Relaxation exercises to help you sleep
There are lots of things that can keep you awake at night. These might include:
- External stimuli (such as loud noises, television shows etc)
- Internal thought processes (images, thoughts and ideas running through your mind)
- Physiological arousal (changes in the body that occur when you are emotionally or physically stimulated such as your heart rate increasing if you feel nervous)
There are some exercises you can do to help reduce stress and reduce how mentally alert you are at night.
Progressive Muscular Relaxation (PMR) exercise:
This is designed to reduce tension by reducing physiological arousal. Our mind is constantly monitoring our body for signs of stress, danger, excitement etc. If the body is relaxed and the physiological arousal state is low, the mind assumes a state of relaxation as well.
Set aside about 15 minutes to complete this exercise. Sit comfortably (ideally not in bed) and make sure the whole of your body is supported. You can lie down but this will increase your chances of falling asleep. If you become aware of sounds, simply bring attention back to the exercise and let the sounds leave your mind just as soon as they enter.
Close your eyes. Feel the whatever you are sitting on supporting your whole body. Take about five slow, deep breaths before you begin.
Work through the different muscle groups: tensing each of them, holding the tension for 4 seconds and releasing.
When you are ready, count back from 5 to 1 and open your eyes. Wiggle your fingers and toes, breathe deeply and stretch.
It is useful to practice this technique outside the bedroom until you feel comfortable with the program. Once it feels familiar, you can start doing it in bed. You can do it when you first go to bed, if you wake up in the middle of the night or both.
Remember! This is a technique that gets better as you practice it. Do not be discouraged if you do not find it works the first few times you do it. Persist with that and you will find that it becomes more effective with time.
Click here to listen to a someone talk you through the progressive muscular relaxation exercise.
Peaceful Place Imagery exercise:
This visualisation exercise can help you relax before going to sleep but also if you wake up and struggle to fall back to sleep at night.
Imagine a place where you can feel calm, peaceful and safe. It may be a place you’ve been to before, somewhere you’ve dreamt about going to or maybe somewhere you’ve seen a picture of.
Get comfortable, start with focusing on your breathing for a few moments, close your eyes and take yourself there.
Try to use the same peaceful place each time. The mind will find it easier to feel safe and relaxed each time you practice it.