Chronic Insomnia? Relaxation Exercises for Sleep Might be the Answer
Laying in bed tossing and turning, staring at the ceiling while your brain goes 90 miles a minute is a no fun way to spend night after night.
It gets to the point where you dread going to bed a night because you know it’s going to be hours before you fall asleep.
I’ve tried many natural remedies for sleep, and for the most part they have helped me overcome my sleeplessness. But it was never very long until the next bout of insomnia hits me and I was back to square one.
I’ve read a book recently that changed the way I look at why I’m not able to fall asleep at night. Insomnia is just a symptom of a larger problem. Supplements and herbs can help in the short term, but for the chronically tired, like you and me, relaxation exercises for sleep can help cure insomnia for good.
Relaxation Techniques Aid Sleep by Reducing Stress
I really didn’t think that stress could be the reason I had trouble sleeping most nights. I don’t feel stressed out, I feel like I’m just living my regular, everyday life.
But it’s that everyday stress that can keep you up at night, like rushing to get out the door in the mornings, being glued to our mobile devices 24/7, and just living our lives like everybody else. We may not be thinking about it as we go through the day, but that everyday stress wears on our minds and bodies little by little.
After a while, our brains get so overstimulated they can’t shut off because there’s so much information it has to process.
Now I know none of us can quit our jobs and go live in a monastery somewhere, so we have to manage our stress by learning how to relax our minds and bodies and sleep can follow.
Prepare your Bedroom Before You Try These Relaxation Exercises for Sleep
To fully get the benefit out of these exercises, you need to make sure your bedroom is conducive to getting a good night’s sleep. If you don’t, you’re basically relaxing yourself just to wake up again.
First, make your room as dark as possible.
Even if this means getting blackout curtains or even using a sleep mask or lavender eye pillow, it’s important to not have any visible light, more importantly blue light.
Which brings me to…
Do not look at a screen an hour before bed. And please…PLEASE do not even have a TV in your bedroom. Anything with a screen is a sleep zapper.
Yes, that means smartphones and tablets, too.
Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. They all emit blue light that keeps your body from secreting the hormone melatonin.
If it makes you feel better, I break this rule occasionally. We’re all addicted to tech. The struggle is real. However, there are ways to block blue light without giving up your devices.
Also, I like to set my essential oil diffuser on my bedside stand and diffuse lavender into the air. Lavender is one of the best essential oils to use at bedtime. It’s cliche, but lavender really does help you fall asleep.
Relax the Mind to Sleep, Naturally
In the book I’ve been reading, Faster Deeper Sleep, it teaches how relaxation or meditation exercises restores balance to the mind and body. Not in a far out touchy-feely way, but it’s about calming the mind so sleep will come naturally.
I really like the relaxation and sleep meditation techniques that were in this book. They made me feel so much better, it opened me up to searching for other ways of calming my mind and relaxing my body so I can fall asleep naturally.
Some of these exercises are from Faster Deeper Sleep, and some are ones I’ve found that I really like and use. I’ve only just begun to learn how to meditate for sleep, so that’s why this post is geared toward beginners. We’re learning together 🙂
Clear Your Mind Before Sleep with the Blue Energy Method
This is a good relaxation exercise for sleep because it clears your mind and gets rid of the tension in your body at the same time. This is one I’ve just started using, and it really helps to relax my muscles if they’re tense.
- Imagine the inside of your body is completely filled with a blue gas. This blue gas represents tension and
stress. Picture it flowing everywhere, even into each individual fingers and toes.
- Slowly pull the gas out of your toes, feet, and legs and move it to your stomach. As it leaves, feel your toes, feet, and legs relax as the bad energy leaves.
- Do the same for your fingers, hands, arms and shoulders. Visualize the blue gas forming into a ball in your stomach.
- Draw the blue gas down from your head, bringing with it any negative thoughts or worries, replacing it with calmness.
- This ball of blue energy represents your stresses, tension and worries. Now picture that ball in your stomach slowly rise out of your body, taking with it all of your negative energy. Watch it as it dissipates into nothing.
- Lay there and feel the peace and relaxation in your body as you begin to drift off to sleep.
Let Go of Body Tension Using the 4-7-8 Breathing Method
This is my favorite exercise to do when I first go to bed. It’s really simple, but it’s really effective for relaxing tense muscles. I carry a lot of tension in my neck, and when I exhale, it feels like all of that tightness leaves with my breath. I even do this during the day when I’m feeling tense.
I also try to meditate on something while I do this exercise to bring stillness to my mind as well. I’ve found the Lord’s Prayer fits this breathing pattern like a glove, but you could use any positive affirmation you like, also.
- Lay on your back in your bed and close your eyes.
- Inhale through your nose for four seconds.
- Hold your breath till the count of seven.
- Exhale through your mouth for eight seconds.
- Continue this several times until you’re fully relaxed. (Which won’t take long!)
This method was developed by Dr. Andrew Weil, an expert physician in holistic health. Here he is explaining how to do it and its effect on the body.
If it’s hard for you to focus and keep your mind cleared, you can do sleep breathing exercises with Dodow. It shines a small circle of light on the ceiling that pulses. As it gets bigger you inhale, and as it contracts, you exhale. It gradually slows your breathing and heart rate down. I’ve been using it a while now and I really like it. It’s better than counting!
Shut Your Brain Off and Sleep Using Breathe Meditation
It can be difficult to learn how to stop worrying at night, and this is a good one to do when you have that annoying brain chatter that’s keeping you awake. When done correctly, this exercise forces your brain to stop thinking about a hundred things at once and focus on just one thing.
I admit, this has been the hardest one for me. I’ll be all focused, and then a random thought will pop into my brain. Don’t get discouraged, it’s normal. I felt like I just wasn’t good at meditation, but Tom Cronin said in his book that the mind gets bored focusing on one thing. You have to train it to focus.
So here we go. We’re training ourselves to be meditation experts!
- Lay in bed and breathe normally.
- Clear your mind and focus on your breathing by paying attention to how your breathe feels going in and out of your nose. You feel the warm, moist air at the base of your nose as it leaves your body. You feel the cool air fill your lungs.
- Put your hand on your chest and feel it rise and fall. Do your fingers move as you inhale? Focus on the sensation.
- See with your mind’s eye the air coming in and out of your body. Feel as the oxygen comes in to your body as you inhale, and your worries and stresses leave in the air you exhale.
- If you have a stray thought (or thoughts!) that’s okay. Acknowledge them and shoo them away. It is going to take practice to do this exercise for more than a few minutes at a time.
Here is one of the best guided meditation sleep exercises using the breathing method I’ve found. It’s so relaxing! It even has a version of the 4-7-8 exercise, too.
How to Meditate for Sleep Using Guided Imagery
This one closely resembles hypnosis for sleep techniques. It’s all about visualizing your happy place, getting your mind to clear, relax, and ultimately drifting off to sleep. (without much effort!)
There’s many ways to do this exercise. You can guide yourself, and it works great. But this works even better if you listen to a recording to guide you into deep relaxation.
Before you begin, think of the place that relaxes you most, whether it’s the beach, the woods, your childhood home, etc.
- Lay on your back and close your eyes.
- Now visualize yourself standing at the top of a tall staircase. Take a step down, and then another. With each step you take, count backwards until you reach the bottom.
- At the bottom of the stairs, you see a door. Open the door. You see the relaxing place you chose before we began.
- Completely immerse yourself in the scene. Visualize it in detail, even the smells and the feeling you have on your skin.
- Relax and enjoy what you’re visualizing until you drift off to sleep.
Here is an excellent example of guided imagery. So soothing and relaxing.
Like the recording?
Relaxation Exercises for Sleep that Prepares Your Body for Rest
This doesn’t really fall into the same category as the other meditation exercises, but it does have the same effect by relaxing your mind and body.
Before I read Faster Deeper Sleep, I had no clue that doing certain exercises before bed actually prepares your body for a restful sleep. It’s really what turned me on to yoga.
These yoga stretches opens your body up by removing any blocks of junk. I know that sounds all New Age-y, but I compare it to when you get a massage, your therapist works out knots in your muscles, which releases toxins that were trapped in there. Yoga helps to release toxins that are trapped in your body.
Now, it’s really hard to describe these exercises in words, it’s more of a visual thing. I’ve included a great video below that will walk you through a simple stretching sleep yoga exercise routine you can do every night before bed. There’s also instructional sleep yoga books available on Amazon if you’re interested in learning more exercises.
Try Relaxation Exercises for Sleep if Nothing Else is Working for You
You can do all of these every night if you want to, but I think it’s better to try one exercise and get pretty good at it before you try the next one.
Don’t feel bad if your brain wanders. It’s not that these exercises don’t work, your brain doesn’t like to focus on one thing and it wants to go in a bunch of different directions. That’s why you need to stick with it for at least for a week.
I hope you’ll try one or all of these if you’re having trouble sleeping on a regular basis. If you’re taking pills or natural remedies and they’re not working, you might need to check into whether stress is what’s keeping you up at night.
Did you like these relaxation exercises? You can find more in the post, How can I Relax and go to Sleep? Try These Easy Relaxation Techniques to do Before Bed
*Image courtesy of foto76 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net