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How to relax for better sleep?

Adopting relaxation techniques to calm your mind before going to sleep can help in falling asleep faster and in facilitating a restful sleep. Care must be a taken to avoid over stimulation of the brain and avoid having heavy meals, heavy exercise, coffee or alcohol closer to your bedtime. Try to relax before you go to sleep than just popping a sleeping pill.

How to relax for better sleep?

Relaxation and sleep

The whole idea behind relaxing the mind is to attain mental and physical relaxation conducive to sleep. Often physical tension and worries keep one engrossed and prevent from sleeping.

Some of the commonly used relaxation techniques that you can use before you go to sleep include:

  • Imagery: This is a very widely used approach for relaxing the body. You simply visualise scenes which are very peaceful or involves breathing silently and falling asleep. Guided imagery can include self-direction, guidance from a practitioner or listening to an audio tape.
  • Progressive muscle control: Here you need to tense your body muscles voluntarily across the body and then relax them, in a progressive/sequential manner. The progressive muscle relaxation approach has been reported to reduce anxiety and stress, relieve muscle contraction and strain and facilitate sleep. This technique needs a bit of practice, and you can pick it quickly by listening to audio tapes or joining a course.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is an approach where one is trained to improve own health through the development of a greater awareness and voluntary control of the physiological processes affected by stress. With the use of a computer, specialised software and sensors placed on the body, the stress levels are monitored, and one can learn to control the involuntary functions like blood pressure, heart rate and muscle tension that increase under stress. The instrument gives “feedback” and with the efforts, one will eventually be able to recognise the stress and be able to relieve the stress and relax.
  • Autogenic training: In this approach, you are taught to focus on the awareness of different parts of the body and concentrating on the heaviness, warmth, and relaxation. Advance modules also allow one to reach deeper states of relaxation and influence their involuntary functions like breathing and their pulse.
  • Breathing exercises: Slow, deep and rhythmic breathing is found to be relaxing and particularly useful before sleep.
  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a promising therapy for insomnia of chronic nature. Individuals with chronic insomnia often experience mind-racing, rumination or worry when trying to sleep. Mindfulness focusses on the present, non-judgemental awareness of attitudes of openness and acceptance. Practising mindfulness all day is hypothesised to allow one in making intentional, choices like handling stressors with quick action, in contrast to acting on an ‘automatic pilot’ with responses which are conditioned. Mindfulness at bedtime is postulated to disrupt worry and rumination, bring down verbal over-regulation and allow for the disengagement, essential to fall asleep.
  • Self-Hypnosis: Suggestions or cues are used to produce relaxation during self-hypnosis programs. Hypnotic suggestions can prove to be an effective approach for deepening sleep in comparison to pharmacological treatments with associated side effects.

How to relax for better sleep?

Reach out to your doctor

If insomnia is bothering your routine life, contact your doctor and you can discuss more the relaxation methods and seek appropriate treatment.

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References

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  • Cordi MJ, Schlarb AA, Rasch B. Deepening Sleep by Hypnotic Suggestion. Sleep. 2014;37(6):1143-1152.
  • Hubbling A, Reilly-Spong M, Kreitzer MJ, Gross CR. How mindfulness changed my sleep: focus groups with chronic insomnia patients. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2014;14:50. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-14-50.
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