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Relaxation Methods for Insomnia

Life can be hectic. It may be hard for the mind and body to wind down prior to sleep. When you have insomnia, just going to bed can make you feel tense or anxious. But there are proven methods to help you relax at bedtime. They can help you feel more calm and less tense, and let sleep take its natural course.

Relaxation methods cause physical changes in the body. They can slow the heart rate and breathing rate, and lower blood pressure. They can help lower stress hormones. They can also help calm a person’s thoughts and feelings. These changes can make it easier for you to feel ready for sleep.

Relaxation methods to try

There are many ways to relax your body and mind. These include:

  • Breathing exercises. One exercise is to simply slow your breathing. Focus on breathing in for a count of 6, and out for a count of 6. Put one hand on your stomach while you breathe. Feel your stomach expand out when you breathe in. Feel it relax when you breathe out.

  • Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). This is done by tensing and relaxing muscle groups around your body, one at a time. It’s done slowly and gently, with focus. Lie down and close your eyes. Start with your facial muscles. Tense each muscle area for 2 seconds, and breathe. Relax the muscles. Work your way down your body to your feet. If you have chronic pain, PMR may not be a good choice for you. This is best learned with a health care provider.

  • Guided imagery. This is also known as visualization. It’s a method in which you focus on images in your mind to help you relax. You use all your senses and imagine how things look, feel, smell, sound, and taste. It’s sometimes learned with a health care provider. Often it can be done at home with a digital audio file to talk you through the process.

Different relaxation methods work better for different people. You can track how you respond to different kinds of methods. Before you try a method, rate how tense you feel on a scale of 1 to 10. After you complete a method, rate how tense you feel. You may find that certain methods work better than others. 

Sometimes, trying to relax can cause a person to feel more tense. If you find this happens to you, do some other activity instead. Read a book or magazine, play with a pet, watch a favorite film, or unwind with music you love. Relaxation can’t be forced. Learn more about different mindfulness and relaxation resources

Keep practicing

Like many things, relaxation methods take training and practice. Think of it like learning a skill. A method may work better for you the more you use it. Make relaxation methods part of your daily habits and routine.

You can learn more about how to start any of these or other relaxation methods by talking with your health care provider. Let them know if you have questions or concerns. They can also help you find local resources to learn more.

Working with CBT-I

The tools of CBT-I are often used together. Relaxation methods are often done along with other CBT-I tools. These can include stimulus control, sleep efficiency training, cognitive therapy, and sleep hygiene. Your health care provider can tell you more about these tools and which can work best for you.

For more information

If you are a Veteran and you have insomnia, contact your VA health care provider about CBT-I or check out some of the below resources.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 9/1/2020
Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
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