The American Sleep Association states that nearly 30 percent of adults suffer from brief bouts with insomnia, while around 10 percent have chronic issues with falling and/or staying asleep. They also say that about one-third of adults report that they get less than seven hours of sleep at night. While specialists say that to function at their best, adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep, and teenagers/young adults need closer to eight to ten hours. Meaning there is a large chunk of the population that is failing to get adequate sleep.
Many people find it difficult to fall asleep at night because our minds are filled with an overwhelming amount of thoughts and stresses. Unfortunately, we can’t switch our minds off as easily as we do our bedside lamps. There are times where we may need some extra help to shut down our thoughts and relax our bodies to transition to a peaceful state before bed.
Here I have listed three relaxation techniques that you can use to help de-stress when you are ready to go to sleep:
Guided Sleep Meditation
Guided sleep meditation allows you to relax your body and eliminate troublesome thoughts before bed. It is usually done while lying in bed listening to an audio recording that guides you through the steps of the meditation. Guided meditation is easily incorporated into your bedtime routine and can be highly effective in helping you to fall, and stay, asleep.
Plenty of guided sleep meditations can be found on YouTube, Spotify, smartphone Apps, and meditation websites. Simply find one you like and put your phone face down on your nightstand as you listen (you want to avoid the light from the screen). A popular, and effective channel on YouTube is Jason Stephenson – Sleep Meditation Music, specifically this video: https://youtu.be/N4qCFFBrrgk
Progressive Muscle Relaxation
This practice has you consciously tense and relax different muscle groups to allow you to be aware of the distinction between relaxation and tension. When the muscles are deliberately tensed, then released, they relax more deeply. In between each muscle tension, you will need to take a deep breath, hold it, and then let it go. After some practice, you will be able to relax quickly and at will. Note: If you have an injury, skip tensing the muscles in that area.
This practice is beneficial as releasing tension in the body can release tension in the mind and putting the focus on your body can keep you from focusing on your thoughts.
Start your muscle tensing at either the top of your head or the tips of your toes and work your way up or down from there. You can find guided progressive muscle relaxation techniques in much the same way as you do the guided sleep meditation. This is a popular and calming progressive muscle relaxation video found on YouTube: https://youtu.be/86HUcX8ZtAk
Deep Breathing Exercises
One thing that you will notice the above two techniques have in common is that they both require you to focus on your breathing at some point. Practicing deep breathing is an effective relaxation technique for several reasons, including:
- It slows your heart rate
- It can calm your breathing if it is affected by anxiety
- It takes attention away from racing and troublesome thoughts
- It relaxes your muscles
- You can do it for as long as needed while lying in bed
A popular deep breathing exercise is the 4-7-8 method. Breathe in through your nose for four counts, hold for seven, and exhale for eight. Repeat as needed until you fall asleep. If this doesn’t work for you, there are YouTube videos available to guide you through a deep breathing exercise, like this one here: https://youtu.be/EYQsRBNYdPk
These relaxation techniques can do wonders to calm a racing mind and tense body on the occasional sleepless night. However, if you have trouble falling asleep regularly, there is a chance you are suffering from a sleep disorder. Family Sleep Diagnostics can help. Schedule an appointment online or call us at (972) 714-0011 today.