Anyone who has ever struggled with insomnia knows the value of a good night’s sleep. When we are unable to achieve adequate rest, it creeps into every facet of our lives. Our productivity begins to suffer, our moods can become tense or bluesy, and our stress levels skyrocket. You can see it in your eyes and face when you look in the mirror. The constant brain fog keeps you from enjoying your favorite activities, and morale begins to suffer tremendously. Exhausted people need help. That is why we have created this overview of some popular relaxation techniques to help you sleep.
There are countless commercial sleep products available, but not all of them are right for everyone. Some health gurus might come out and say that the reason we are not sleeping is because we are not exercising, yet vigorous exercise is the last thing on your mind when you are so thoroughly tired. It is a frustrating and self perpetuating cycle. The more we anticipate a poor night’s sleep, the more we seem to encounter them. The more stressed out we are about getting our rest, the less rested we feel. Thankfully, there is something else we can do to help us relax and restore our spirit. We can engage in meaningful relaxation techniques.
You have heard of this technique before, but have you given it a chance to truly relax you? This is a simple and restorative activity that you can practice at any time of day. Deep Breathing is incredibly calming and centering. It can help you let go of stress whenever you begin to feel it creep up on you. As you know, stress can be one of the largest factors in determining whether or not you get restful sleep. Try this technique anywhere, anytime you need it.
To begin, find a place where you can remain still. This can be a supportive chair, a comfortable bed, or even while driving in a car. Slowly allow your body to relax. If you concentrate on the various parts of your body, you will find the places where you are holding onto tension without realizing it. Your shoulders, your neck, your fingers – these can all be stress points. Try to focus on letting them settle.
When ready, begin to inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, if it is comfortable for you to do so. Allow the inhalation to last for a slow count to five. When you’ve reached the top of the breath, hold it for another second or two. Afterwards, let the breath go. You can do this slowly and deliberately, or in one giant puff, whichever feels appropriate for the situation.
Take a second to appreciate the stillness in you after this breath, and then repeat the process as many times as you need to. You should begin to notice that the focusing you’ve been doing on your breath, and the way your body works has allowed your stress level to drop. Feel your heartbeat. Feel the softness in your limbs. Let this sensation stay with you. If you are in bed while trying this technique, allow your eyes to close, and drift off to sleep.
You are in bed. You have been tossing and turning, and you are convinced you are about to suffer through yet another sleepless night. It is frustrating and upsetting. Now is the perfect time to engage in a technique known as progressive relaxation. This is an activity where you mentally check in with each part of your body, and allow it to relax completely, promoting better sleep.
To begin, get into a comfortable position in bed, namely a position in which you would like to sleep. Begin with your feet and work your way up. Feel your toes, ankles, and arches. If you are holding any stress or tension in your feet, let it go. Progress upwards to your legs, knees, and hips. Feel the weight of each part of your body, and allow it to naturally sink into the mattress.
Many of us hold a great deal of strain and rigidity in our backs and shoulders. To help relax these areas, focus on allowing your chest to sink towards your back, letting all the pressure go. Let your shoulders melt down, dropping away from your ears. Let your neck, your head, your jaw and your eyelids continue the cycle of relief. After you have checked in and relaxed each part of your body, allow your mind to enjoy the stillness. This will lead to an easier and calmer sleep.
Meditation is a time honored and effective means of calming the mind in preparation for sleep. It is a deeply personal mental journey which can aid you in working through the days troubles, and leaving you feeling lighter and freer to sleep. If you have never tried meditation before, don’t be afraid to give it a chance. There are many introductory courses available, which can guide you through the proper steps.
You can begin your meditation by lying in whatever position is most comfortable. When you feel ready, start by picturing a favorite peaceful place. This can be a beach, a forest, alongside a waterfall, or anywhere else you would like to visit. The object of visualizing a location is to sense your surroundings. Concentrate on the feel of the breeze, the ocean spray, or the grass beneath your feet. Listen to the sounds of crashing waves, or chirping birds. Allowing your mind to focus on these things, instead of your worries and anxieties can aid you in settling down naturally.
Once you have established a setting, you can take a number of approaches. Some people find it helpful to visualize themselves literally letting go of objects that represent their fears or misgivings. You could picture them as birds that you are setting free, or butterflies carrying those issues away from you. Some prefer to picture themselves writing their worries down on pieces of paper, and letting the wind blow them away. These simple representations of relaxing can be very powerful, and many use this technique regularly.
Still others feel best imagining something boring or uninteresting. There is no shame in admitting that you nod off during dry meetings, or on long flights. If you have a situation you encounter in your waking life which makes drifting off to sleep easier for you, harness that situation mentally, and let it work its magic at night.
It may seem counter intuitive to get up and work out when you are lying in bed, trying to sleep. However, yoga can be extremely beneficial in soothing both the mind and body, opening up the pathway to a healthy night’s rest. Unlike cardio based exercises, yoga is a gentle, zero-impact means of checking in with your body. Some poses can even be performed without having to get out of bed.
Some of the best poses for inducing restfulness are called inversions. Simply put, these are poses where your head is lower than your center of gravity. Now, you may have seen some impressive yogis holding handstands and headstands for several minutes on end, and wondering how that could be restful. Luckily, there are far simpler inversions you can try, which are just as effective.
One of the most basic inversions is called Viparita Kanari, or “Legs Up the Wall Pose”. This one is preformed exactly the way it sounds. Lying flat on your back with your hips as close to the wall as possible, raise your legs straight up, and allow them to be supported by the wall. There may be a little adjusting you need to do in order to feel fully comfortable, but once you do, simply allow the floor and wall to do the work for you. This pose calms the mind, centers the body, and allows tired feet and legs to rest and restore.
If you are feeling a little more ambitious, you could try Halasana, or “Plow Pose”. This pose builds on the principals of Legs Up the Wall Pose, and adds a slight challenge. For this pose, begin by lying on your back. Using a slow, fluid motion, raise up onto your shoulders so that your legs are straight up in the air. Use your arms to support your hips, if you find it helpful. Then, simply allow your toes to dink down the the floor beyond the top of your head. Hold the pose for as long as you find it enjoyable. Repeat as necessary.
Sleep is a crucial part of our lives, and insomnia or restless sleep can be very disruptive. Using natural relaxation techniques for sleep may be all you need to help your mind find peace. If you are interested in exploring more options, Udemy has a wide variety of helpful courses available to help guide you through deep relaxation. Consider trying one of the following expert led classes:
Restorative Yoga for Stress Relief