Do you feel the tension creep into your body during the day? Life can be stressful. We work long days filled with constant demands. Family life can be hectic, busy, and stressed. You turn on the TV and are bombarded with bad news. It is hard to shut it all off and relax. Luckily, there are a few relaxation techniques you can use to unwind and prepare for a night of restful sleep.
A Relaxing Space
Your bedroom needs to be a relaxing space. It should be cool, comfortable, dark, and device-free. Keep all electronics out of the room, as they won’t help you get to sleep. Try using black-out curtains to keep the room dark. Splurge on comfortable and appealing fabrics, comforters, and pillow. Don’t try to cut corners on the mattress. You need a good one, but that doesn’t have to mean expensive. Try Mattress Warehouse for a great mattress without breaking the bank.
Relax – By Taking Control Of Your Body
You can practice this first technique during the day, but it works best when you lay down at night. This technique will increase your awareness of your different muscles, so you can relax them and wind down.
Step 1 – Tighten a muscle and contract it for 7-10 seconds. As an example, flex your bicep in your upper arm gently. Never strain.
Step 2 – While the muscle is tightened, visualize the tenseness. Feel it. Notice how the tension continues to build.
Step 3 – Instantly release the tension. Feel the muscle go limp. Notice the difference in the muscle and your entire arm. Take a few seconds, then move onto your next major muscle.
Step 4 – Focus. You need to keep the rest of your muscles relaxed while you work on other muscle groups. Make sure your left arm is relaxed while you focus on your right arm.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is commonly used in depression therapy. Recent clinical trials have shown it is very effective for insomniacs, too. It can provide a long-term solution, instead of the short-term benefits of medication. CBT helps you change your negative beliefs which interfere with your sleep and replace them with positive beliefs and behaviors. You “unlearn” negativity and replace it with positive feelings.
A common method is to schedule 30 minutes each day as your worry time. You choose to only worry during this time and write down all of your worries, anxious thoughts, and negative feelings in a journal. Getting them out of your head and down on paper allows your mind to relax. Once you finish your scheduled worry time, you are not allowed to worry until tomorrow’s allotted time.
You can extend CBT to help with insomnia. Before you go to sleep, set aside a few moments to write down all the things you are worried about. Get them out of your head and on paper. Your mind will notice you took action and relax. When you lay down in bed, imagine all of those worries have floated away. Your mind is free to relax. You feel peaceful. You sleep.
The Sleep Council’s Steps To A Better Night Of Sleep
The 20 Minute Rule – Changing Gears
We should all wait to go to bed until we are tired, but if you don’t fall asleep in the first 20 minutes, it is time to change gears. Get up and find something to do. Choose something quiet and relaxing. Avoid computers, phones, and gadgets with displays. Try listening to peaceful music, reading a book, meditation, or yoga. Stay relaxed.
Once you feel sleepy, go back to bed. You may need to repeat this cycle, but we are working to change your associations. You want your mind to think of the bed as the place you fall asleep quickly, not the place you toss and turn while your mind races.
Sleep Restriction – Don’t Lay In Bed Awake
How many hours do you sleep each night? How does that compare to the hours you are in bed? The sleep restriction technique restricts you to only being in bed for the average number of hours you sleep per night. If you average 5 hours of sleep, only stay in bed for 5 hours.
It may take your body a few days to adjust, but the technique changes your perceptions and the body’s response to sleep. Don’t attempt this technique if you only sleep a couple of hours per night, unless you are working with a trained CBT Sleep Practitioner.