I let it ring on the bedside table, close my eyes and listen to the soothing instructions.

And if you have onerelaxing bedtime routinethat you like to repeat, it's a good time to do a guided meditation.

To give you an idea, here's one I like. I found this by searching "guided sleep meditations" on YouTube. If you do the same search, you will find many others.

2. Progressive muscle relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a simple technique that works well for several reasons:

  • Tension in the muscles can lead to tension in the mind.
  • Focusing on your body can help divert your attention from your thoughts.
  • By tensing and relaxing your muscles, you will experience what it feels like to be relaxed. This gives you a goal to work toward as you wind down for the night.

Muscle relaxation step by step

Here are some instructions for a classic progressive muscle relaxation technique. I recommend lying down to do this, and I usually do it when I'm lying in bed after turning off the light.

  • Breathe slowly and deeply naturally for one minute.
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose while squeezing your toes and toes together for three to four seconds (as long as you are comfortable).
  • Exhale slowly through your mouth and relax your toes and feet again.
  • Take a deep breath and contract your leg muscles, hold for a few seconds, and then relax on the exhale.
  • Inhale and contract your thighs, hold, and then relax.
  • Inhale and contract your abdomen and lower back, hold for a few seconds, and then relax.
  • Repeat with chest and upper back.
  • Repeat with hands, forearms, then forearms, shoulders and neck.
  • He stiffens his face and frowns.
  • Finally, inhale and contract your whole body at the same time. Wait a few seconds.
  • Exhale slowly and relax your whole body, breathe gently if you want.
  • Repeat the entire body process three times.

And here's a soothing video that explains it through progressive muscle relaxation:

3. Deep breathing exercises

Deep breathing is relaxing on its own or in conjunction with other relaxation exercises. Most meditation practices encourage you to focus on your breathing at some point.

This breathing style has two main components: learning to breathe from your stomach instead of just your chest, and breathing at a slow, controlled pace.

It is an effective relaxation technique for several reasons:

  • relax your muscles
  • It can help lower your heart rate.
  • It can help slow your breathing when anxiety takes its toll.
  • It distracts your attention from troubling thoughts.
  • You can do this in bed for as long as you like.

Take a deep breath, step by step

Here are some instructions for a deep breathing exercise. Again, it's okay to do this in bed, but you can do it whenever you're feeling stressed or anxious during the day.

  • Take a minute to get comfortable. Try to relax naturally.
  • Close your eyes and focus your attention on your breathing..
  • Ortone hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Notice if they both go up as you inhale, or if only one of them goes up. You don't have to do anything special right now. Just see which hand is being raised and pay attention.
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose for four seconds. Try to breathe in such a way that the hand on your stomach and the hand on your chest rise just a little. This is called belly breathing and is what you should try. It may be difficult for you at first, but keep practicing and it will come with time.
  • After inhaling, hold your breath for four seconds and exhale through your mouth for four seconds. If four seconds is too little or too much, you can adjust the time to your liking.
  • Continue breathing like this for five minutes.
  • Once you've learned abdominal breathing, you can place your arms at your sides during this exercise.
  • You can aim to do this breathing exercise for five to ten minutes, but there is no time limit or "ideal" amount of time. Sometimes I keep doing the exercise until I fall asleep.

Deep breathing videos

The following video first explains how to breathe deeply and then walks you through an exercise.

4. A short routine if you're short on time (or patience).

Although I've written an article on meditation and relaxation techniques, I have a little secret: I have a hard time sitting still during long meditation sessions! I'm just an active and somewhat restless person.

I'm also not a big fan of sitting cross-legged and I'm sure I've missed the opportunity to become flexible enough for the lotus position in this lifetime.

So after years of experimenting with relaxation exercises andmindfulness techniques, I decided to put together a short, positive, and effective routine.

What I like is that I can do all these steps in just five to ten minutes, but they are enough to relax me and go to bed feeling positive. I started with just five minutes and added an extra minute every two weeks. So now I usually do a ten, but when I'm not really feeling it I stick with a five.

I do this and why:

Step 1

I usually lie on the floor or in bed for a full five minutes, but I tend to switch positions a few times to stretch tight muscles. It also keeps me from getting frustrated with being in one position all the time.

Sometimes I press my knees to my chest while lying on my back. I could also lie down with my hips extended and my arms outstretched behind my head — the open frog pose, as I like to call it.

Basically, I meditate and stretch sore muscles at the same time. This seems to appease the active side of my personality that enjoys a good stretch.

step 2

First, I take deep, slow breaths through my nose just to settle into the session. If you're wondering why I still insist on breathing through my nose, read James Nestor's book Breath. Basically, breathing through your nose is a good thing!

step 3

I think of three things I'm grateful for today. It really could be anything: a delicious meal, the fact that I'm lucky enough to eat three meals a day, the beautiful blue skies and sunshine today, a phone call from a friend reminding me someone loves me.

step 4

So I say to myself, "The day is over. Let him go. Forget it."

I feel it helps bring the day to a close and quells any regret, worry or anxiety about the day's events.

step 5

I practice simple forgiveness. If I did or said anything that day that made me feel bad, I forgive myself. Likewise, I forgive when someone has done something that upset me.

If nothing important happened that day, I think of something from the past that I still hold on to.

Just let it be.

It's amazing how simply the decision to forgive yourself or someone else, or even the bad weather that day, can help you relax.

If you're the type of person who finds it hard to forgive, unwilling to forgive anyone who comes to mind, or feel like it takes more effort to forgive, don't stress about this step. This is your moment, remember it. Perhaps start small, forgiving the weather for raining down on you, or something relatively superficial.

step 6

At the end I take a few deep breaths. This time, with each exhalation, I imagine following the breath into the room, then the building, then the neighborhood, the city, the country, the world, and beyond.

When my imagination is struggling to picture everything on any given day, usually just a few meters is enough to snap me out of my head, thoughts and worries.

And that's my little routine. If you decide to give it a try, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it in the comments below. You can also get creative and create your own positive relaxation routine based on my suggestions or ideas that you find most personal and relevant to you.

5. Try yoga or chi kung

I can't describe yoga or chi kung techniques properly in a written article, but I want to mention them because I think they're both great for relaxation.

What I like about both is that they relax the body and mind. Of course, there are some styles of yoga that feel more like exercise than relaxation, which can also be good for sleep, but maybe not before bed.

I recommend taking a course near you if possible, not only for the right classes but also for the social aspect. Humans are social beings and it is important that we have good social contacts with others. You may be surprised at how much connecting with others helps you feel more positive. And that, in turn, can contribute to your overall well-being and perhaps your sleep as well.

If you can't attend a class, YouTube is a great place to study at home. For Yoga, a channel I follow and really like is Yoga With Adriene. I like your overall style and appreciate that you have specific videos for different needs.

There are some for general relaxation and many for specific body parts. I've had times when I couldn't sleep due to pain and yoga came to the rescue and helped stretch some sore muscles.

6. Other relaxation techniques

Sleep relaxation techniques: calm your busy mind (3)

As promised at the beginning, here are some suggestions that don't involve meditation or bending your body into unusual positions.

  • Go for a walk outside, preferably in the countryside or by the water. I always find walking helps me to clear my head and relax. Even when I'm not "trying" to relax, I always come back from a walk calmer than when I left.
  • Read a book, magazine, or comic. I prefer to avoid screens when I want to relax and enjoy the physical feel of a book.
  • Have a relaxing drink. Avoid caffeine and sugary drinks late at night if you can. Herbal or decaffeinated tea are good options.
  • Take a warm bath or shower. Maybe light some candles in the bathroom if you can and turn on some music or the radio. However, I would avoid a hot shower right before bed, especially in summer.
  • Put on headphones, escape the world and listen to relaxing music.
  • Watch or read something funny. I tend to advocate turning screens off late at night. But when you're feeling particularly grumpy or down, it's amazing how much a good comedy or some funny cat videos can lift your spirits!
  • Make some art. If you enjoy making art, you can let your creativity run wild during stressful times. You can have a separate coloring book by your bed that you can only use at bedtime.
  • Diary. Writing about your day, mood, and life events can be cathartic. Putting it down on paper can also help relax your mind.

7. Reader Suggestions

Here are some ideas that readers have suggested. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.

  • Get up a little if you can't sleep.
  • To do yoga.
  • Stretch before bed.
  • Don't watch horror movies before bed.
  • If noise is keeping you awake, don't stress it - find a way to stop or reduce it.
  • Try a sleep hypnosis recording.
  • Try aromatherapy before bed.

Finally, if you want more ideas that can help you fall asleep, check this outSono-Hygieneseitewhich is full of tips and techniques for better sleep.

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