Relaxation Techniques

Relaxation techniques often can help people with sleep problems get a good night's sleep. Several relaxation techniques are listed below.

Progressive Relaxation

This technique is often most useful when you tape the instructions beforehand. You can tape these instructions, reading them slowly and leaving a short pause after each one or listen to the progressive muscle relaxation track on our "Falling Asleep" CD.

  • Lie on your back, close your eyes.
  • Feel your feet. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and sink into the bed. Start with your toes and progress to your ankles.
  • Feel your knees. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
  • Feel your upper legs and thighs. Feel their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
  • Feel your abdomen and chest. Sense your breathing. Consciously will them to relax. Deepen your breathing slightly and feel your abdomen and chest sink into the bed.
  • Feel your buttocks. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
  • Feel your hands. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
  • Feel your upper arms. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
  • Feel your shoulders. Sense their weight. Consciously relax them and feel them sink into the bed.
  • Feel your neck. Sense its weight. Consciously relax it and feel it sink into the bed.
  • Feel your head and skull. Sense its weight. Consciously relax it and feel it sink into the bed.
  • Feel your mouth and jaw. Consciously relax them. Pay particular attention to your jaw muscles and unclench them if you need to. Feel your mouth and jaw relax and sink into the bed.
  • Feel your eyes. Sense if there is tension in your eyes. Sense if you are forcibly closing your eyelids. Consciously relax your eyelids and feel the tension slide off the eyes.
  • Feel your face and cheeks. Consciously relax them and feel the tension slide off into the bed.
  • Mentally scan your body. If you find any place that is still tense, then consciously relax that place and let it sink into the bed.

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Toe Tensing

This one may seem like a bit of a contradiction to the previous one, but by alternately tensing and relaxing your toes, you actually draw tension from the rest of the body. Try it!

  • Lie on your back, close your eyes.
  • Sense your toes.
  • Now pull all 10 toes back toward your face. Count to 10 slowly.
  • Now relax your toes.
  • Count to 10 slowly.
  • Now repeat the above cycle 10 times.

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Deep Breathing

Listen to the deep breathing track on our "Falling Asleep" CD.

By concentrating on our breathing, deep breathing allows the rest of our body to relax itself. Deep breathing is a great way to relax the body and get everything into synchrony. Relaxation breathing is an important part of yoga and martial arts for this reason.

  • Lie on your back.
  • Slowly relax your body. You can use the progressive relaxation technique we described above.
  • Begin to inhale slowly through your nose if possible. Fill the lower part of your chest first, then the middle and top part of your chest and lungs. Be sure to do this slowly, over 8 to 10 seconds.
  • Hold your breath for a second or two.
  • Then quietly and easily relax and let the air out.
  • Wait a few seconds and repeat this cycle.
  • If you find yourself getting dizzy, then you are overdoing it. Slow down.
  • You can also imagine yourself in a peaceful situation such as on a warm, gentle ocean. Imagine that you rise on the gentle swells of the water as you inhale and sink down into the waves as you exhale.
  • You can continue this breathing technique for as long as you like until you fall asleep.

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Guided Imagery

Listen to the guided imagery track on our "Falling Asleep" CD. In this technique, the goal is to visualize yourself in a peaceful setting.

  • Lie on your back with your eyes closed.
  • Imagine yourself in a favorite, peaceful place. The place may be on a sunny beach with the ocean breezes caressing you, swinging in a hammock in the mountains or in your own backyard. Any place that you find peaceful and relaxing is OK.
  • Imagine you are there. See and feel your surroundings, hear the peaceful sounds, smell the flowers or the barbecue, fell the warmth of the sun and any other sensations that you find. Relax and enjoy it.
  • You can return to this place any night you need to. As you use this place more and more you will find it easier to fall asleep as this imagery becomes a sleep conditioner.
  • Some patients find it useful to visualize something boring. This may be a particularly boring teacher or lecturer, co-worker or friend.

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Quiet Ears

Listen to the quiet ears track on our "Falling Asleep" CD.

  • Lie on your back with your eyes closed.
  • Place your hands behind your head. Make sure they are relaxed.
  • Place your thumbs in your ears so that you close the ear canal.
  • You will hear a high-pitched rushing sound. This is normal.
  • Listen to this sound for 10-15 minutes.
  • Then put your arms at your sides, actively relax them and go to sleep.

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For more information or to arrange for a sleep consultation for adults, please call 410-706-4771. For children, call 410-706-3285.

This page was last updated: July 30, 2013

         
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